Design Sprints, not just a fad. A Trojan Horse for collaboration and innovation.

The shift from cooperation to collaboration is a new frontier for many organisations. This shift is driven by an appetite for innovation against a backdrop of industry-wide disruption.

As business owners we are conditioned to reduce risk and mitigate uncertainty. Typically we default to examples of industry ‘best practice’ when tackling a business problem. However, these reference points of success, don’t always provide a competitive advantage as we are treading the same trusted path as before in order to play catch-up.

Embrace Change

Being innovative requires a new and different way of working. Organisations are embracing new methods of working in order to gain an edge. These methods include Design Thinking. Future-focussed organisations understand that the value of design is more than a craft. It is a capability and a powerful one at that. It is a capability that can transform the way an organisation thinks and acts to understand and serve their audience. As well as a method to supercharge collaboration and new thinking culturally.

photo by john v willshire

The pressure is on to invest in making things that people want, as opposed to the traditional ‘top-down’ mindset of forcing or hoping people will want your things. This requires a shift at the very start of a production cycle, ideally at the strategy stage. Alarm bells should go off next time you are in a project planning meeting and your team gets told what to do by the highest ranking and/or loudest person in the room without any of context or rationale.

Sound familiar? How many times have you been instructed what to deliver on, usually in the form of a specifically vague brief, laden with buzz words. Then had to bring in a supplier to help decipher and deliver. Fast forward 6-months after numerous crisis meetings and misunderstandings about scope you sit finger hovering over the GO button. Hesitating, knowing deep down it is a ‘Dud’. More frighteningly you haven’t had the chance to validate that gut feeling, as you’ve only ever shown it to your immediate family in concept stage, not your target market.

Another Way

There is a better way. There always is. It is just that sometimes when you find yourself racing to meet KPI’s and stuck in the system it is easy to do the same old and adopt yesterday’s habits. Teams are embracing workshops, sticky notes and sharpies to un-pack problems before any serious investment in technology.

If we are honest there is no perfect time to convince stakeholders to try something different with the promise of better results. It is really about mitigating risk. In business terms, new is risky and can result in uncertainty.

The reaction we sometimes receive when conducting Design Sprints for first-timers or people that have been thrown into the program is that of horror. The mere thought of ‘designing’ and being in a workshop environment is terrifying. Many people are conditioned to the slow-burn of meeting after meeting, presentation after presentation. With no progress, just endless activity.

However, for many it isn’t such a steep proposition. Don’t be surprised if the ‘many’ are your competitors. They are prepared to invest the time to understand the root of the issue, listen to their team, learn from their customers, and explore opportunities that don’t start with the solution in mind. Upon success, this often spreads throughout the organisation and the results are astonishing. Not just in the outputs, savings and learnings, but the positive effect on company culture.

Time To Design Sprint

What are Design Sprints you may be asking? The Design Sprint is a problem-solving framework that incorporates IDEO’s Design Thinking methods, as well as principles of Lean. It is a mechanism to bring your team together to get on the same page and drive to a unified goal in the space of 5-days or less. Within this time you bring in relevant people from the business to understand the problem and produce a tangible solution for testing with customers. Learn more here. As a consequence of the program the team creates a collective knowledge-bank to invest in a prototype as well as a backlog of insights for future reference.

Tips To Ensure A Successful Design Sprint

Let’s assume your organisation has an appetite to trial a Design Sprint. Your stakeholders have bought-in and you’re in the planning stage. Consider these steps to ensure success:

  • If it is your first time, bring in a facilitator to help guide you through the process. Having expertise in the room will help ensure you are solving the right problem at the start and make sure the most suitable people are in the room.
  • Invite people from different business units that are relevant to the project. A hint, re-position the team invite email. Use terms such as ‘Special Ops Projects’. ‘Ops’ has a special ring about it!
  • Once you ‘get into it’ leave the door to the room slightly ajar so other people can hear the ruckus. Failing that the snack platters always draw envious interest.
  • Encourage everyone to record everything on a sticky note and place it on the wall, turn it into your War Room. Then invite decision makers in to watch the magic.

You’ll be surprised the interest from the rest of the office at the end of each day. Progress is infectious.

By the end of the Design Sprint we are confident you’ll have alignment from each of the business units. Your business would have benefited from direct conversation with customers. Plus you’ll have something to show for your efforts that can be used to roadshow and build a business case around for further investment. Or even better you’ll have find you have fast-tracked many weeks or months of discussing a project to get it off the ground.

Cordell Ratzlaff, the Head of UX at Google says :

‘There are really no losers. When you participate in a Sprint, you either win or learn.’

It is easy to be seduced into thinking working in this way is a fad. However, we’re at a time when technology is rapidly evolving and competitors are springing up in adjacent categories that weren’t even a worry 12 months ago. We are all being disrupted!

So where to start? Read the book, download the guide, get the app, watch on YouTube, or attend a workshop. These are some of the options available. The information is readily available and only a few mouse clicks away.

If you want hands-on training we are running a 1-Day Design Sprint Masterclass with our global partners Design Sprint Academy in November, Sydney (7th) and Melbourne (9th).

Go to for more information.

More Space For Light is a Strategy and User Experience agency. Our mission is to help organisations achieve great outcomes to better serve their audience. We use the principles of Design Thinking to unlock business problems to inform product and service strategy and delivery.

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