In this episode, C. Todd Lombardo shares his approach to Design Sprints, a one-week exercise to discover and test the right solution.

After listening to this episode, you'll understand:

  • How design sprints can help your team discover the right solution
  • The five parts of a design sprint
  • What makes these sprints so powerful
  • How to get started

Show Notes

A Design Sprint is a mixture of the design process, the scientific method, and agile philosophy.  It’s a process that walks you through problem solving using elements of these three approaches to gain clarity.

The design process involves being empathic and having a human centered focus to solve problems.  The scientific method is rigorous and experimental, allowing you to test a hypothesis.  When combined with agile philosophy and its fast feedback loops, you can test a solution and understand the results over the course of five days.


The Five Steps

Typically, a design sprint takes five days with one day allocated to each of five phases.

Day 1: Understand – Unpack and understand the problem, the context, and the user journey. By the end of this step, you will have a clear problem statement.

Day 2: Diverge – This is the ideation/brainstorming phase which allows you to identify options for solving the problem.  Go for quantity, not quality in this phase.

Day 3: Selection – During this phase, you will review the solution options from the Diverge phase to rank and decide on a solution to test.

Day 4: Prototype – During this phase, you will build out a solution in one day.  This is your minimum viable concept; something that can be tested and not necessarily something you would put into production. The prototype can be high or low fidelity.

Day 5: Test – During the Test phase, you get your prototype into the hands of people who would actually use a working solution to get their feedback.  Your goal is to develop a better understanding of your customers and possible solutions to the problem.

Note that you spend three days just focusing on the problem and potential solutions.  Identifying the right problem and solutions to test your hypothesis is critical.

When you build and test a solution, you might not get the answer you’re expecting.  Think of the Design Sprint as a way to test a hypothesis and learn something from your customers without creating a lot of waste.


When to use Design Sprints

You can use a Design Sprint when you need to gain clarity about something or when there’s ambiguity.  Design Sprints are great when there are questions that need answering.

It allows you to find out if you’re right or wrong before spending too much time on what could be the wrong solution.

So often, we’re handed a solution instead of a problem to solve.  The Understand phase allows you to make sure you’re identifying assumptions and solving the right problem for the right customer.


Listen to the full episode to find out how to use design sprints to discover the right solution.



Your Homework

Use assumption storming.  Write down all of the assumptions you’re making about a project.  Stepping back and looking at all of your assumptions may allow you to jump to a better solution.


Links mentioned in this episode:

C. Todd Lombrdo

C. Todd Lombrdo

Chief Design Strategist at Fresh Tilled Soil

C. Todd Lombardo is an author, designer, scientist, speaker, and a Design Strategist. He is a co-author of the book, Design Sprint.  C. Todd focuses on building and mentoring teams in areas of user experience design, data visualization, and product strategy. He also serves on the adjunct faculty at Madrid’s IE Business School where he teaches courses in design, innovation, and data visualization.

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