Benjamin Franklinstraat 513
3029 AC Rotterdam

Year of the design sprint

October 18th, 2016

2016. Year of the 🐵, Brangelina’s divorce, the weirdest political campaigns and more celebrity deaths than we can count. It’s also the year Awkward started hosting design sprints. Yes, design sprints are fast, reliable and useful for answering a lot of important questions, but there’s one more reason we implemented the design sprint in our work method. We get to know our clients (and potential partners) beforehand.

For those who aren’t familiar with design sprints, Google Ventures says the following:

“The sprint is a five-day process for answering critical business questions through design, prototyping, and testing ideas with customers. Developed at GV, it’s a “greatest hits” of business strategy, innovation, behavior science, design thinking, and more, packaged into a battle-tested process that any team can use.”

But as I mentioned before, that’s just part of the reason why we love hosting sprints. Let’s back up for a second.

Some time ago, we got a request from a company that could use our expertise. They were interested in building a product together and needed a prototype to validate their ideas, but unfortunately with a very tight deadline. We accepted - very excitedly - and invited a small team to our office for clear conversations and quick feedback. After 3 very tiresome days, we had a working prototype. We pulled it off although covered in blood, sweat and tears, but we learned one thing: this was awesome.

Over the weekend, we realized we managed to host a design sprint. It was an ugly beast, made up from bits and pieces, but a design sprint nonetheless. We learned a lot, especially about personal relationships being formed in such a small timespan. At the end of the sprint, Awkward didn’t exist and neither did our client. There was a team and a prototype. It just clicked. We decided then and there that the design sprint should be part of our work method.

We’ve managed to host 6 sprints in 10 months, learning as we go. We’ve tried to perfectionate the process, but quickly realized it’s a different one every single time. There’s a human aspect that has to be taken into account, which helped us adjust sprints to the wants and needs of our clients and partners.

In our first couple of sprints, we focused mainly on the end result. Did the prototype validate our expectations? But months later, we learned we’re better off focusing on the team. Design sprints didn’t necessarily help us build better products, but they did help us form better partnerships.

If you’re interested in learning more about design sprints, see the Design Sprint page by Google Ventures.