An introduction to Design Sprint

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Following a few silent months, Spike Colombo is live and kicking once again. At the July edition, Mayun Kaluthantri and Shavin Peiries from Very Bad Wizards took the spotlight. The theme for the evening was Design Sprint.

What’s a design sprint?

This is a five-day process that aims to answer critical business questions via design, prototyping and testing ideas with customers. As the name implies, a design sprint would essentially cut down a months’ worth of work to just one week. A typical business environment for a product or service would usually come in 4 stages. You start with the idea, then build it, launch, followed by the learning process. A design sprint would be a shortcut that lets you go from the idea stage to the learning process. As GV puts it, “you can fast-forward into the future to see your finished product and customer reactions, before making any expensive commitments.”

A typical design sprint would start off with mapping out the problem and choosing the vital point of focus. That’s day one. Day two, it’s about sketching competing solutions on paper. Day three, ideas become testable hypothesis. Day four will see a high-fidelity prototype being made.  Finally, the prototype will be tested with actual people.

Finding that magic moment

It all comes down to knowing a good product from a bad product, and how it could lead to a better functioning business. There’s a reason why the copy-paste model doesn’t often work when trying to implement successful products/services from Western countries. According to Mayun, what separates a good product from a bad one, isn’t the features, UI or UX. It’s that magic moment, what value does the product create for the user? But often, what happens with a me-too product is that you would first build it, scale and market it. That’s not necessarily a successful formula.

Design Sprint | Mayun Kaluthantri | Spike Colombo July 2019
Mayun Kaluthantri talks about design sprints at Spike Colombo, July 2019

Mayun notes that it’s important to first identify those magic moments first and then scale up. This way, the product is built around those magic moments. Uber is a prime example as to how they’ve identified a magic moment and built the product around it.

Turning assumptions into embodied experiences

When building a product/service, one area of concern is the guesswork or the assumptions that are made in the process. Particularly when it comes to building an MVP, as Shavin points out, these assumptions are made at a macro level as to how a product should turn out. “But then again, we should be thinking about building the right product before thinking about building the product right.”

A design sprint would allow for these assumptions to be validated early on, before reaching the end goal. After all, you’re presenting a prototype to real people.

Design Sprint | Spike Colombo July 2019
Spike Colombo, July 2019

Often during brainstorming sessions in a company, this aspect of guesswork or assumptions come into play. It’s not uncommon that in these types of scenarios, it’s usually down to the authoritative or the person who’s perceived to be the smartest person in the room. “Smart people are really good at coming up with reasons for their guesses”, says Mayun. He goes on to say that the best way to go about it is to see if something is merely a guess or an actual embodied experience. If it’s an embodied experience, then its best to make a decision based on that.

Design thinking vs design sprinting

Design thinking is another concept that often pops up in these conversations. But what’s different with design thinking and design sprints can be equated to a cooking metaphor. Imagine going to a cookery class, where you learn all the cooking theories and techniques. That’s design thinking. A design sprint is where you follow a step by step recipe to cook a specific dish.

Design thinking is a philosophy to internalize and a mindset to adopt. It is about structuring our thought process to understand and define the problem, conceptualize, actualize and test solutions. In contrast, ‘design sprint’ is a methodological process, based on design thinking, which tackles and solves the problems in the most efficient way within a specific time range.

Behrad Mirafshar, UX Planet

The key takeaway is that design sprints essentially helps to cut down on the many months spent on planning or those hours of endless debates spent on discussing the problem. It’s about validating those assumptions in front of real people and discovering those magic moments in the process.

Design sprints won’t automatically solve all your business problems. But it’s a methodology that would help you arrive at a solution for some of your big challenges. If you’d like to know more about design sprints you can reach out to Mayun and Shavin at Very Bad Wizards.

Spike Colombo is a monthly meetup that happens every last Tuesday of the month at Barefoot Cafe. Visit their facebook page for more details.

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