Google Ventures Design Sprint

By David

We ran our first Google Ventures design sprint recently. It’s a 5 day sprint where we work together with our clients to shortcut:

the usual endless-debate cycle and compress months of time into a single week. Instead of waiting to launch a minimal product to understand if an idea is any good, teams get great data from a prototype.

Design Sprints are versatile, they can be used to explore almost any idea:

the first version of new mobile apps, to develop new features for existing products with millions of users, to define marketing strategies, to design reports for medical tests, to create the personality of a hotel delivery robot – the list goes on.

The Process

Sketching out lots of ideas on Tuesday

Choosing the best ideas and refining them on Wednesday

What we learnt

  • It’s good for us because we get to put our skillset to the test in one week. From creating personas and journey maps to prototyping and usability testing, and we’re doing it with our clients joining in. It clears the cobwebs and makes us think on our feet again.
  • It’s good for clients because they get to test a concept in five days. Investing in a one week sprint is a win-win for clients because bad ideas can be discarded or changed, and good ideas can be validated and iterated faster before writing code.
  • Committing to strict timeboxing improves productivity. By the end of the week we were in agreement that we had achieved much more than we usually do.
  • It’s OK to admit that you don’t know the answer. Provided that you keep exploring ideas that you can test. And being in a group that admits to vulnerability builds trust which is essential for teams that do good work.

Making a prototype on Thursday

User testing on Friday

  • Client participation is key. Although we could have run the sprint without clients, the consequence would have been designs based on our assumptions and incomplete information, which means we lose the ability to move fast in the ideation phase.
  • Don’t try to do everything. Knowing which parts of the idea to test on Friday will help prioritise where to focus the ideation phase. And it protects the group form being overwhelmed by the enormity of the task at hand.
  • Clients have good ideas. And they sketch them out much better than they think.
  • It sets up a project with the right focus. By testing with customers and iterating early on, the principle of continuous improvement is built into the process. The distinction between proof and assumption is understood by everyone, and the team is less likely to implement designs that have not been tested with customers.
  • No need for lengthy documents. Stakeholders are part of the exploration team and contribute to all design decisions. And by co-creating the prototype and the test plan they know what is going on and why.
  • Don’t shortcut the process. If ideas flow on Day 2 don’t be tempted to jump ahead and start Day 3, allow ideas to incubate overnight and start again the next morning.
  • It builds design stamina. The process is both exhausting and exhilarating, because you have to continually make decisions and justify why you are making them. Developing this skill makes everyone better designers.

After the sprint: analysing the test results before planning what to do next

There is nothing complicated about running a design sprint. So why aren’t we doing it more often? Maybe because doing the simple things are the hardest things to do. Try it out, chances are you may not want to go back to the old way of working. We don’t.

Icons from the Noun Project: Márcio Duarte, Konrad Michalik, Takao Umehara, Ainsley Wagoner, DTE MEDIA.