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Why I changed my mind about Design Sprints

In fact, I strongly believe if anything will one day save the world from itself, it will be design. 

The one thing about design process that has never really sat well with me is ‘design by committee’ and the common tendency to over-think the problem. Having never been a fan of brainstorming for this reason, I have always favoured doing over talking. I wrongly (yes that is an admission), associated design sprints with this way of working. 

Many of you who have participated in a brainstorm will know the drill. The most confident and opinionated people in the room (like myself), tend to dominate the conversation and cajole others into their way of thinking. Meanwhile the less vocal, less confident people in the room, who have an opinion that is equally valuable, tend to get overlooked or shot down early on in the process. It was this inequality that always frustrated me. And, even though I was probably part of the reason, it would always annoy me when someone didn’t have an opinion and speak up. As a result, you leave the room feeling you hadn’t really achieved anything beyond what you already knew. 

I have always thought the best ideas were the vision of one insightful individual with the drive and passion to go out there and realise it. The Steve Jobs and Elon Musks of the world have always fascinated me. They had a vision, a dream, a mission and they single-handedly dragged themselves, and those around them, to the finish line. Of course, this isn’t at all accurate, most of the great visionary thinkers and leaders, had teams of talented people behind the wizard’s curtain helping them realise their dreams. Steve Jobs didn’t invent the iPod and Elon Musk isn’t a rocket scientist, but he is pioneering space travel. But it is a more romantic notion to convince ourselves they do most of it themselves. For this reason alone I have always dismissed design sprints as ‘all talk, and no trousers’. 

With the quote, ‘a camel is a racehorse designed by a committee’ ringing in my ears, I always duck out of brainstorming when the opportunity presents itself. Design by committee is never a good thing in my opinion, but design sprints are not an example of this.

Having recently been reintroduced to the concept of ‘sprinting’ on a business amplification course, and being left impressed, I decided to dive deeper. Armed with a reading list I devoured book after book, starting with Sprint by Jake Knapp, who developed and perfected the Design Sprint Methodology during his time working in Silicon Valley at Google Ventures. I then followed it with  Hacking Growth by Morgan Brown and Sean Ellis as a main course, and Rebel Ideas by Matthew Syed for dessert. These 3 books completely changed my perspective on the group idea generation process.

The Design Sprint Methodology focuses on structured thinking and controlling the thought process. The workshops or ‘sprints’ are designed to replace unstructured discussion with a clear process. They are organised and the noting and voting process is more democratic, removing the fear barrier of speaking up. They allow teams to filter through the noise and make well informed decisions, fast.

A successful sprint will take teams in previously unimaginable directions and tease amazing ideas out of the most unlikely people in the room. The process is a really powerful change agent. People leave feeling empowered and motivated, and that is why I really love them. They force even the least creative people to have ideas and solve problems with design thinking.

That is why design by committee doesn’t apply here. Design sprints are all about getting as much expert or well-informed input as possible, before implementing an output. It is about building a strong foundation for your vision, to give it the best chance of success. Not only does it validate your direction, it can help you pivot, before you waste time and money taking the wrong path. Nobody wants to waste millions developing and marketing a brand, product or service that nobody actually wants or needs.

This is why at Truth we now utilise the Design Sprint Methodology as part of all our existing brand workshops to make them more structured, and most importantly, more effective. We work with brands to assemble the right team for the sprint and help achieve the best possible outcome. We facilitate and guide them through the disciplined process that not only identifies new ideas, but also plans efficient ways to implement them, quickly and effectively.

As a result, we still produce work that is really engaging, but we get there as a team and avoid expensive misdirection. This is why we no longer brainstorm, we sprint.

If you are a business or organisation that struggles to make the right decisions quickly talk to us about how one of our Truth Labs Design Sprints can help you.

Written by Darren Scott – Truth Founder

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