Development2021.06.09 3 min. read

Design Sprint, how to create a prototype in 4 days

Andrzej Patyra Head of Innovation at Digital Transformation Department

Design Sprint is a simple and extremely effective method of working on a new project, product or improvement of an existing functionality. In Billennium it is a 4-day process during which our IT specialists provide step-by-step support in developing better solutions.

This method compresses potential months of work devoted to product development into a few days. Together with the client, we build a prototype that will answer the most important questions and enable decision making regarding the profitability of the project.  

Starting off 

When working on developing a new product or service, our goal is naturally to succeed, and this success is defined by our users. If the effect of our actions will not be useful and attractive to the recipient, it will most likely end up in a drawer, and the only user will be its originator. 

The problem is that if we ask potential recipients what they need, we will usually be left with a copy of the solutions they know. This is well reflected in the words attributed to Henry Ford: 

If, early in my career as an entrepreneur, I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have all agreed: we wanted swifter horses, so I didn’t ask them.

This perfectly demonstrates that people choose solutions that they are familiar with and believe will perform a particular task best. Customers “hire” products or services to perform a specific form of work (“Jobs to be done”), so is there room for innovation here? The Ford-T car transformed automobiles across the land, it was a breakthrough success – or, as it is now called, a disruptive innovation.  

The path to success begins with observing how the user uses the solution and whether their real needs are met. This is the beginning of the feedback loop that tips the balance toward value. The job of anyone building or developing a product is to validate business assumptions as quickly as possible by testing them on users. This is consistent with every model of modern product or service development: Lean Start-up, Agile, Scrum, Service Design, as well as Design Thinking. 

So what is a Design Sprint? 

Design Sprint is the essence of these methods packed into a 4-5 day process, at the end of which a prototype is created and tested on users. This differentiates Design Sprint from standard application building, where you have to wait months, sometimes even years, for the first concrete data. Design Sprint, like any good scientific method, is designed to test the research hypothesis as quickly as possible to make sure that the direction taken is correct. Sprint is responsible for the success of many of the services and products that surround us: Uber, Lime, Slack, or the new Lego products. 

The History of Design Sprint 

The lead developer of the Design Sprint, Jake Knapp, was a Google employee. He only had a week to work with his team in Europe. Time was very limited, thus everyone worked in full concentration. In one week, they created a primitive video conferencing software that quickly began to spread throughout the organization. That’s how the Google Hangouts application came to be.  

Following this experience, Google began to develop the idea into weekly iterations. The Design Sprint quickly became a process for building innovation at Google and a vehicle for Google Venture to work with start-ups. In 2016, Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky, and Braden Kowitz published the book “The Five-Day Sprint. Solving Difficult Problems and Testing”, within which they described how they take a step-by-step approach to new ideas and their validation – this is the Design Sprint.

The method was very quickly adopted by other organizations. It is the only one that offers a ready recipe for delivering valuable products to the market in such a short time. It cuts out the classic conversation between business and consultants, which often includes the statement “It depends” on “How do we build innovations or products that customers will love? How to be agile about it? What’s more, a Design Sprint can be implemented in any organization, and the process does not require months of preparation.  

A Design Sprint is the embodiment of agility, where a team focuses on a chosen problem in a short iteration and where the time for activities is clearly defined. It is the process that manages the people – the discussion, the power of opinions, new ideas, emotions, as well as individual ambitions that are always underneath.  Design Sprint takes the best of Scrum, Design Thinking, Lean Start-up, where at the end we get hard data, not guesses. As I conclude my introduction to Design Sprint, I would like to take the chance to invite you to read the next part of the article, in which I describe in detail how the process looks like in practice and what tasks are planned for the next days of the Design Sprint > “How does a Design Sprint look like.”

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Andrzej Patyra

Head of Innovation at Digital Transformation Department

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