Day 1 (Understand) of the design sprint is over. It’s time to let the magic begin. Really, the magic has already begun, but you just don’t know it yet. It’s time to dive into Day 2, Ideate.
Disclosure: As mentioned in previous posts, the design sprint process varies based on the specifics of the actual challenge. For this reason, we will be covering a number of best practices that are used on Day 2 to better understand the challenge at hand, not the one and only way to execute Day 2.
This may be surprising, but the first step in the ideation phase of the design sprint commonly begins with searching for existing solutions. You may ask, “I’m trying to innovate, and you want me to think about existing solutions?”
The short answer is yes. However, the team is searching for products, designs, or anything else that effectively solved problems in industries outside of its company’s. The design sprint team will turn to these solutions for inspiration, not to copycat.
According to Jake Knapp—one of the forefathers of the design sprint—this activity is called “Lightning Demos”. Individually, each team member creates a list of products from other industries that he or she believes are applicable to the challenge at hand.
Phones and laptops are free to come out for this two-hour period to help search for present solutions. Each person should shoot for a few handfuls of existing products, then present one or two of them to the rest of the team.
More Sticky Notes
As you can guess after Day 1, whenever a team member is presenting something, the audience should be writing important thoughts on sticky notes. It is often best to translate these thoughts into simple sketches. Whatever is written on the notes should capture elements of the products presented that are thought to be conducive to the development of the team’s solution to the challenge at hand.
Sticky notes are put side-by-side on the wall for all to view. It’s almost time for the real ideation process to take off. It’s time to sketch.
A Note on Independence: For the rest of the day, the team remains independent. Even though it has become popularized, there are many issues with group brainstorming; these include but are not limited to groupthink tendencies, different forms of biases, and the usual politics you expect from a “team” of professionals.
The room should have plenty of sticky notes on the walls and lots of writing on the whiteboards. Before brainstorming begins, the team members should silently walk throughout the room for thirty or so minutes to review all of the written intelligence on sticky notes and whiteboards, writing key insights in their notebooks.
Using the notes that were gathered from around the room, it is now time for each team member to sketch out some solutions to the problem being explored. Whatever comes to mind can be written down in words or drawn out. Generally, the more ideas the better. It is reassuring to most that these notes will not be seen by the rest of the team.
After about twenty minutes of idea generation, team members should individually go through some form of rapid variation. This means coming up with a number of adaptations of each idea under a time constraint. The requirement of variation in accordance with the time constraint forces individuals to stretch their creativeness and imaginations in search of a slightly revised idea.
Crazy Eights: Different challenges require different forms of rapid variation. Nevertheless, a common approach is using a technique called Crazy Eights. Each member has eight minutes to come up with eight variations of one of his or her ideas. This activity can be repeated until the team (or Facilitator) deems it unnecessary; it can be completed for each idea and/or for each idea variation from prior Crazy Eights exercises.
A Bad Picasso
Now it’s time to get a little more serious about drawing. Each individual will sketch out his or her top idea on a piece of paper. There should be around thirty minutes devoted to this final sketch. A mix of illustrations, words, and arrows displaying flows are recommended. Always remember that the quality of the drawing is meaningless. It’s the ability to convey the fundamental effectiveness of the solution that is invaluable.
A common practice: The three panel storyboard. Team members should split up the final idea sketches in three blocks representing stages of the proposed solution. An easy way to do this is to take a piece of paper and draw two vertical or horizontal dividers on it with a marker and then sketch out the stages of the idea in chronological order from left to right.
Sure, everyone is excited about their sketches once the predetermined time is up. However, it is extremely important that all final sketches remain unseen by other team members until the beginning of Day 3. Furthermore, all sketches must be created anonymously so that biases are minimized when ideas are revealed to the entire team the following morning.
Brainstorming can be done in a number of ways. Idea generation (ideation) is fun, yet frustrating at times. In the future, we will be sharing a number of posts on our blog sharing additional ideation tricks to maximize idea creativity.
But until then, be aware of something called “blocking”. A negative subconscious (or conscious) reaction to the ideas that flow into your mind. Many times, your mind will push away creative ideas while holding onto a status quo line of thinking in order to avoid the possibility of being embarrassed for conceiving such ideas. This is blocking. Ultimately, blocking means you will take fewer risks in your ideation and prevents you from writing down a unique idea that you would’ve otherwise written down.
One way to deal with blocking is to start the brainstorming process with an activity called Million-Dollar Ideas. This is where the team gets a certain amount of time (usually five minutes) to generate as many “million-dollar ideas” as possible to solve the company’s problem. A million-dollar idea is any seemingly unrealistic and unfeasible idea that would solve the sprint challenge. This practice does a great job of fending off blocking habits as it allows individuals to become comfortable with wild, sometimes foolish ideas.
Day 2, Ideate has concluded. Make sure the Facilitator gathers and keeps safe the final idea sketches without viewing them until the following morning. On Day 3, many ideas will become one. Look forward to tough decisions and lots of collaboration tomorrow!
As always, if you’d like to know more about design sprints, we recommend you checkout Jake Knapp’s book, Sprint. Another useful source is Google Ventures’ page with articles on the process: http://www.gv.com/sprint/. Also, check in with us as we continue to add posts on the design sprint process.