Using design sprints to drive product innovation

Companies all over the world are constantly searching for new ideas – but that’s really just the easy bit. The real challenge is delivery.

Tom Bradley, Design Director at Code Computerlove, recently spoke at Mobile Marketing's Brand Summit about how design sprints can be used to drive product innovation.

Here is a summary of his talk along with the slides.

We’ve found that the old ways of working lack the necessary collaboration. People create lists of requirements, wireframe specifications covering every detail and static pictures of how the final product should work. This leads to misunderstandings and endless unproductive and frustrating conversations, which in turn means that assumptions about what audiences really need are taken into production. You don’t find out until it’s too late.

Prototyping can help, but even then long cycle times between making something and testing means things can change faster than you can learn.

Design is a verb
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Design sprints provide a robust, user centred method that is highly collaborative and accessible to all roles in a business – and allow you to test your ideas quickly.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, they are good, fast and cheap.

Also, they fit well with modern engineering practices, where the emphasis is on the continuous delivery of digital products through a series of short iterations.

At Code, our philosophy is ‘brilliant never stops’, so design sprints are an example of how we working with this mindset with clients from a range of sectors, including Hillarys Blinds, the BBC, the MS Society, Center Parcs and others.

Each design sprint follows a five-stage process, usually over five days…

  • Day one: understand the problem
  • Day two: diverge to come up with lots of ideas
  • Day three: converge on the best ideas
  • Day four: make a prototype to bring the idea to life
  • Day five: test with a 6-8 users

Despite consistent success, it can still be a challenge for clients. They tend to think of design as a noun, with a specific outcome in mind, whereas we tend to think of it more as a verb. We also ask clients to question their assumptions and they have to invest their own time into the process, which means that they can lack the traditional business theatre of an client/supplier relationship.

If you are genuinely looking for new ideas that have value (either via revolutionary or evolutionary innovation) you have to be really clear about the problem you are trying to solve – and the expected outcome – so that you can effectively work together.

Design sprints are now increasingly being used in the development of new customer experiences – across a range of sectors – so if you’re not working with this type of method there is an increasing chance that you competitors will be.

If you want to be more collaborative, more innovative and reduce the risk of making something that nobody wants, ask yourself ‘What’s stopping us from working in this way?’

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