How to run a successful Design Sprint

George Krasadakis
Sep 25, 2018 · 8 min read
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The success factors

To get real value from a Design Sprint, you must emphasize on the right setup, preparation, and readiness — or you may end up hosting an expensive multi-day brainstorming session outputting just noise.

1. Define the problem statement

Don’t let the problem statement become your real problem! Most of the unsuccessful Design Sprints and prototyping sessions I have experienced so far, share this specific single point of failure: a poorly defined problem statement, which triggers time-consuming discussions, iterations, and unnecessary regression — setting the entire process at risk.

2. Set up the right team

The synthesis of the team sets the foundation for the entire Design Sprint — you need diversity of thought, skills, and perspectives along with expertise and creativeness — all combined in a small multidisciplinary team with the right culture: a team willing to share, collaborate, challenge assumptions, think big but also be pragmatic and purpose-driven.

  • a large team (add more than 6–7 people and you’ll get additional problems to solve)
  • or the wrong mindset (people tend to protect ideas versus sharing, or believe that they know the right solution, upfront).

3. Make sure the team is well-prepared

Design Sprints are demanding — fast and intense. The key to success is to have a well-prepared team. Even if your dream team consists of domain experts and senior business leaders, they all have to put some extra effort to get prepared — so they fully understand the problem and its wider context, the technology, the competition, and the relevant global trends. Make sure that you clearly communicate to the team not only the context and the problem to be solved but also the rules and the need to get prepared.

4. Focus on ideation

Assuming that a solid problem statement and the right preparation is there, the next most important element is ideation. While the Design Sprint process provides some tools to empower ideation, I would strongly recommend that you:

  • capture the ideas in digital format — with more detailed descriptions.

5. Get ready for ‘rapid prototyping’

Delivering realistic prototypes is a critical part of this process — since they will be used to capture user/ customer feedback. You don’t want your great concept to receive negative feedback due to a poor prototype implementation — that could mislead related decisions and undermine the overall value of the Design Sprint. Your team must be capable of real rapid prototyping — able to build realistic user experiences in just a couple of days or less.

6. Find a great Facilitator

This is a key role — in fact, I see the facilitator as the real protagonist of the Design Sprint. The facilitator must maintain the right pace, direction, energy levels, and interaction patterns, to lead the team towards a clear, shared goal: define and prototype a great, novel concept solving the problem for real users.

7. Capture everything

Design Sprints are typically very ‘noisy’ with tons of sticky notes, ideas, and stories on the walls — all these, in-between discussions, arguments, decisions, and random thoughts. And yes, this ‘controlled chaos’ is exciting, but unless you have a dedicated person responsible for taking (digital) notes, you will end up frustrated, trying to decode colorful sticky notes and ‘reverse-engineer’ random drawings.

8. Find a Leader, not just a ‘decider’

I find the proposed decision-making process — with the super-voting concept and the sticky votes on the sketches — oversimplified and very sensitive to team dynamics and the overall state of the team. Moreover, given the extra power, the decider must demonstrate a deep understanding of the concepts, the ability to think strategically, and communicate with clarity. You need a real leader there, not an ‘authority’ or ‘political’ person.

9. Measure Success

A design sprint is an expensive process — consider the associated direct and indirect costs of having x members full-time for z days. Thus, measuring the success of the Design Sprint itself is important. In the case of an ‘isolated’ sprint, success can be measured by processing direct feedback, outputs, and mid-term outcomes — for example business opportunities and success stories linked with the deliverables of the Sprint.


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George Krasadakis

Written by

Product Architect, Author of https://www.theinnovationmode.com/ Opinions and views are my own.

The Innovation Machine

The community of Innovators and Inventors. We welcome people who are passionate about technology as the means of solving big problems. We believe in ideas and the power of online communities. Follow the Innovation Machine to discover problems worth solving and big ideas.

George Krasadakis

Written by

Product Architect, Author of https://www.theinnovationmode.com/ Opinions and views are my own.

The Innovation Machine

The community of Innovators and Inventors. We welcome people who are passionate about technology as the means of solving big problems. We believe in ideas and the power of online communities. Follow the Innovation Machine to discover problems worth solving and big ideas.

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