Why Google Ventures’ Design Sprint is valuable to your workflow

Leandro Novaes
Jun 17, 2016 · 4 min read

This is a story about a book. This book is named Sprint. Sprint is a design methodology. And it’s fantastic.

The sprint is a five-day process for answering critical business questions through design, prototyping, and testing ideas with customers. Developed at GV, it’s a “greatest hits” of business strategy, innovation, behavior science, design thinking, and more — packaged into a battle-tested process that any team can use. — www.gv.com/sprint

Yes, you read “five-day”, “design”, “prototyping” and “testing”, all in the same sentence. Instead of countless weeks, months or even years in a untested product, the sprint gives you the power of testing a realistic prototype with real customers, before making expensive commitments. If the prototype succeeds, the outcome is incredible. If it fails, you identified the flaws of the idea and you know how to move on.

A drawing from the book. Simple, huh?

The sprint (or Design Sprint) is a five-phase framework, each phase has a different objective. On Monday, you’ll create a map of the problem. On Tuesday, you’ll sketch possible solutions on paper. On Wednesday, you’ll decide on the best idea. On Thursday, you’ll build a convincing prototype. On Friday, you’ll test it with real people.

Oh, you’ll need a team to run a sprint, it’s interesting to put designers, engineers and even business people all in the same room. Get a decent room, whiteboards, pens, paper, sticky notes, and clear everybody’s agenda. You’re ready to run your own sprint.


Experimenting

I’ve tested rough versions of the sprint process a few weeks ago. I had a superficial idea of how a design sprint works. I only knew what to focus on each day of the week, I had a small team and limited time, not to mention a different work culture (I work in Brazil). But it worked. We could make rapid progress and we knew if we were or not going to the right direction.

After getting my hands on the book I saw how deep we can go into the details of each day and how they can make a difference. The book explains how to turn business problems into opportunities. How important is to get the time and dedication of the team. How to create an understandable map of the problem. How to make smart and faster decisions without wasting the time of the team. And how to conduct a kick-ass customer interview (you really should take a look at it). One of the most valuable things from the book is that you can apply all the techniques in different situations, they are so good and solution-focused that can be used outside of a sprint and fit your routine.

It’s also interesting to notice that the methods shown have enough flexibility to change. You can make a sprint in less than five days and with fewer people. It doesn’t matter if the company is a tech startup or a coffee retailer, if you’re starting a new product or if you’re working on a new feature.

The session below, from Google I/O 2016, shows how teams at Google are flexing the Design Sprint methodology.

It’s fantastic to see how different teams are playing with variations of the design sprint and testing new ideas. You may not have all the resources available, but you can still do it very well.

Talking about resources, the only problem I had so far is that it’s being hard to get different expertises and enough time from coworkers to make a sprint happen. As we generally work on a few projects at the same time, we have to adapt the process to a busy agenda.

I’m still experimenting with sprints, but here are the outcomes:

  • The design sprint is very user-centered;
  • It’s important to have the right challenge, team, time, and space;
  • It improves communication between managers, designers, and developers;
  • Can be used at any stage of product development. At the beginning, the middle and as you evolve;
  • Fantastic for fast validation of ideas;
  • It gives you the possibility of making rapid progress without making expensive commitments;
  • And it’s fun!

The book is from three partners at GV, Jake Knapp, Braden Kowitz, and John Zeratsky. They performed sprints with more than a hundred companies in mobile, e-commerce, healthcare, finance, and more. It has amazing methodologies to build better products faster. And that is priceless.

Focus on the user and all else will follow.


Thanks for reading! Are you excited for making a design sprint? Tell me in the comments bellow or just say “Hello!” on Twitter.

Leandro Novaes

Written by

Product Design Lead @ QuintoAndar. Reading and writing stories about the journey of being a designer. linkedin.com/in/leandronovaes

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade