June 7

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Design Sprints

Travis Hennager

June 7, 2021


Execute on ideas on 10x faster

Your team needs a new idea, and fast. Resources are limited, time is short, your staff is being pulled in all different directions, and your customers have high expectations. Your last brainstorm session felt like a waste of time… there were a bunch of half-baked ideas with no follow-through or prioritization. You need something different.

We’ve all been there. A senior leader issues a broad challenge, providing no real clarity as to what your team should do. You work hard to align schedules, get all the key influencers in the room. Half the room comes prepared, half the room has no idea why they’re there. Once the meeting gets going, two or three team members dominate the meeting, not because they have the best ideas, more because they have the loudest voices. And you’re lucky if anyone was even taking notes or distributing action items after the meeting.

IBM recently analyzed the performance of their teams and concluded that using the design sprint method can reduce the time between the ideation phase and the publishing of a developed application by up to 50%.

Enter Design Sprints. (TL;DR Here are some examples of problems you can solve with Design Sprints)

Why Design Sprints?

Many organizations have innovation as one of their core values, but how often is it genuinely executed throughout different departments? Many companies talk about consistently innovating, but are they maximizing their time and effort towards innovating and staying ahead of the competition? Many innovative projects get started with big ideas in mind but never come to fruition due to lack of resources, critical people leaving the organization, or simply taking too long. People lose interest.

Instead of spending months on a project that may not come to fruition, the structured design sprint will have a minimum viable product you can test with your customers within one week!

  • No more wasted resources on a project that takes much longer than anticipated to complete
  • No more incomplete projects due to not getting the correct stakeholders involved at the beginning of the project
  • Your team becomes aligned around one goal through the design sprint process, preventing any potential negative downstream impacts.
  • Design Sprints help solve this problem by providing a systemic approach that maximizes everyone’s time & effort resulting in a testable prototype in just one week.

You may be familiar with the term design thinking, as it often is thrown around by leaders in creativity and innovation. When we had Duncan Wardle, the former head of Creativity and Innovation at Disney, on our podcast, he spent the whole episode unpacking his favorite design thinking tools. At it’s core, design thinking is a set of principles focused on solving problems with the end-user or customer at the center.

A Design Sprint is a structured problem to solution process, using design thinking principles every step of the way. Design Sprints are a systematic approach, whereas traditional design thinking is more focused on philosophy & mindset. Conventional design thinking using only one principle or two may result in team members not aligned on the same goal resulting in a project that never reaches completion.

Design Sprints can be utilized for any line of business or level within the organization as the process is systematic, logical, and does not go the route of open or vague conversation. At EngageMint, we’ve seen this firsthand while facilitating Design Sprints on topics from making the season ticket renewal process more hassle-free, to centralizing complaints from fans so that leaders can prioritize the biggest issues. Due to the high efficiency of design sprints, many companies have used them to develop new products & services including:

  • The methodology is used by Fortune 500 companies, including Disney, Netflix, Google, Amazon, etc. because they know how to be efficient with their time and energy!
  • Google used the design sprint methodology to produce both Gmail and Google Hangouts!

Design Sprints take elements from design thinking, with the differentiator being a systemized framework to develop a high-fidelity prototype. This is tested with users quickly and avoids wasting unnecessary resources.

One Big Goal for Each Step of the Sprint

What Scenarios are Design Sprints used for?

One of the biggest benefits of design sprints, is they can be used to tackle any large project or process improvement. Some industry examples of what a design sprint can help to solve for:

  • Developing a new season ticket holder renewal website to better educate fans, increase renewal rates, and remove unnecessary touchpoints. In fact, design sprints can be used to create multiple web pages that fit the needs of your fans.
  • Develop a new map for fans on game day
  • Improve your gate entry process
  • Shorten food & beverage transaction times
  • Ideate new sponsorship activation to drive more revenue
  • Develop or improve on your existing app to create a seamless experience for fans not only on game day but receiving news and updates throughout the season
  • Develop training modules for third party staff to improve customer service
  • Identify key issues that your customer service team has and develop clear solutions for them
  • Enhance your in-game entertainment
  • To launch the beginning phase of a longer-term project such as transportation improvements and the development of new infrastructure.
    • Check out this case study from “The Avenue Project,” where they were asked to design and develop mobile services for future users of autonomous shuttles. They used the design sprint process to create approximately 10 possible services for their project to be accepted and initiated.

How Can A Design Sprint Help Me Innovate?

The design sprint is a step-by-step, one-week process going from nothing to a high fidelity prototype of a testable product or process at the end of the week.

A team of people from all different departments comes together to share their feedback during the week-long process. We know it can be a challenge to get everyone’s calendars synced up, but any client we have spent time facilitating a design sprint has agreed the time is well spent.

With the design sprint process, you bring all critical stakeholders together from the very start. From there, run a two-day, highly intensive workshop, and from there, the design team goes off and designs the product and shows it back to that team all within the same week. This has proved to be much quicker than a typical brainstorm session with a follow-up a month or so later to check in on progress.

What Makes Design Sprints More Effective than Traditional Brainstorming?

“Together, Alone”

In a typical design process or meeting, everyone is talking simultaneously and putting their solutions on the table. While there is a lot of talking and collaborating, and it may feel productive, it can be highly inefficient. Generally, team members who work in sales or customer-facing roles are more confident and voice their opinions more loudly than other team members. 

In a design sprint, everyone works towards the same goal without sharing what they are working on, especially the specific solutions. Everyone works on the answers by themselves, and then it is brought together later.

Tangible Discussion

Anytime there is a discussion during the sprint, the facilitator is constantly referencing a developed concept during the design sprint. This prevents the talks from going off the rails and misunderstandings and gets the entire team aligned around one goal.

One of the most frustrating meetings is going around the room with no action items developed, no plan, and a lack of accountability for getting things done. This design sprint solves all of those problems, and everyone is clear on what their role is in achieving the short & long-term goals of the sprint.

Getting Started > Getting it Right

Moving forward and getting started and going from one exercise to the next is more important than execution. It’s all about momentum, not second-guessing if you are doing things correctly or not. TRUST THE PROCESS!

No Creativity Required

The sprint framework itself doesn’t require participants to be “creative” to come up with solutions. The system and exercises themselves within the sprint allow for creativity within itself. Participants do not need creativity to get through the sprint, and the sprint provides the framework to set all participants set up for success. This framework helps it be inclusive of everyone in your organization from Guest Services, Marketing, Sales, Food & Beverage, Security, Game Day Operations, from the front line to the Director level.

David Millay

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