Design sprint for innovation success

Give innovations the voice of your customers on early stages

In our EARLY BRANDS insights interview, our colleague Elena, shows us how design sprints foster innovation success in our digital age. As innovation and technology consultant, she realizes innovative services and business models together with her colleagues and clients regularly using the innovation method of design sprints.

EARLY BRANDS Insights: Elena, what do you understand by design sprint?

Elena: From my point of view, it is a constructive way to create innovation solutions that fit with market and business needs. That includes new product or service development as well as the advancement of established solutions. It is all about co-creation: How can user experiences of tomorrow be created today? Thus, speed, creativity and agility are more important than a perfect product. Thereby, user feedback is the key: early and continuously.

EARLY BRANDS design sprints – develop innovations with speed and creativity and set focus on the voice of your users.

EARLY BRANDS Insights: Why do clients use design sprints for innovation development?

Elena: Design sprints are a fast and interactive way to develop and test innovations. Within 4-5 days, visual products or services can come to live. With a very creative and insight-orientated approach, we reach a 100% user-orientation. This is essential for innovation profitability – as innovations only reach realization stages when market relevance and economic benefits were ensured.

Moreover, design sprints foster trust and confidence for innovations. Client’s employees can proactively embed their ideas and experiences. Thus, innovation development embeds different perspectives and expertise e.g. from purchase and sales departments, IT up to executive boards.

EARLY BRANDS Insights: How do design sprints usually start and what are the main courses of action?

Elena: Starting point is the development of a common understanding for the problem to be solved – from a market as well as from a company point of view. Thus, we explore the scope of a problem and build concrete use cases which shall be solved by the innovation. We specifically consider products and services that offer solutions for similar problems – from competitor insights as well as from cross-industry example cases. In that way, we promote discussions with a very touchable character.

EARLY BRANDS Insights: How do you move on – how do you creatively work with your team and clients?

Elena: A very important step is the determination of a route. That means, we illustrate key steps and interactions a user runs through when using our product or service. For that, we use post it notes – agile and pragmatic. That helps us as innovation consulting within the dialogues with our clients and users. Quickly find solutions which satisfy user needs. Once objectives and thematic priorities are being routed, we quickly jump in the sketching of creative solutions. That means to conceive how the product or service can look like and be used. At this stage, we moderate the creative solution design by which the features of an innovation come to live.

Sketches only were used to commit ideas to paper for discussions with design sprint participants – never mind that they often simple and colorful.

Thereby, we build interdisciplinary teams with clients and users – ideally from five to seven participants. Sketches from design sprints were collectively discussed and sequenced in a user-relevant way.

EARLY BRANDS Insights: How become developed solutions experienceable – and innovations measurable?

Elena: A good example is a klick-dummy which only possesses simplest features and functions of a solution. In that way benefits and values of an innovation can be experienced and tested on very early stages.

Another core activity of our EARLY BRANDS design sprint is a contemporary involvement of user-feedback. That includes live tests of developed klick-dummies and prototypes. Very valuable for participating employees as well. By including feedbacks live e.g. by video, user insights and impressions can easily be included for further developments. Moreover, additional user-driven ideas can arise.

EARLY BRANDS Insights: For what types of innovation projects are design sprints useful?

Elena: Our experience: Every innovation category from innovative services, new business models to product and process innovations can creatively be developed by design sprints. The main idea is to quickly and creatively develop market relevant innovations. Test, evaluate and optimize innovation sketches live with real users. That is why design sprints support business success.

EARLY BRANDS Insights: Where do you realize design sprints – what kind of atmosphere supports success?

Elena: We create an open, creative atmosphere. We can realize design sprints on every location of the world. In our innovation consulting headquarter in Bremen, we have corresponding rooms in which were used for creative design sprints on a regular base. Moreover, we have good experiences to work on locations close to our client’s markets and their users. Like a creative popup, locations can be build up everywhere.

A location with room for creativity and a calm and open atmosphere are very valuable for successful design sprints. 

EARLY BRANDS Insights: How do you customize design sprints to specific innovation issues of your clients?

Elena: We create and realize specific design sprints based on the innovation issues and topic priorities of our clients. Once we started using design sprints, Google Ventures was a good Best Practice for us. I can recommend the book “The Sprint Book – Solve big problems and test new ideas in just five days” from KNAPP, ZERATSKY, KOWITZ. It offers a very good overview of different methods a design sprint combines and provides a lot of useful tips for moderation and implementation. After a short space of time, we learned that a client-specific design sprint setup with selected innovation and creative methods as well as individual best practices is most productive and valuable. As moderator, we from EARLY BRANDS are well prepared for all the different routes a design sprint can take. We permanently keep one eye on your objectives – but simultaneously leave enough room for creative discussions.

Last but not least a first-hand recommendation: Be passionate and creative rather than perfect!


Catch the Future …!