It sounds great, looks great and agency clients love it! The infamous Design Sprint!
I must say, I fell for that trap in the past, so I don't really blame anyone who is still running them for themselves or their clients. But here is some food for thought.
Have you ever wondered what the Design Sprint is really about?
Well it's not about design; not at all.
In the Design Sprint methodology, there are no real design principles... Yes, I said that. Let me repeat it... In the Design Sprint methodology, there are no practical design principles.
If you boil it down, way down, the Design Sprint is a great moderation tool. Yes, it's great, but it's a moderation tool. It is a way to help key stakeholders agree, or agree to disagree, on a solution.
The process is driven by the decision maker's understanding of the market and their subjective view of the solution.
In my humble view, where the Design Sprint comes short is that it does not provide an objective way to assess ideas. Ideas are as good as the decision-maker thinks they are, e.g.
"I like that, I'm going to give it two sticky dots!"
In fact, to prove what I am saying, I will tell you a little Design Sprint story.
I was working on a product that helped kids to learn to play an instrument. It was Friday (i.e. Day 5 of the Design Sprint), and I realised that we were testing a "purple starfish" that had been promoted to the prototype as a way of helping kids to visualise their progress in the learning process. It was a terrific failure; every time we tested it, people were disconcerted.
Then the penny dropped.
I asked myself, "How in the world did we get here? Why are we testing a purple starfish?"
The answer was simple; we had no objective criteria with which to assess ideas i.e. we had no way to assess to what extent any of these ideas would help our users in their goal of learning to play an instrument.
Someone along the way "liked" the starfish. It was "friendly," as someone put it. We had someone fantasise about the way kids would become friends with the starfish, and so we went down the rabbit hole...
When it comes to solution design, Design Sprint methodology has no real framework for designing products that help users to achieve their desired outcome and solve their struggle.
The advantage, however, is that you "make decisions fast." This works for people/companies taking a lean approach in which you want to test and iterate fast. To be honest, we only lost a week on that purple starfish.
But what happens if, after the starfish, you design a yellow hippopotamus, then a blue octopus and then you rethink the starfish and end up where you started?
Well you have made lots of decisions FAST, you have proven yourself wrong, and you come back to looking at that whiteboard and the sticky-notes.
Overall, what you are doing is throwing things at the wall to see what sticks. Well, have you ever considered looking more closely at the wall before you choose what to toss?
Imagine if you did. Imagine if you knew what the wall was made of. Imagine if you knew what types of things would stick to the surface (i.e. what specific problems you needed to solve, what benchmarks your solution needed to beat, and how to evaluate each idea objectively) so that when you are choosing what to throw at the wall, you can make an informed decision.
Sounds great right? It does to me, and that is why I had to look for that something more.
If you want to learn how to figure out what the wall is made of and how to make your solution stick, then you need to use design principles supported by rigorous market insight.
If you are interested in going beyond Design Sprints, then reach out. We'd love to share what we've learned about what works.
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