Design Sprints

5 Days to test new ideas

A design sprint is a series of five day-long, highly-focused sessions in which teams explore, design and test ideas within the constraints of 1 business week. Inspired by Google Ventures and modified to Crema’s needs, these collaborative sprints result in greater shared understanding across teams, clarified program objectives, and the proving or disproving of selected assumptions & hypotheses.

This framework helps set the project on a meaningful course more quickly than traditional methods. The constraints — schedule, people, resources, objectives — force the team to concentrate on the things that matter, to consider more creative approaches, so that the outcome is measurably valuable to the team & business as a whole. Constraints paired with a team protected from the usual distractions enables a design sprint to accomplish months of validation and effort in only 5 days.

The week

Monday: Establish

Establish the “Why” for the sprint.  Grasp the goals. Understand the primary problems to solve. Understand clearly what must be true to measure success or failure.  Map out possible assumptions and explore the idea. Know the actors, users, customers, etc. Lean into the understanding & experience of each team member.

Tuesday: Explore

Sketch out all the ideas. Pitch storyboards, and vote on the best direction to move forward. Make sure that everyone has a solid shared understanding of the target audience. Map out all the possible solutions.

Wednesday: Decide

This day is about making the hard decision of what to test. You can’t test everything so cast a vote, and finalize the storyboard that is most compelling to test for the biggest impact.

Thursday: Fake It

How might we create the fastest, yet most effective ways to fake the experience that was mapped out on Wednesday.  Some design probably has already started, but now its time to make it feel real. Remember you have to get to a point where you feel that you can get the best test results.

Friday: Test it

It’s going to feel too early, but now is the time. We’ll put the faked solution in front of real potential users and gather as much feedback as possible.  You started the week with an idea and some people in the room. Now you have a real solution that’s ready for feedback.  Nailed it, missed the mark, or headed in the right direction; doesn’t matter. Now you know how far you have to go.  You know so much more now than you did 4 days ago!  Now lets decide how to move forward.

The team

Product strategist: This is Crema’s blend of a user experience expert, business analyst, product manager, and all around co-product owner to the client. The strategist is your facilitator for the week.

Product Designer: These designers will bring our idea to life with an interactive prototype. More that just a pretty pixel pusher, they are driven by building products that are a delight to use and valuable to all.

Tech Expert: We often find that including a developer in these session is a HUGE success as they can help us to understand the constraints or freedoms that the technology will bring.

The Decider: Likely the Founder, CEO, product owner, project manager, or overall person who is responsible for getting this initiative done. Most importantly, they can say YES or NO with authority.


The Finance Expert: This may be the same as The Decider, but if there is concern that budget will be a factor and The Decider can’t speak into this, then we want to make sure that we can get these answers as quickly as possible.  

The Marketing Expert: Though we are often confused for a marketing agency, we really just work well with marketing people to bring great products out into the world. A Marketing Expert can help align the product & release plan with any other marketing program objectives.

Design Sprint Outcomes

To be sure, a design sprint can seem like an expensive way to spend a week. It also requires planning, discipline, and trust. A design sprint is also one of the most effective — and efficient — ways to make sure that every dollar, minute, and decision spent afterwards will be spent in the best way possible. Compared against the true cost and risk of a nine-month project — several people in meeting after meeting, unvalidated assumptions, and at least a few rounds of revision before release — the design sprint provides far greater value in the short- and long- term views.

Specifically, some common outcomes & takeaways:

• Validation-oriented prototype

• Research & learnings that go beyond the product

• Deeper understanding of customers & their context

• Stronger shared understanding & cooperation between team members

• Empirical, evidence-based direction on the value of the business or product

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