For two days I’ve been immersed in the stimulating world of design sprints along with many other elite practitioners at the annual Sprint Conference (#SprintCon18) hosted Google Design. On October 2 I shared four key takeaways from Day One. And Day Two proved to be just as fruitful. Throughout the day, I was struck by how many discussions focused on the human factor – for example, the importance of design sprint teams managing beyond their inherent biases and the value of inclusive design for people from different backgrounds. Following are four major takeaways from Day Two:
- The importance of inclusive design. I joined Eric Vazquez, the Chief Technology Officer for the Office of the City Clerk for the City of Chicago, to discuss how we applied a four-day design sprint to improve the process of renewing vehicle stickers in Chicago. Our goal was to make renewing vehicle stickers easier than getting a Starbucks. When we created our prototype solution, we needed to design for Chicagoans from all walks of life, including people from different socioeconomic backgrounds who possess different levels of access to and understanding of technology. I believe that collaborating with local government to design for a diverse population makes your design team more inclusive in a business setting – for example, designing to be inclusive makes you more mindful of the importance of designing for accessibility.
- Mind your biases. As I mentioned in my October 2 blog post about #SprintCon18, design sprints are inherently human processes. Beyond their main objective to create better products and services, design sprints are all about bring teams closer. And human beings bring their own biases to a design sprint. Those biases “lead to less courageous decisions” in the words of Dana Vetan, co-founder and Head of Training at the Design Sprint Academy. As she explained, the more biases a team brings to a design sprint, the less creative the team will be. That’s because biases make it more difficult for a team to think divergently or beyond one’s previous experience. Facilitators need to be aware of biases and use tactics to manage them. One tactic is to openly acknowledge that they exist and discuss what they are. Why? Because being aware of biases is the first part of dealing with them (similar to the noting technique in mindfulness meditation). Once you call out the bias, it’s easier to acknowledge it and help team members become aware to manage beyond them.
- Design sprints at scale can deliver bigger payback. The panel “Enterprise Sprints: Transforming Organizations @ Scale” focused on how organizations can use design sprints to effect major change including cultural transformation. Brooke Creef, user experience manager specializing in design sprints at Home Depot, discussed how Home Depot has used design sprints to improve products and experiences, services, organizational culture, and in-store experiences. Her multidisciplinary teams use the Spotify framework for organizing small, cross-functional, nimble teams. They pick a single area for improvement – say making HomeDepot.com better – run the design sprint, and share the results with leadership for buy-in. Doing so gains trust and support from upper management downward, which accelerates the cultural change that design sprints can drive.
- We need to continue the design sprint mastery conversation. The design sprint is an emerging field with no official accreditation program. It’s time for practitioners to rally around a common set of characteristics that master design sprinters share, and help the facilitator community understand how to mature one’s craft. During one breakout session, we all split into different groups (led by Daniel Stillman, Richard Kelly, Meeta Patel, and Jenny Gove) to identify what we believe to be the top three attributes of master design sprinters. The team I was part of identified being adaptable, empathetic, and well organized. Altogether the multiple teams came up with a list of about 20 important attributes. What all our teams had in common was a recognition that master designers possess a number of soft skills that underscore the essential humanity behind a design sprint.
Although design sprints are informed by human decisions, biases, and attributes such as empathy, design sprints are repeatable tools that lead to success regardless of the composition of your team. At Moonshot, we employ a methodology known as FUEL to ensure that teams follow an agreed upon process for ideating with design thinking (which includes the design sprint) and implementing at scale with lean innovation. For more information on how to apply FUEL to ensure successful application of design sprints repeatedly, contact Moonshot. We’d love to help you.