Does a Google Design Sprint really work for TRADITIONAL companies?

Meike Müller
Feb 7, 2017 · 3 min read


In a company that was founded in the 1920s with a respective traditional culture we started something revolutionary last summer: We did a Google Design Sprint.

Like most established companies new product and service ideas usually are developed in a process that takes at least months and sometimes even years.

Most likely the first real customer — if any, is not involved until it is officially launched.

Running a Google Sprint was embedded in an overall digital transformation program geared towards more agility and customer focus: Though parts of the R&D unit were already familiar with the agile approach of scrum, the company as a whole operates in a very traditional way.

Eventually triggered by the results of the first one it took only 3 weeks, until I was asked by another unit to facilitate another Google Design Sprint.

Why did it work so well?

The return on both Google Sprints were at least threefold:

1. Experiment

First of all you undertake an experiment disrupting a typical/established approach/method of dealing with big questions and developing new (product) ideas. For most established organizations this is an exercise that merits a try in itself. Ideation, exploration, focus and testing with the most relevant stakeholder — the customer — replaces the traditional approach characterized by planning, spreadsheets, powerpoint and inside-out decision making.

2. Fast & „Cheap“

Secondly — indicated by the word „Sprint” — following the sprints book guideline you get to results a lot faster than any other method I have come across so far. It provides a shortcut by finding out whether you are on the right track before you commit a lot of resources to launching a product.

Even the CFO likes this one: Reducing risk, saving money and discovering where to put the money best.

It works this way thanks to a genuine combination of pareto efficiency, rigid focus, time boxing and “no groupthink“. It really enables the leverage of individual creativity. The authors describe it as” the greatest hits“ of business strategy, innovation, behavioral science, design, and more. Coming from a traditional perspective, it replaces the herculean efforts of endless product development by a lean and quick customer-centered step-by-step process.

3. Customer focused

The whole sprint week is geared towards talking with the client instead of talking about them. The letter is common and plants the seeds for over-engineering. Listening to customers first hand gives clear direction what really works, what does not and how to go on. Above all it is a Launchpad for new ideas and upcoming iterations.

3.+, The icing: culture boost

Last but not least the Google sprint brought a new culture to life. The participants came from different parts of the company and quite a view haven’t worked together ever before.

Time to say thanks to the sprint book team; You created a great framework and manual to be enriched by intuition and moderation skills.

For established companies, it does not only provide fast results. Google Sprint has a truly transformative impact by allowing them to experience a well-structured, hands-on practical approach that is contrary to some of their inherent, less productive methodologies. It creates a new culture of „agile togetherness“.

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