Many organisations struggle to develop bold, innovative solutions to customer/employee challenges and to develop a culture that fosters such creative thinking. It’s not uncommon for an organisation to dismiss new ideas because “we’ve tried that before,” “that’s not how we do things,” or “we’ll never get funding for that.” Employees who think in this way limit their creativity to safe, incremental improvements. To truly transform, a new way of thinking is required.
The Rapid Process Design Sprint approach addresses challenges in innovation by emphasising engagement, dialogue, and learning, by specifically involving customers or users in the development of solutions, and by supplying structure to the process.
To be successful an innovation process must deliver three things:
- Superior solutions
- Lower risks and cost of change
- Employee buy-in
What are Design Sprints or Design Thinking?
Design Thinking is a methodology or approach to solving business problems that begin with the customer or user in mind. Design thinkers create products and experiences with the end-user in mind, rather than thinking about a business problem solely from the business’s perspective (i.e., what will improve our bottom line?). Design thinking stems from the belief that being human-centred is the most effective way to create things people genuinely want. Along with a focus on customers, Design Thinking encourages prototyping and testing.
While Design Thinking has been part of business culture since the 1990s, Design Sprints are the latest iteration of Design Thinking.
Design Sprints are a structured, five-day method of solving business issues. The technique was initially created at Google Ventures and later published as a Sprint book. The Design Sprint takes techniques from design thinking and condenses them into a powerful methodology that a team can complete in just one week.
It is based on the British Design Council’s Double Diamond design process model, which was popularised in 2005, and adapted from Béla H. Bánáthy’s 1996 divergence-convergence model. The two diamonds represent the process of delving deeper into an issue (divergent thinking) and then taking focused action (convergent thinking). It suggests that the design process be divided into four stages:
• Discover: Learn about the problem rather than assuming it. It entails speaking with and spending time with those affected by the issues.
• Define: The knowledge gained during the discovery phase can be used to redefine the challenge.
• Develop: Provide various solutions to a clearly defined problem, seeking inspiration from elsewhere and co-designing with a diverse group of people.
• Deliver: This entails testing various solutions on a small scale, rejecting those that will not work and improving those that will.
Why Rapid Process Design Sprints work?
The Sprint process benefits from diverse mindsets; rather than viewing multiple stakeholders as a hindrance to progress, it incorporates both times to individually think and collectively discuss as a team in a timed environment. Here are five reasons why they are effective.
1. Great design doesn’t come from an individual “aha moment” but from a collective endeavour
We must acknowledge that we can no longer work in silos. If done correctly, collective brainpower far outnumbers individual brainpower. Sprint is designed to be run in teams so that you can get different perspectives and build on each other’s ideas.
2. Even some things that can sound basic and obvious can be valuable
With the Sprint process, we are focused on basic questions such as what our goal is and what questions we have. When you ask the question, you realise how differently everyone sees it from you. It also cuts the communication loop in half.
3. The process keeps everyone engaged because each person has a voice in influencing the decisions
Typically, some people never say anything in meetings. Often, the manager must decide without much deliberation. Quiet people can also provide valuable insights. The Sprint process encourages us to take on speaking roles and share our ideas. There is a rhythm to alternating between individual thinking time and presentation time. Having shared roles allows us to take ownership of the conversation and move it forward.
4. The process introduces a speedy way to work towards a working prototype to test
Making prototypes at work is generally hampered in part by the lengthy decision-making process. The whole point of running a Sprint is to reach a decision on which all stakeholders can agree and quickly create a working prototype.
5. It makes you externalise your thoughts right away
Sprint operates in a fast-paced, time-sensitive environment. It doesn’t matter how well you draw; what matters is that you get your ideas down on paper. We are accustomed to bouncing ideas off each other in brainstorming sessions or discussions, but not documenting them. When we run Sprint, we have post-it notes or papers with everyone’s ideas on them. This way, we consider ALL ideas discussed, rather than following a path decided by the manager or becoming attached to one and deciding it is the “right” solution.
When to use a Design Sprint?
Here are a few examples where a Design Sprint approach might be the most effective path to take:
Setting direction on a new effort
New (and frequently significant) projects necessitate extensive alignment. This alignment need can occasionally be accomplished through detailed documentation, protracted presentations, educational meetings, and follow-up talks. They may arrive without any documents, which might be frightening.
Everyone essential to the project’s success is on the same page from the beginning, thanks to the Design Sprint process. They can obtain an understanding of a new project idea by working together as a team or by utilising pre-sprint research and approaches (such as problem framing) to determine direction.
Establishing an initial process
The design sprint process offers several opportunities for mapping and process exploration. Using mapping, storyboarding, user flows, and other techniques, it is possible to see how various processes (such as hiring, determining project needs, performing user research, etc.) can be carried out.
Aligning a diverse project team
Working on complicated products and applications naturally draws in a wide group of people and professionals. Designers naturally gravitate toward working and collaborating with other designers, developers toward other developers, etc. When the circumstance calls for it, you engage with other disciplines.
A diverse group of experts are needed to work on a significant challenge, idea, or problem during design sprints. Working in this compact, the collaborative setting increases the likelihood of understanding and agreement.
In the best of scenarios, there’s a natural appreciation of perspective, criticism of ideas and active dialogue about the problem space. Subject matter experts in particular become vital to establishing perspective for the entire team to align on.
From years of working with social housing providers on rapid process transformation, we’ve found the main benefits of using the Design Sprint methodology are:
- it solves design problems quickly
- user validation
- it allows you to fail early
- Design perspective to Agile as a collaboration tool