Experimenting with 5-day sprints

Written by
Poke Studio

Last week the Poke team went down to Second Home London see the Google Ventures (GV) design team (Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky) do a talk about their latest book called Sprint: How to solve big problems and test new ideas in just five days.

With some big, super secret projects underway in the Poke offices Sprint was really up our street. We like experimenting with new ways of working, even more so if they can help us reduce the risk on big pieces of work. And what better way to hear about it if not straight from the source?  We wrote down a few thoughts and things that we liked or learned from the people who went to the talk. However, we won’t be spoiling the book or the method in this but you can read plenty about it on their website or buy a copy.

Before we begin, let’s get something out of the way: you’ve heard about two week sprints as an agile methodology, right? Well, this is most definitely not about compressing that time into just five days. It’s a totally different way of approaching and testing new ideas in order to see if they work in real life. You don’t have to be a startup or a particular type of business to try this method: the design sprint works for marketing ideas as well as it can work for robot prototypes. 

That’s the first thing we like about the 5-day sprint technique. We like bravely experimenting with new ideas, testing them with ‘real people' and failing early before we invest too much time polishing up an idea and presenting it to the client. We have taken steps to create our own usability lab in-house, and we’ve also been known to sneakily look for the right people to test ideas on in the street or gym. Formalising this gets a big thumbs up from us.

The second thing we like is that the methodology allows you to invite the client to be part of the team. This doesn’t mean just seeing the testing done live (though it can do), it means actually having them brainstorm with you. Having tried this before, we’ve seen great enthusiasm from clients who are happy to own an idea with us and also enjoy getting out of the office to see their customers and users in real life and report back to HQ.

Lastly, another great aspect of the 5-day sprint method is the ‘quiet sketching’ that needs to be done by everyone before an idea gets tested in the real world. It purposely goes against the notion of a loud group brainstorm that turns people off at the thought of it or makes people reticent to share potentially great thoughts for fear of the group dynamics. We’ve all been in workshops where we wanted clients to draw or get up and stick post-its on the wall and that just never happened. With the 5-day sprint method this becomes less of an issue.

At its core, the design sprint approach is simply solidifying what the UX community as a whole has been pushing for and advocating for years (with various degrees of resistance ). UX people are usually the ones guerrilla testing ideas by mocking them up and getting users or anyone willing to input interact with it to see how they behave and think about the product or service in a new way. It’s nice to see it embraced by more mixed design teams with members representing all kinds of disciplines – not just the traditional ‘designer’ disciplines.

We hope this marks the beginning of a time when this thinking turns into a team-wide approach, not just a UX thing – and importantly, gets the client to become an advocate by having him or her involved as a team member. 

In summary, be humble and brave; don’t be too precious about your idea but put it in front of people outside the project team as soon as you can. Fail early and often!