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How to Involve the Whole Company in Creating Ideas for Solutions

Scrum and other agile methods of managing teams and products are very popular at the moment. And that’s very good! Agile makes your work faster, more organized, and the communication within a team is clear and transparent.

So, if we want to follow this trail — everyone knows that moment when we realize our users have some problem in an application but we have no idea how to fix it. We did everything in our power to provide the best possible solution, we responded to the users’ needs, but they still don’t know how to use the functionality. So, what to do? Despair that we’ve wasted a few sprints? Of course not — the answer is… Design Sprint!

According to Wikipedia:

A Design sprint is a time-constrained, five-phase process that uses design thinking to reduce the risk when bringing a new product, service or a feature to the market. It has been developed and popularised by Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky and Braden Kowitz and is being used in almost all industries.
This process helps the team in clearly defining goals, validating assumptions and deciding on a product roadmap before one line of code is written. (…)
This design process is similar to Sprints in an agile development cycle that incorporates the same principles of learning early. Design sprints typically last one week.

So, actually a Design Sprint can be a great solution in that kind of situation.

What you’ll need to carry out such an event

  • 5 days — yes, really 5 days are enough. During that time, you will be able to examine and understand the problem, invent and select the best solution, create a prototype and show it to the users — because the users give you the final green light to send the idea to development;
  • a few people from different sides of business like testers, marketers, programmers, POs etc. — believe me, varied opinions are great in this case. Each person is a representative of a different type of thinking and perceives the problem in their own way;
  • one person who can be the Decider — that’s what we call the person who has the “final say”. There are situations or ideas — even the most brilliant ones — which, because of some reasons are impossible to implement at the moment. It’s rare for someone to stand up and say “let’s wipe out the whole codebase and start from scratch” but still, just in case, there has to be somebody who will be able to stop it;
  • room with a table, some paper and pens :) — why the analog way? Because the entry threshold for every person in Design sprint will be exactly the same. From the beginning, it’s very important that everybody can generate the ideas, without having to think about tools and difficulties of using any kind of software. A pen and paper are universal.

You and your team have to focus only on that event — no one should think about other stuff and send even only one quick email — difficult, isn’t it?

I really understand that everybody has duties and responsibilities, but when using this method everyone has to focus on the problem that needs to be solved. Only that way you can fully concentrate and really understand it, try to think as your user and be a useful part of the team.

That kind of behavior is a bit connected to going out of your role and comfort zone (another very popular word). And as we all know, it’s always good to look at things with a clear mind. 🙂

5-Day Plan for your Design Sprint

1 Understand the problem (brainstorm) — think about who your user is. Maybe the problem does not affect all the users of your product, but only one specific group?

Start at the end — specify your ideal solution / ideal product. Then write down all the obstacles that can come up and spoil your solution. This is the first moment when you realize that people from different teams with various knowledge and experience are so precious. It’s surprising how many things we don’t consider or think about.

At this stage, remember to focus on analysis, not solutions.

2 Diverge — now you can start talking in a language of solutions. Get knowledge from any source you want. Analyze your product or system, investigate competitive companies and their solutions. Look for the answers in articles and Facebook groups. After thinking about the solution, start sketching and taking notes — the idea is to present the concept of your solution to the whole team the next day.

This is the point where you can meet with the resistance from someone in your team — especially that person who usually works with tables and numbers (or code :p). Everyone should be able to do some notes and show a concept of their own work using simple geometric figures. Try to create the kind of atmosphere where everyone will feel confident and encourage people to think outside the box. Every idea is priceless — seriously!

For relaxation and a better understanding of what is going on, you can do an exercise — each person draws 10 circles and then fills them with whatever they want. You will be surprised by how many people will have 10 different balls 🙂 Whether it’s a sun or an elephant’s head, it’s important not to reject any idea!

3 Decide — now you have to evaluate ideas and choose the best one. Get acquainted with every proposition. Ask “what the author had in mind”, discuss it. Pick one solution or create a new one combining parts of different concepts. In case there’s no unanimity, the decision belongs to the Decider — this is his role 🙂

On this day, after choosing a solution, create scenarios or stories that will be your base for a prototype you will create the next day.

4 Prototype — you have to create a prototype for your solutions (basing on the scenarios created the previous day) to verify them with users. This day requires good organization and a high speed of work. You can use any tools you want — the most important thing is that users should be able to give you a good constructive feedback. You don’t want to explain to them: “Oh, yes, yes, that button will be here…” or “Yup, we will write that here…”

5 Validate — the judgment day. It’s great if you’ve already recruited people who can test your solutions. Do some interviews, observe their reactions, take notes. After that, sum up all the information you gained. Analyze it and draw conclusions.

Did you solve the users’ problems? If yes — then great!

If not (which is still very good -–you saved yourself so much time before developing a bad solution!), think where the mistake is. What can you improve? Maybe it’s worth to test another solution?

Thanks to a Design sprint, you can resolve users’ problems and reach your organization’s KPIs easier. It helps you to find meaning in seeking and designing new solutions. A Design sprint also makes you understand that your user is a real person, whose life can be improved or made easier thanks to your actions.

A Design sprint can also facilitate the process of building new products from scratch. Creating a prototype — the basis for the management to make a decision to do MVP — and validating the idea with a bigger audience in only 5 days sounds tempting (in my opinion) for every side.

So what do you think of that?