Learning more about Design sprints

by Andy Mayer
Posted on 20 September 2017
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Last week I had the pleasure of spending a day at Tate Modern to find out more about the Design sprint approach from its creator Jake Knapp. For those who don't know, Jake worked at Google Ventures and wrote the book 'Sprint' about an approach to quickly and easily validate new ideas.


Above: selfie with Jake Knapp – with great views from the Tate Modern thrown in

In my opinion, Design sprints are one of the most useful tools we use at Yoomee to help non-profits design new online services. Since November 2015 we've been applying this methodology and have helped many organisations come up with, and launch, new amazing digital products to solving problems – from peer support for vulnerable people to sharing economies for community groups.

Over the last few months, we've been working with Time To Change – the UK's biggest movement of people challenging mental health stigma – to review and improve their website's UX. We used the Design sprint methodology to help generate and validate new ideas and develop a strategy for improving and refocusing their website over their tenth anniversary year.

From the horse's mouth

Jake spent ten years at Google where he created the Design sprint process and then moved on to writing the book. He used the process over 150 times with companies like Nest, Slack, 23andMe, and Flatiron Health. And I must confess to being a bit of a fanboy!

Today, teams around the world – from Silicon Valley startups to Fortune 500s, through schools and governments – are using his Design sprint methodology to solve big problems and test new ideas.

Design sprints are the fastest way of figuring out if something is worth doing.

Jake's teaching style was fun and informal, and I particularly enjoyed hearing it from the “horse's mouth" so to speak. He encouraged a learn-by-doing approach, and so we were all asked to run our own Design sprint activities during the training session. With over 100 people at the workshop we probably broke the world record for the number of people doing a Design sprint together at the same time!

Above: 100 people doing a Design sprint at the same time; not recommended!

Chatting to other people on the day made me realise what a wealth of experience we've gathered with this approach, and it was a joy to share our learning with others. Jake said the best way to learn about the Design sprint approach is to just do it as many times as you can.

There's so much content to cover, but for me, the main takeaways from the day were:

1. It's all about designing time

Design sprints are all about how you design time – carving out dedicated time to spend with key people focussed on a problem, without distractions, is the most valuable aspect of the approach and shouldn't be compromised.

2. Fake it till you make it

Other people's products are free prototypes – don't always think you have to make something yourself to test ideas. It doesn't need to be perfect to get some initial insights about your new approach.

3. Keep moving

Removing barriers – move fast and don't get stuck on making decisions. It's far too easy to get bogged down with endless discussions and debates about various design solutions. Instead, all open, unstructured discussions should to be tackled with a clear process. There's a nice video that sums up a way of doing this called Lightning Decision Jam (LDJ) here:

What next?

Over the next few months, we'll be building on our work with refugees by working on a new project with the Health Foundation to figure out how to support doctors working with new migrant patients. We'll be using the Design sprint methodology for quickly coming up with – and testing – new ideas, before building a prototype which will be used to determine the right approach.

If you're a non-profit and you'd like to find out how a Design sprint could help you find the solution to a difficult problem then please do get in touch and we'd love to talk more.

Posted on 20 September 2017 - By Andy Mayer
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