An introduction to running design sprints for startups and enterprises | Digital Asia

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It can be used for designing or improving processes & services, improving products, testing new features, finding answers to critical business challenges in almost any

Before 2010, the world’s leading technology companies were used to following the traditional processes to build new products or improve existing ones or solving any significant challenges.

Now, what are these traditional processes? The ones that include tons of group brainstorming, disagreements, plan, build, throwing ideas into the trash, unstructured discussions, getting new ideas, rebuild,  and then, launch it. How does it look like? It generally takes 6-12 months of time and money spent during that time frame. All of these time, money, and efforts just to test waters. And what if a product or experiment fails? All the resources invested would be a waste. A few times, they even don’t launch the product after making these big efforts and investment.

Jake Knapp, designer at Google (was at Microsoft before that), he saw this as a huge problem. He started thinking on how something can be built and tested with customers so that the entire product development process can be made more better and faster. As a result, he created a process to build and test prototypes faster. And then, he improved this process at Google Ventures by applying it on more than 100 startups and products with John Zeratsky. That’s the Design Sprint.

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When should you run a Sprint?

To run a Design Sprint, you must have a critical challenge to solve. E.g., your mobile app’s navigation is confusing, a good UX designer can solve that, and you shouldn’t run a Sprint for this challenge. But, if your mobile app is not generating enough revenue, that’s a big challenge to run a Sprint on.

You should run a Design Sprint when:

  • You have a big project and you’re just starting out with it
  • It’s going to take a lot of time and money
  • You don’t have sufficient time to test something big
  • When you get into deadlocks
  • Restart when you get a major failure at something
  • When an organizational structure becomes a hurdle

How does a Design Sprint go day by day?

On Monday, you reframe the challenge into questions through a structured discussion. You decide a long-term goal and Sprint questions. Then, you make a map and pick a target that you can solve in a week. In the afternoon, each team member comes up with sketched solutions followed by a four-step process. This focuses more on critical thinking than artistry.

Tuesday, in the morning, you already have plenty of solutions from Monday. Now, you can’t prototype and test all of them. So you finalise one solution or solutions that you feel would be good to test. In the afternoon, you create a storyboard which is the base of your prototype. You also recruit your customers that fit your target profile for the Thursday user tests.

You will need a decision maker person on Monday and Tuesday mornings to make final decisions on outcomes.

The entire Wednesday is allocated to the prototyping. Yes! In a day, you build a high-fidelity prototype that you will test with customers on Thursday. A high-fidelity prototype looks and feels like a real product, but it’s not an actual product. A prototype in the Design Sprint is all about how you show people something that presents your idea or solution in the best possible ways. On this day, you also make sure that everything is ready for the user tests scheduled on the next day.

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Thursday, you test the prototype with five target customers, you learn by watching them react to your prototype. It tells you how long you have to go and what should be your next steps. This day makes you feel that the time spent on the Sprint was worth.

Also read: You do not need to choose a methodology to innovate


Design Sprint was created with startups and new products in mind. Startups have limited team members, time, money. In fact, they have all the resources limited. They are not afraid to break things. They want to learn and move fast. Design Sprint fits in the same environment and gives them a perfect to test new ideas in a short time, without making any real efforts.

Before building any new ideas, it’s important to validate them. Most people do it by sharing feedback forms and getting answers to them, interviewing the target audience by pitching them ideas. But, a better way to do it is to show them. Visual experience is always better than hearing and talking. So, rather than going with the traditional validation methods, go with the Design Sprint to validate your idea, and then decide the MVP or Version 1.0 that you should build and launch.

For Big Enterprises

Risk is the most significant concern for enterprises. They want to compete with excellent services and products, they want to beat or stay aligned with others in their industry, they want to increase ROI, they want better changes in the organisation. For all of these significant use cases, enterprises need to innovate and test faster. And the Design Sprint is a perfect way to do it.

Why? As you have seen, the Design Sprint is designed to test new solutions faster before investing tons of time and money, so that you can go ahead with actual production or implementation with confidence. If a solution from the Sprint doesn’t seem to work through user tests, you can even decide not to go with that solution; and start testing other solution(s) from the Sprint or start creating new solutions.

Design Sprint is a versatile process. It can be used for designing or improving processes & services, improving products, testing new features, finding answers to critical business challenges in almost any industry. Use cases can be different and more significant for enterprises, but they can use Sprints. It is 1000 times better than the traditional processes.

Where to start?

If you want to learn Design Sprint, there are plenty of resources available. You can read the book Sprint which explains the original 5-day Design Sprint. You can get the Design Sprint Kit by Google. If you want to try it quickly on your own, download this quick step-by-step guide. A best and fast way can be hiring someone who teaches Design Sprint. There are a few agencies who teach it through the public or exclusive workshop. Any investment made to learn and adapt Design Sprint is worth.

Happy Sprintin’!


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