Big sprint; tiny room

Reflections from our co-design sprint on big teams in tiny spaces, pros & cons of zen voting, and more

Zen voting.

Last week, we started designing our first feature for the new Entrepreneur’s Toolkit. To kick off our creative process, we held a co-design sprint with our clients at MaRS.

The plan was to have 5 or so participants in a medium-sized room with a whiteboard wall and a projector; the reality was a small room with no whiteboard, no projector, a small table and 5 extra participants.

Suffice to say, it was cozy.

The close quarters turned out to be a good thing — it forced us and our co-designers to get comfortable with each other quickly, listen to one another closely and collaborate as a group.

Here are some of my other reflections from our co-design sprint.

When to stick to the script vs. when to calibrate

Our UX in the 6ix team is really big on trying out activities shared online from design agencies and product teams—but we’re also really big on remixing activities to match our specific project context.

What we found in this session was that our participants wanted to go off script and remix the activities themselves. They wanted to change the rules by approaching activities in different ways.

For example, we gave them personas to work with, but given their knowledge of the product, they wanted to bring in other types of users. We asked them to pick three keywords to describe the product; they weren’t concerned with narrowing the words down to three, but rather with grouping and discussing them.

Generally, we let the participants take some ownership over the session in situations like these and change up the activities. We tried to keep them on task, however, when it came to sketching and to staying on the sprint schedule.

Nobody wants to sketch

This seems to come up every time I do co-design.

People tend to want to write out their ideas and we saw a lot of crazy 8 sheets and “sketches” throughout the sprint that were actually just text. I’m divided on whether this is a problem.

I think there’s a lot of value in sketching both in terms of trying to imagine ideas visually, and encouraging everyone to be creative, open-minded and unafraid. But if people feel more comfortable using text to express ideas in their squares, does that alter the value of their contribution? If anyone has thoughts to share on this, I’d love to hear them!

Voting focuses ideas

We used the zen voting method to get our participants to vote for which ideas they would like to see move forward into prototyping.

Talking about the most popular ideas after zen voting

I’ve never used this method before and I was a little worried about people being precious about their ideas. But it was really effective for focusing discussion, and nobody was concerned about their ideas being on the cutting room floor.

My issue with zen voting is that some ideas got lost in the crossfire while trendier ideas rose to the top, but we were able to return to those ideas afterwards in our team post-mortem.

Despite this limitation, zen voting is a method I’ll certainly be using again to narrow down the sea of ideas that emerge from co-design sessions.

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