The unexpected benefits of design sprints

Design sprints enable teams to find solutions, innovate products and explore strategies, over the course of five days. A design sprint will deliver a user-tested prototype yielding valuable answers — but it will also provide a host of other side-benefits you may not be expecting.

Richard Rutter
Nov 20, 2018 · 4 min read

Cross-company team building

Design is too important for the growth of your business to be left solely in the hands of designers. That’s why all well run design sprints have an emphasis on a wide mix of perspectives and feature an ensemble cast of problem solvers from right across your organisation.

With no prior design skills necessary, the intensive, collaborative and above all, fun environment of a design sprint enables a team to be energised and highly engaged throughout the process. When I talk to clients after a sprint, they will often recall how a surprising camaraderie developed across team. This is particularly the case when staff and stakeholders involved the sprint have never worked together before. The egalitarian nature of the sprint inevitably results in a new-found mutual respect amongst the participants, which they take into the workplace afterwards.

Demonstrating a rapid framework for innovation

Design sprints do not replace the rigours of user-centred design or an iterative, hypothesis-driven approach to product design. But what can be accomplished in five days surprises many participants. Design sprints demonstrate how quickly you can create preliminary designs that naturally bring together customers, staff, internal data and wider research. They show it is possible to test new ideas and push through changes very quickly.

Design sprints make clear the value of treating innovation work separately from the daily business-as-usual activities. By doing so, design sprints enable you unblock bottlenecks and push through changes that might have internally taken months if not years. In the words of one senior participant:

“We were able to make rapid progress on one of our biggest challenges. It really was like fast-forwarding into the future.”

Bringing underlying issues to the surface

One of the answers a design sprint may give you is “no”. By the end of the week, your team may be convinced an idea or solution simply doesn’t have legs. This is no bad thing. In fact this is a valuable outcome, potentially saving you thousands. By having a group of people in the room to see this for themselves can provoke a timely change in direction or reformulation of priorities. In many organisations, that’s no mean feat.

Providing a wealth of ideas for the future

During the early days of a design sprint, you will take a broad view across the customer journey, generating a lot of ideas and opportunities. You’ll focus on some of these during the sprint, but you’ll also be left with many other propositions which may form the basis for future sprints or other work.

With this abundance of ideas generated by your sprint team, it’s important to socialise the work. Do this by presenting a playback of the sprint, including early deviations as well as your prototype, at an open invitation Town Hall style meeting. You may be surprised by the extent of the turnout an interest from colleagues.

Ingraining design thinking

The collaborative nature of a design sprint helps designers and developers get better equipped to tackle ongoing challenges together. But if you get other stakeholders from across the company to participate in the design process, they too will play an active part in defining the future of your customer experience.

By getting exposure to customers during the testing day, stakeholders will see the power of design-thinking and putting users first. Above all they’ll get a sense of how much effort goes into creating good design and what makes the difference between a good and great experience. The upshot is that design sprints introduce design thinking into your organisation. As one senior stakeholder put it afterwards:

“We gained an energy that spread across our team and left us with a different view on how we can drive a more effective improvement in our web channels.”

And that’s a far more valuable outcome than just a prototype.

Find out how Clearleft can help you facilitate a design sprint and read some of our design sprint success stories.

Originally posted on the Clearleft website.

Clear Thinking

Opinions and learnings from the team at Clearleft. Since 2005 our purpose has been to advance the practice of design to transform organisations and people’s lives for the better.

Richard Rutter

Written by

Cofounder of @clearleft, author of @WebTypography, designer of digital things. Please patronise responsibly.

Clear Thinking

Opinions and learnings from the team at Clearleft. Since 2005 our purpose has been to advance the practice of design to transform organisations and people’s lives for the better.

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