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Why We Begin Projects With Design Sprints

Bobby Gill | September 11, 2019

There are several processes that work (to varying degrees) for building an app. There have been outlier instances of a one-man virtuoso making bank off apps. Some have probably emulated Siddhartha Gautama, better known as Buddha, and meditated until the perfect plan arrived in a vision. While nonconventional methods have worked for some, they’re not practical.

The reason the Design Sprint is so effective is by virtue of the highly-focused nature of this method that addresses the foundation of what’s needed to make an idea come to life, make decisions and build a prototype. We use this process at Blue Label Labs as it’s proven effective to rapidly turn a notion into a viable product. We’ll briefly discuss what the Design Sprint is, what we’ve learned doesn’t work and discuss why this process leads to success.

What is a Design Sprint why does it work?

You don’t have to look hard or far to see the blueprints for a Design Sprint (or just follow the previous link to our page) to get a grasp on the formula. It’s a structured, 5-day process that starts with solidifying the goals and sound boarding ideas during the first couple of days. Over the next two days, you’ll create a storyboard based on heatmap voting then build a prototype. The final day involves testing with a small group of users who provide feedback.

A man named Jason Knapp developed the process in 2010 while working with Google. Later, the Google Ventures Design Sprint proved to be an effective system for reducing risk as well as allowing a company (or entrepreneur) to quickly showcase a new product, feature or service with high ROI.

The inherent brevity of the Design Sprint is a big part of what allows it to be successful. I’ve heard it likened to modern dating – you could spend weeks exchanging texts or Tinder messages where this prolonged digital communication creates certain expectations, for better or worse. Instead, many find that meeting over cocktails or coffee provides a better feel for the dynamics in a shorter time. In this sense, it also parallels the value in-person meetings bring to remote staff.

What doesn’t work in app development

In the past, we would stretch out these brainstorming sessions over a period of six to eight weeks. While we’re inclined to think “haste makes waste” this ends up being a non sequitur when it comes to software development.

You’ll end up overthinking outcomes that you don’t have the data to actually test. It parallels the component of GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) where those with the condition dwell on future outcomes they can’t control and have yet to experience.

You’ve likely heard the phrase “go with your first instinct” at some point during your education or career, usually in relation to multiple-choice test-taking strategies. Though there is some refuting evidence, such studies are based on the outcome of a standardized test and not a dynamic business application. While your gut might be wrong, a Design Sprint can show you why you’re wrong as well as quickly reveal the right (or a better) solution to the problem you’ve identified.

A good analogy can be likened to mainstream music. The band TOOL just released their album Fear Inoculum after a 13-year hiatus from their last release in 2006. Fortunately for them, the album is smoking the charts. But if you take a look at Guns ‘N Roses, where Axl Rose took 14 years to tweak Chinese Democracy, it basically disappointed everyone as it seems “overthought” and lacking the “rawness” which led them to rock-and-roll stardom in the mid-late 80s.

The top 3 reasons Blue Label Labs uses Design Sprints

Those who use Design Sprints often say the process simply “works” for just about any development endeavor. These are the main three reasons we use them here are as follows.

Entrepreneurs can see their idea in action. If you’re an entrepreneur seeking investment for your great idea, it’s unlikely to resonate with potential financial supporters, no matter how well you gesticulate during your pitch or how good your napkin doodles might be. Getting a good proof of concept parallels the trope “it requires a village” as other eyes on the situation are extremely valuable. A small team of knowledgeable people works through this transparent process in a structured, proven manner to develop a prototype and gain invaluable user feedback. Whether you’re a startup or enterprise, seeing an idea in action allows you to refine your own notions rather than remain subject to your own biases.

Design sprints work for everyone, not just startups. For both brand-new business ventures and bigger organizational visions, there’s a common problem that plagues the idea process. Too often, there’s a notion that every idea and projected capability needs to be included at launch. This creates problems for entrepreneurs by substantially increasing development costs. In established environments, this can turn into a tug-of-war game that ends up being more like untangling a large knot. 

Before you get to point ‘D’ you need to start at point ‘A’ and work through development in a structured manner. By jumping the gun, there is usually an innate failure in considering the target audience. Hence, it’s best to start with solving the initial problem or problems then build around feedback from a test group before moving forward. It’s like planning a hiking trip with a friend, buying a ton of cool gear, then realizing it’s just a walk through some woodsy trails. You don’t want to buy-out the sporting good store when you really just need some good shoes and mosquito repellent.

The Design Sprint builds stakeholder and investor confidence. When a new idea is presented at an established business, decision-makers will want to see projections and a tangible example for what you’re pitching. The same goes for investors in startup scenarios (which is an even harder sell!) Getting the loot to finance the project, or the green flag from the powers that be, to move forward requires a preliminary marketing initiative, unlike the one you’ve likely conjured for your intended users. These folks don’t want to hear, “Yeah, it’ll do all these things and be super dope.” The Design Sprint launches you past the point of being an “idea person” by showcasing your ability to execute with a working prototype and feedback from real-life humans!

Come Sprint with Blue Label Designs

The Design Thinking formula has proved to be a solid mechanism for creating great digital products. By conducting a Design Sprint, you’ll gain invaluable insight into your ideas, whether it’s opportunities you missed or solid reasons to pump the brakes on features best saved for a future iteration. This process has enabled many successful ideas to translate into viable, digital products.

At Blue Label Labs, we form a team of the best talent to work you through a Design Sprint to make your concept into a reality. Get in touch with us to learn more!

Bobby Gill
Co-Founder & Chief Architect at BlueLabel | + posts

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