Back in November 2018, I inadvertently put together the first ever global virtual design sprint with a group of wonderful and talented practitioners. It was done as a pilot for a bigger, better event sometime in the new year.
For the uninitiated, these virtual design sprint events aim to bring together practitioners, researchers, thought leaders and design sprint enthusiasts from around the world. The event allows everyone involved to practice and apply various design sprint methodologies and processes to explore interesting ideas and challenges.
Our first event (the pilot in November) went far better than planned. So much so that I was emboldened to do something even more audacious. I mean, if things didn’t crash and burn with 5 different design sprint teams from around the world, what were the possibilities?
What would be really interesting and fun to do?
I reflected on the conversations we had during our sprint team retrospectives at the end of the last virtual design sprint. I also took some inspiration from similar types of events that aimed to bring communities together around a common cause.
As the New Year came into focus, I put the finishing touches on a high level plan. It wasn’t too difficult, given that the foundational blueprint was worked out during the pilot. The challenge came with weaving in the ‘interesting’ and ‘fun’ bits mentioned earlier.
With that, let’s start with the ‘big idea’ first…
Global Virtual Design Sprint 2.0
The next virtual design sprint will encompass the entire month of April. That’s right, it’s not going to be just a single week… but nearly 4+ weeks of design sprint engagement across the board.
There are a number of reasons why a month long virtual design sprint engagement makes complete sense:
- It’s schedule friendly
A few people couldn’t attend November’s event due to client work, offline activities or family engagements. Opening up the event to cover an entire month would provide more options for schedule-constrained professionals who’d like to get involved.
- Room for prep and post-design sprint activities
A couple of virtual design sprint teams worked way beyond their designated week on their challenges. Some of them (including me), made plans to take what they created and make it a reality. If there’s more ‘official’ time to prepare and plan for the success of a design sprint prototype, it could insure this sort of continued engagement.
- Increased scope
The original pilot had a handful of community-approved challenges for teams to choose from. By expanding the event’s timeline, I’m keen to expand the platform to include charities, businesses and social groups for a wider scope of engagement for everyone to consider.
- Better surface thought leadership and talent
There’s a growing number of highly talented, smart and dedicated professionals that are exploring, conducting and learning about the design sprint process. I would love nothing more than to elevate their professional brand and what they care about through this sort of international event.
- Shared success across the board
If this event has any measure of success, I’d like to share it with everyone who volunteers their time to make it a reality. People like Hernan Virgolini, Sabrina Goerlich, Dan Levy, Giovanni Atalmi, Fabrizio Faraco, Jim Hobart, Phil Smithson, Mihai Balea and others who could potentially use this event to their advantage.
Additionally, could I draw attention to the businesses they represent and positively impact their brand and/or bottom line? How could I make this event work for them holistically?
GVDS Event Types
The event would support different types of virtual design sprints, falling into the following categories:
- 4–5 Day Standard
A virtual design sprint that follows Jake Knapp’s 5 day or AJ&Smart’s 4 day 2.0 version
- Charity Engagement
A virtual design sprint to benefit a charity. The ideal scenario would involve a practitioner having an existing relationship with a local group who might benefit from the event.
A virtual design sprint to complete for a cash prize and/or win an award. The criteria for a winning prototype/solution would be worked out prior to sign-ups. For reference, two businesses who reached out last December are currently exploring this.
A virtual design sprint that experiments with different design sprint processes and activities, combining them with existing methods (McKinsey, Agile, etc.) or being recast as new approaches to working through the week.
- Partner Event
A business, organization or social group that would like to use an existing framework for design sprint engagements in a virtual environment. This type could combine both local and virtual engagement, leveraging marketing and promotions for brand awareness.
GVDS Event Timeline
Here’s a high level view of activities and events leading up to the April event:
- Announcing the virtual design sprint event (this article you’re reading)
- Posting sign-ups for both event registration and participation
- Share social media channels (Slack, Facebook, YouTube, mailing list) for weekly updates on what’s going on.
- Work with business partners on local events, competitions, charity engagements and other variations to set the stage for April
- Work with software companies who supported the pilot event (Mural, Webflow, etc.) for a follow-up engagement.
- Explore ways to empower practitioners, thought leaders and design sprint community leaders for shared success
- Occasional panic attacks, but nothing life threatening
- Begin work on updating existing materials for each day of any given virtual design sprint.
- Post the deadline for signups (mid-February)
- Organize and finalize virtual design sprint teams, based on geographical location and challenge/idea/event interest.
- Support volunteers with anything they need, including alignment around pre and post activities to their virtual sprints.
- Finalize any partner events and promotions by the end of the month.
- Remember to meditate, work out, and not go crazy on late night black tea consumption before bedtime.
- Provide continual updates on what’s to come in the month of April.
- Finish any support materials for virtual design sprint teams
- Conduct daily/weekly check-ins with everyone involved with the event, recording them on YouTube for later consumption.
- Promote and market the event on social as much as possible.
- Panic, lose sleep and thrive on occasional PB&J binges.
- Look at my phone every morning, hoping nothing is on fire in Europe, Asia or Australia.
- Provide assistance to teams where needed, monitoring engagement and interest as different virtual teams progress through their event.
- Encourage everyone involved to share/stream their experiences and what’s going on.
- Have a lot of fun and enjoy the ride.
Signing Up and Submitting Ideas/Challenges
The signup process for practitioners will be slightly move involved this time around. Beyond capturing essential bits of information like desired roles, engagement, geography and outcomes, there will be a huge emphasis on commitment.
Meaning, if you throw your hat in the ring to participate, and life doesn’t throw you a last minute curve ball… we’re going to strongly encourage everyone who signs up to honor their commitment to participate. Otherwise, you’re left with razor thin sprint teams that really struggle to finish the week.
Same goes with those that submit a big idea or challenge, register a charity or post up a competition for professionals to consider. There has to be a baseline level of involvement from everyone concerned for these events to be successful. As long as that’s outlined from the very beginning, it should save everyone a lot of related headaches.
Part of what I attempted to do during the pilot was keep a written diary and occasional daily video on how things were progressing from day to day (h/t Jonathan Courtney). For April, I’ll have the following in play:
- A weekly check-in (starting in February), where I’ll showcase what’s going on with the virtual design sprint event. I’ll also plan to feature some special guests for conversation and promotion of their endeavors and business events related to the April spectacular.
- A daily check-in (starting in March), where I cover all the news and events related to the virtual design sprint event.
- A public Trello Board, showing all of my to-do’s and potentially ones for others who get involved with this event.