Three new things I learned at Jake Knapp’s Design Sprint Workshop

And why I’m so glad I went

Mads Bab with Jake Knapp

This week, I attended one of the Official Design Sprint European Tour events: A one-day workshop with Jake Knapp and Berlin-based design agency AJ&Smart in Copenhagen.

My aim was to top-up my knowledge of the design sprint process, and boy did it deliver! Here are the top three things I took away…

Pretty Copenhagen

But before I get into that, have you ever met your heroes? The people you follow, get inspired by and find yourself hanging off their words, photos and video? Well imagine that, compounded into one day in a distant land and you’ll get a feeling of how that was for me.

Rainmaking Loft is an awesome space

Jake Knapp, Jonathan Courtney, Brittni Bowering and Venla Hakunti were so awesome in real life, but first, some apologies:

  • Jake —sorry for thrusting four books into your hands to sign and saying “oh, I’m here because my boss booked a ticket.” I wanted to come and I genuinely loved meeting you, enjoyed participating in the workshop and am so glad you made the only book that I couldn’t put down (proof)
  • Jonathan — we did a welcome hug-thing that I believe I messed up. How are you able to answer all those questions, plus add insights that really hit the nail on the head? Very good
  • Brittni — yes, I owned “the fan” label, which is probably the polite way of describing my obsession with the design sprint. Also, sorry for being three beers in when you recorded this interview with me. I normally find “decider” hard to say in normal situations…
  • Venla — No screwups yet, but there’s plenty more opportunities!

With those made, let’s go back to the article…

One of our signed Sprint books. Jake likes lightning bolts. Me too

What did I learn? Quite a bit, but here are the three key takeaways:

1. Each participant chooses one of their own

I often found that prioritising in a design sprint was made all the more harder when there were most post-its from people on the wall.

What I didn’t realise is that out of what each participant creates, they themselves need to choose just one target.

In the example of sprint questions, participants are encouraged to write a bullet point list of questions, but for the note and vote, they should only choose one to share and put on the map.

That makes the whole deciding process much easier. Participants are making decisions on their own work before sharing with others for the group to vote and the Decider to pick a target and part of the map to focus on.

Curation starts with your own ideas.

2. Prototype two or more competing solutions

I’ve read Sprint once cover to cover. The rest of the time, I’ve been dipping into GV’s Medium posts (here’s Monday for example).

What I have missed or just didn’t realise, is that you can prototype two or more solutions in the same Design Sprint.

Jake gives the example of Savioke, who made the hotel robot. The team had three solutions to improve the robot and they prototyped each one. Those solutions were:

  • games
  • face
  • dance

The games prototype didn’t work out for users, however the face and the dance did. Savioke were then able to take the two winning prototypes into their product.

That case study is here if you haven’t read it, but what I learnt was that you have the opportunity to try two or even three ideas with different people.

Everything before a user sees it is a guess. Better your odds of success by testing more than one solution.

This team sat next to us. Their map looks pretty clear (but justifiably messy)

3. The pre-Sprint call

I had assumed that no one had to prepare before the start of the design sprint. WRONG!

In the question and answer session, Jonathan said that the Friday before the sprint, his agency calls the client up and asks a number of things so that there’s enough thinking going into Day 1. Those are:

  • what’s the long-term goal?
  • how can we measure it?
  • start forming the sprint questions

Finding these out before the start of the sprint helps the team get started. Monday is a hard day, so the more you know, the more you can get done.

My table comprised of a Bret, a designer at Lego, a management consultant and an agile coach

I learned a lot from the workshop. When we started doing Design Sprints at Etch, I would dip into the Sprint book and use it as a guide, but not having experienced the pure Design Sprint, I now know that it firmly is the only way I want to approach critical business problems, new features or improving upon existing digital products.

So for thanks to:

  • Jake — for signing my Sprint books! If I were to go on any other workshop in the future, I would know I’d somehow learn something new
  • Jonathan —thank you for making time for me, including me in the after-party and being a source of inspiration of practice and iteration. Plus — took the note about “etchook” — sorted buddy!
  • Brittni — I have much to learn about sharing what I know. Every piece of content you make is fantastic and I hope someday to do just as well
  • Venla — your organisational and dancing skills are a force to be reckoned with — thank you

For everyone else, here’s a video the team made of the awesome workshop in Copenhagen. I’m in at 8 minutes…

We’re running Design Sprints with a small number of exciting businesses solving critical business problems. More here: