Run design sprints

Digital technologies that cover basic or fundamental human needs have matured so much that their diffusion crosses 80% of the population in many countries. Alas, competition in the marketplace, in B2C or B2B, continues to heat up across practically all industries.

There is a plethora of reasons for why projects don’t turn out to be as great as was initially thought. Building the right product to win in the marketplace is hard. It has to be. If it would be simple, competition would be so fierce that few companies would see a decent return on their investment.

Design sprint workshops

Luckily there are methodologies that improve, speed up or shorten the way to launch successful products the market wants. The design sprint is such a methodology.

CEO? Here is what you need to know

So, your team wants to run a design sprint and involve you for more than just an hour or two. Well, are you convinced that the sprint will help your team and your company? If yes, jump to the next section. If not, this is for you–continue here.

Why do they want to run a sprint and spent five consecutive days?

Well, the design sprint has gotten very popular, in part, because the format originated at Google. Google is a successful company, so, other companies (especially those that are not so successful) want to imitate the big guys. There is nothing wrong with that, since in the end, things that work, evolve. Things that don’t work, will falter. Apparently, the design sprint works.

Furthermore, if you have seen or heard about a similar method, called design thinking, before, a design sprint is similar. Now, design thinking, typically, focuses on (user) research, discovery and learning more than it does on execution of what was uncovered by such research. Not a design sprint. However, the design sprint is to a large extend old content in a new package. But this new package does certainly have value. So, don’t brush it off just yet.

The design sprint offers both, research and execution, in a very concise, collaborative and compact format with real user input - typically five days from start to finish. The timeframe can be shortened or lengthened (to some extend).

Less time to spend? That does sound like great news, doesn’t it? The cycles’ length can be adjusted to the needs of your company, and availability but, mind you: The format originated as is because five days really work best. Hence, changes to the timeframe have their disadvantages. xx

Design sprint workshops

What about other benefits for us?

Well, as you may know from your own company, many companies don’t do enough ethnographic (user) research or user testing. Why? Because it’s easy not to do it. Further, don’t we all think that we already know a lot about the topic/product or business at hand? So what gives. A design sprint allows half a dozen of your people to do hands-on, dirt cheap, user research in just 1-2 days. On the other hand, imagine you give your OK for some grandiose user research to some outside agency for execution.

Which initiative will take less time and is less costly? There you go. Your team also gets the added benefit of being exposed to the learnings themselves. All knowledge and learnings will remain in your company.

Last but not least, such a initiative has the potential to reduce resource investment for exploration of ideas and concepts.

But what about metrics?

You care about metrics and would ideally like to measure any design initiative as well. Design sprints often validate or invalidate ideas quickly, cheaply and early in the process.

Design sprint workshops

Therefore, a good way to measure such initiatives is the ratio of ideas validated (or invalidated) to ideas generated. The great aspect about design sprints is that your core team decides on the best idea and executes on it quickly. How often does you company execute, test and explore the ideas generated with real users?

In Zone To Win Geoffrey Moore writes that a company only has to catch one major product category in a decade in order to spur growth. Let’s do the numbers with these assumptions:

  • 1 design sprint / month: 12 sprints / year
  • 5 good ideas generated / sprint: 5 x 12 = 60 / year
  • 1 great idea / sprint (1 out of 5) pursued, executed and tested: 1 x 12 = 12 / year
  • 20% of those great ideas get positively validated: ~2.5 / year

If you would take Geoffrey Moore’s book to have “just” 1 great product per decade (~ great idea), your company would end up with 25 great ideas per decade. Nothing to sneeze at. Of course, that does not relate into 25 hugely successfully businesses. We do the numbers: if we would take your experience that assumes that roughly 95% of companies go bankrupt, your company could have 25 x 5% = 1.25 successful products or businesses.

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