02 Nov What Is a Design Sprint? and Five Ways It Can Save You Time and Money
What if product development took days instead of months?
When designing a new product or solution, or modifying an existing one, it often takes months before a prototype is ready, and even years to bring a final product to market.
A lot of time is spent on team meetings, discussions, planning, and researching.
The length of time from idea to testing, to final product, sometimes stretches out much longer than anticipated.
This process is a lot like a marathon.
The problem with a marathon development cycle is it’s expensive and time-consuming.
Often, meetings are unproductive, discussions lose focus, plans change, and research needs to be updated.
Employees tend to lose motivation and drive when a project takes too long, and it gets harder to keep teams working together and communicating efficiently.
It doesn’t always result in a successful product or solution either, which means wasted resources.
What is a Design Sprint?
Back in 2010, Jake Knapp started to change this approach.
He designed a process, or method of working, that allows companies to develop their products and solutions much faster.
He called this process a Design Sprint and published the related publication, Sprint, in 2016, which quickly became a New York Times bestseller.
Just like in real life, a sprint is much faster and more efficient than a marathon.
What would usually take months will literally take days with the sprint method.
A Design Sprint is like fast-forwarding into the future, so you can see how customers react before you invest all the time and expense of creating your new product, service, marketing campaign... or whatever!
It’s faster, costs less, and the success or failure of the new product is much easier to assess and quicker to fix.
How is this possible?
We answer that question by showing you five ways that the Design Sprint saves time and money:
1 – Intensity
A design sprint runs over four days.
Yes. Just four days to go from problem to prototype or solution.
Each day is packed full of structured discussions, problem-solving, brainstorming, and decision-making.
Every part of the process has a time limit so that the discussions stay focused and productive.
Here is what happens on each day:
Day 1: Understand and define the problem
Day 2: Sketch (Storyboard) and decide on the best solution
Day 3: Prototype
Day 4: Test
Heaps of progress happen every day, and that is why it is such a productive process.
It is due to the intensity and time frame of the design sprint that it works so well.
Four days of product development compared to four months means the whole process costs tens of thousands less than the traditional marathon method.
And because you can potentially get your product or solution to market that much faster, a design sprint has the potential to make your business more profitable.
2 – Structure
As I mentioned earlier, each activity during the four days is meticulously timed and scheduled.
It is one of the fundamentals of the design sprint system.
☝️ A detailed schedule and sticking strictly to the timings forces everyone to stay focused and on task.
☝️ No procrastinating or tangent discussions.
☝️ All problems are solved faster, and ideas are evaluated and tested much more efficiently.
Is it enough time? Of course.
As Parkinson’s Law states, work expands to fill the time available.
Most tasks take less time than we realize, and the design sprint uses that concept to its full advantage.
3 – Teamwork
A design sprint works by ensuring all the relevant members of the team are present.
This way, everyone is on the same page, everyone is working at the same pace.
One of the problems that large organizations face is managing a large team. Keeping everyone motivated and energized throughout the length of a project is not easy.
In a marathon, you have runners with different levels of fitness and speeds. Keeping everyone going and trying to finish at the same time is near impossible.
In business, this delays projects, increasing costs and time to market.
A design sprint reduces this problem by keeping the team together for a set time, with specific goals and timings.
They have to communicate face to face without the distractions of emails, phones, and other meetings.
4 – Facilitators
The whole process is best overseen and facilitated by external companies or freelancers.
Something crucial to the success of the program. The presence of someone detached from the company creates accountability and helps keep everyone on track.
The facilitators are there to get everyone started and to keep things moving. They are there to:
➡️ Ask lots of questions so that all of the information is where it needs to be: out in the open so everyone can discuss and make progress.
➡️ Provide the energy and framework for doing each task. A design sprint will most likely be new for everyone. It’s a new way to think and work and can be uncomfortable for some. When that happens, it’s not always easy to keep everyone on board and motivated. The facilitators are skilled at getting the team through this and adjusting to the new and unfamiliar.
➡️ Deal with rules and the arduous stuff. It’s their job to enforce the ‘no device’ rule. It’s on them to deal with difficult people and make sure the whole thing stays on schedule. It’s also on them to keep pushing the team to create something worthwhile and force them outside their comfort zones.
Yep! It’s not an easy job, but the facilitators are highly experienced and love what they do, so you can trust you will be in safe hands.
5 – Mindset
In business and, in fact, most things in life, mindset is everything.
Mindset is the difference between success and failure.
Mindset is crucial to how productive we are daily.
The design sprint creates and requires a certain mindset.
A mindset that requires some comfort with experimentation, being bold and being decisive.
It involves a way of thinking where new possibilities suddenly exist.
For example, the very idea of creating a working prototype in four days is hard to imagine if your employees are not used to that.
The fact that ideas can be considered and discarded in minutes as opposed to hours of meetings might be hard to digest for some.
But the design sprint method is relentless. It will prove itself to its participants, willing or not. By the end of the process, or possibly sooner, it will have converted them to, at least, understand this mindset, but most likely, adopt it entirely.
Why? Because it works.
⏳ It saves time through productivity and better communication.
💶 It saves money through commitment, faster ideation, and honesty.
🚀 It creates success through better user testing and feedback.
Who uses Design Sprints?
All the big names.
Large businesses like Lego, Uber, Facebook and Airbnb, are adopting the design sprint process. Agencies like IDEO and McKinsey, the UK government, and even the British Museum and the Smithsonian.
They use it to develop prototypes, improve their existing products, and solve a range of business problems.
The design sprint started at Google, known to be a forward-thinking and agile brand.
This new process of working is catching on due to its fast and productive methodology.
Businesses can use sprints to find solutions faster, massively decreasing their time to market and rapidly accelerating user testing and feedback.
This process saves thousands, compared to what it would cost to develop a new product or solution using the marathon system.
It keeps motivation and communication high and open and vastly improves teamwork and productivity.
Big companies are quickly adopting this new way to work because it allows them to stay competitive, agile and efficient.