Finding the right product is an important part of our product design approach at Little Miss Robot. During this Exploration & Discovery Phase we use collaborative design techniques to solve a problem or adapt to a certain need for our client’s customers.
With a core team of 4 people —Process Facilitation, Product Design, Technology & Business Strategy — it usually takes 4 to 12 weeks to deliver a creative vision and address next steps in product development. And while this 3-month track helped many organisations & startups move forward, I started looking for an even faster approach.
For those teams out there who are on real speed, trying aggressively to change the world. Disruptive Innovators.
The Product Innovation Sprint
Over the past few months I’ve been researching articles on innovation workshops and product management. They all described similar techniques to our exploration approach. But then I bumped into an impressive article by Joanna Beltowska, sharing her insights on running an experimental workshop format called The Product Innovation Sprint.
This 5 day workshop—inspired by Google Ventures’ Design Sprint—takes a product team from idea generation to customer & stakeholder validated prototyping in 5 days. Besides solving a problem using design techniques, it also creates momentum to discuss and challenge product strategy.
This up to speed combination of involved design & strategic thinking felt like a great approach to find the right product fast. So I decided to start running.
Harder, Better, Faster Stronger
Here are some learnings and behind the scenes of our sprint with Arguslabs, a tech startup on a mission to make software emotional and empathic. The next level in artificial intelligence, brewed in Belgium.
A Room With A View.
Being out of your comfort zone stimulates creative thinking. To get clients out of their daily routine, we often invite them to our studio for workshops. This works great for half a day, but running a five day track at our place is hard to facilitate properly.
We looked for an inspiring location to host the sprint and ended up at the 21st floor of the KBC Tower in Antwerp. The incredible view makes it a unique place to work.
Our team was small and allocated full-time during workshop week. It consisted of a Little Miss Robot strategist, designer and developer, and a business expert, tech architect and designer on the client side.
We believe the best digital products happen in an involved relationship. We stimulated working and sitting together by providing an open desk in the centre of the room.
Dinner & Drinks On The House.
Great minds need great fuel, so we provided breakfast, coffee, lunch and snacks for everybody. We hired a great catering company to provide healthy food and drinks. On the house.
We did a standup meeting at the beginning of each day. I made sure everybody understood Today’s Focus and knew exactly what to do next. I also asked each team member how they were feeling about the progress and where I could help to address next steps.
We started every meeting with sharing our individual thoughts and vision publicly. I encouraged people to speak up and listen to each other, before discussing things further or jump to conclusions. Taking a minute to truly hear what others are saying speeds up the conversation enormously.
Working so closely together is very intense. I made sure we took a 15 minute break at least every 2 hours. Having time to talk about other things is a great way to blow off some steam and keep a high and positive energy level.
During the week I stimulated the team to communicate visually. We sketched strategic diagrams, prioritized features on post-its and illustrated UI concepts using pen & paper. Having something tangible helps to understand what people are really trying to say. It speeds up the conversation and leads to more positive and constructive feedback.
Open Feedback Sessions
We hosted 2 Open Feedback Sessions for early adopters and stakeholders. We presented our progress and learnings and listened to their feedback carefully. We have learned a lot during these sessions and they were a key driver for strategic decisions later on.
Value Proposition Canvas.
At a certain point you need to make important decisions on strategy and design in order to proceed properly. A great way to stimulate this often abstract discussion, is to fill in a value proposition canvas. It took us almost 4 hours, but after an intense afternoon we were exactly on the same level.
After 3 days our entire product strategy shifted into a scalable vision for the next few years. How’s that for speed? — Filip Maertens, CEO Arguslabs.
On the last day of the sprint we presented a review of the week, summarizing the business goals and KPI’s, creative turning points, strategic decisions (Value Proposition Canvas) and UX learnings.
We walked through a clickable prototype that explained the UI concept and addressed a few important recommendations on further product development. The week after the sprint we pushed the project further by making a inspiring concept video for the client’s team and stakeholders.
Disclaimer: Shortly after the sprint, Arguslabs finished a 1,5M$ seed round and is looking for great talent to join forces. At the moment of writing, we are designing a future roadmap and partnership. The Next Web has nominated them for Fastest Growing Tech Company in Belgium.