Design Sprint. So Hot right now!

Last week I had the chance to visit Google London, join the “Design Sprints for Change” conference and take part in a training.

Led by Design Sprint Academy and Google Design, this was a one-day exclusive event (for free! but you must be invited) that focuses on innovation, organizational transformation, and design sprints.

After the opening session with Google, we discovered how different people are using Design Sprints in other companies to improve their work and drive change. What made the event truly special was the audience who attended, filled the room with energy, and created such a good vibe throughout the day.

*I took notes very quickly; if you any have further question or you spot some mistakes, please text me

Who was attending?

Executives, innovators, designers, consultants, and design sprint ambassadors from a diverse range of industries and companies. I would definitely recommend it for the future — great connections!

Who was speaking?

Kai Haley — Lead of Design Relations and the Google Sprint Master Academy

John Vetan — Design Sprint Strategist & Co-founder at Design Sprint Academy

Richard Verdin — Managing Director for RGAX in EMEA

Alex Webb Allen and David Dahlenius — Lead Service Designer at Idean Malmö

Deborah Madelaine — Global Community Senior Manager at Mars

Ahmed Ghanim Al-Ali — Prime Minister’s Office UAE

Matt Lockyer — Head of Experimentation at Barclays

Holly May Mahoney — Service Design Strategist and Design Thinking advocate

The Talks:

The Evolution of Sprints at Google

Kai Haley, Lead of Design Relations and the Google Sprint Master Academy

I loved Kai ♥ her attitude, tone of voice and experience was truly inspiring. Everything had started with a “we don’t have time” for her; this was the typical answer she would hear when she tried to bring design thinking methods into her first company. Before starting the Design Relations team in Google, Kai applied her UX expertise to create monetization opportunities in Google search for the Search Ads Team.

Google is a big company, and each organization has different problems. What she tried to do with her team was to merge all the approaches they were using into one that could be applicable to everyone.

Really important to chose what fits your context, and most importantly, understand that you cannot afford not to have time for a Design Sprint.

✍️ What you need to consider before running a Design Sprint:

  • UX Maturity
  • Organization size and culture
  • Relationships (agency, consultants, in-house, different teams)
  • Team culture, what’s wanna work for your team?

Her Principles for Design Sprints:

Life in the slow lane

Richard Verdin, Managing Director for RGAX in EMEA

RGAX is the transformation engine of RGA, the world’s largest Life & Health only reinsurer.

Their main problem? Zero growth for mature markets. Large insurances focus on distributors, not customers. The future of insurance is a personalized experience, mobile, genuinely engaging (not as it is right now, where you have no interaction with your insurance unless you have a problem), driven by data, supporting behavioral change.

The change from having meetings and brainstormings with the insurance companies to running design sprints was very beneficial for their experience.

✍️ Key takeaway

They introduced a repeatable, effective and predictable co-development plan:

  • introduction (1h pitch)
  • Problem Framing (1 day with 3–10 senior manager to identify problems)
  • Design Sprint
  • co-development based on design sprint outcome

🤔 The main challenge for them? The “permafrost” people. The ones who are not believing in methodologies. They are now very selective with people to involve.

Do you want to unlock the power of Design Sprints and learn the same Problem Framing framework RGA uses in Life Design Sprints?
👩‍💻 Join Design Sprint Academy’s live online courses.

Running value Proposition Sprints in a large enterprise

Matt Lockyer, Head of experimentation at Barclays

Matt has one of the coolest job titles in town, and he leads experimentation within the Barclays API Business.

He found out that design sprints were a good way to build API when he had no resources/people to develop the product. He would create a clear brief and ask for a week of resources to make things happen:

How to validate ideas? Face to face and Smoke Testing (preliminary testing to reveal simple failures severe enough to, for example, reject a prospective software release) for a bigger audience.

Sprinting your Digital Transformation

Ahmed Ghanim Al-Ali, Prime Minister’s Office UAE

Ahmed is doing a Ph.D. in Design Sprints! How cool :) And he is also leading the future services lab at the prime minister’s office in Dubai.

He told us that the rate of success of companies that are facing digital transformation is less than 10%. Why? Companies are still not sure what digital means for them. To understand what digital is, they started doing vision sprint + concept sprints.

✍️ Design sprints at the UAE Government: they have 6 clear national priorities, so they run 6 parallel vision sprints with HMWs on 6 big ideas. The outcome of all these sessions was that they found a common goal: live a better life. After that, they run a usual concept sprint.

This isn’t Silicon Valley — The Pains and Gains for Agencies Running Design Sprints

David Dahlenius & Alex Webb Alan, Lead Service Designer and Design Sprint Lead @Idean Malmö

David and Alex, they both work with clients and they all want innovation. Design sprints finally helped them to optimize the design process and align with clients. In Sweden, they have lots of old businesses that need help to innovate. People love design sprints and design sprints bring value to clients. They foster co-creation and it’s a good way to showcase all design skills and tools you have as a consultant. It’s also great for onboarding and team building, upselling as well.

🤔 Their main challenge? Get the right people in the room. But also: clients became self-efficient, they don’t need you anymore. And: there are very few public success stories regarding design sprints.

✍️ Key takeaway: make sure you know your problems are real problems to be Sprint-ready. Problem Framing is essential if you want an outcome. Do you have real insights? We need evidence-based insights and data. What’s your strategic vision? You can’t avoid homework, prep is super important.

Three tips:

  • be true to the methods
  • more doing less talking
  • don’t forget homework

Leading projects to drive positive change

Holly May Mahoney, Service Design Strategist and Design Thinking advocate

Holly May Mahoney’s talk was about sprinting with purpose. Finding solutions for big challenges like plastic pollution, yes, Design Sprints work for that. An inspiring case study from SAP Leonardo:

They started the process with an Ethnographic Research (a qualitative method where researchers observe and/or interact with a study’s participants in their real-life environment) mapping the usage of plastic for people, using an app for several days to record what people were doing and thinking. During the actual sprint, they ideate an app to help people recycling and make more conscious decisions: where to shop, where and how to recycle.

✍️ Seven takeaways:

  1. Start with why rather than what
  2. User-led (humanize technology)
  3. Define space for collaboration
  4. Open system, creative common projects (research, projects)
  5. Multidisciplinary craft and companies involved
  6. Prototype to fail early and cheap
  7. Follow and trust a good design process

The User Centricity Movement at Mars: How to make Design Sprints the New Normal

Deborah Madelaine, Global Community Senior Manager @Mars

User-centricity means bringing associates, customers, and consumers to the center of everything they do.

Change management is realizing that from current to future stage there is a transition stage. What they used is the ADKAR model, a 5-step framework that helps deal with the people aspect of change management:

  1. Awareness: Leading people to see the need for change.
  2. Desire: Instilling the desire for change.
  3. Knowledge: Providing employees with the information or skills they need to achieve change.
  4. Ability: Applying knowledge and skills to bring about change.
  5. Reinforcement: Making sure that people continue to use the new methods.


Measuring the Impact of Sprints [HEART FRAMEWORK]

— Brendan Kearns, Former UX designer at Google and founder of Studio Rival

credits image: Interaction Design Foundation

Sprints alone can’t change products and organizations in the long term. What mindsets and methods can you use to measure and communicate success back to the business? HEART: a framework for user-centric metrics used to measure the impact of your sprints.

More info:

👩‍💻 Read more about measuring the ROI of Design Sprints here.

De-risk new ideas. Build sustainable products. Discover opportunities for innovation.

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