“Nobody can be anybody without somebody being around.”
John Wheeler

The Element

What design sprints are good for


Though I have never participated in a week-long design spring I resonate with the ideas of this post.

“Design sprints offer an apparently straightforward value proposition: get from idea to insight while skipping build and launch. High impact, risk reduction, and learning at minimal cost — all perfectly aligned with current trends …

Particularly for stakeholders who see design as all downstream aesthetics, a sprint demonstrates that design decisions run all the way through a product, like mould in a good cheese … If your sprint goes really well, your client will spiral into existential crisis about the difference between design and product management …

By the end of the week, you may all be convinced the project doesn’t have legs. Usually no one will say so on the spot, so as not to repudiate a tough week, but if the week’s primary outcome is to shitcan the project, that’s great …

Sorry. Even though you have to select tight boundaries for your prototype, you’re still going way too fast for considered design … A sprint is the opening gambit of a long, complex game — a tool of provocation, not delivery.

… The design sprint doesn’t really shine a light on more sophisticated research methods, and nor is it meant to.

… Don’t expect to learn much about market sizing or segmentation, customers’ propensity to pay, business model viability, or your propositional appeal against competitors … Proper market research this is not.

… The only acceptable approval decision after a design sprint alone is “Let’s not do this project”.”

I believe the broade subject hinted at in this post is how does a design-spring serve a wider product-making process. When such processes have holes and unmet expectations in them, stakeholders can pile-up incorrect expectations on processes/people/tools.

These days I am more interested in the activist/civic space and less in the corporate space. A popular pattern in this space seems to be the hackathon – a sprint of code writing. I am amazed that anyone believes that something substantial can be built in this way.

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