5 things you should know before running your first Design Sprint

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During the past years I had the chance to facilitate several Product Design Sprints, either in collaboration with Google or for our clients.
Here are some experience-based tips for those who want to conduct their first Design Sprint. All based on my experience with dozens of startups and big companies like KLM.

1. In a Design Sprint you can generate great ideas... but also a many bad ones

Let’s go straight to the point: even though you run a well executed Design Sprint, you can come out with a very bad idea.
Don’t worry, everybody has bad ideas. Everyday.
This is why the Design Sprint last step consists in validating your ideas with your users.  Thanks to it you will be able to find it out whether your idea is working or not before implementing it (read: before it is too late).
Actually, one of the goals of a Product Design Sprint is to reduce the risk of taking bad decisions.

However, you can also have a great idea, but based on flawed or incomplete information, and this leads to the following tip:

2.Previous research is important

During the very first step of a product Design Sprint, participants are asked to share everything they know about their product.
Specifically about:

  • technology used
  • business goals
  • their competitors
  • their users

Think of this common knowledge as the foundations of your Design Sprint.
You will use the information to discover the problems of your product and you will build a solution on it.

Design Sprint teams usually have clear ideas about the first 3 things, but tend to know little about their users.
Making wrong assumptions about them will likely lead you to design for somebody who is not the person who is supposed to use your product. Also, you will finally test and validate your solution with the same wrong target.

Previous research is key to ensure you are building something which is not only well executed but actually makes sense for your uses.
If none of your team knows who they are, what are their needs, what they think about your product… do some research before starting a Design Sprint.

3.Teams tend to stick with their original ideas

Sometimes Design Sprint teams come with a lot of work already done to solve their problem.
The result is that, instead of generating new ideas, they constantly tend to look for a confirmation of the old ones during the workshop.

In order to mitigate this, the Sprint master has to follow the team very closely during the sprint and encourage its members to produce new ideas at any step of the process.

If it is the first time they participate in a sprint, you might also give them a generic challenge. In this way, they are not working on any known problem and can concentrate on learning how sprints work.

4.It is difficult to control the duration of each exercise

To grab the attention of the teams when the time for each exercise runs out is a quite difficult task.
Projecting a countdown timer is a good way to make all participants aware of the time left.
Choose a countdown with sound and keep the volume high so participants can understand when it is time to stop each exercise.

5.You need to document the whole process

Design sprint teams generate a lot of ideas and knowledge.
However, after a whole working day in a constantly changing space, it is hard to keep track of all of them.

In order to document everything properly, ask teams to take many pictures of everything and write a short explanation of what they did after each exercise. We are certified Sprint Masters.

Get your Design Sprint by a Google Certified Design Sprint Master