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What's faster than a Design Sprint?

Updated: Oct 23, 2018

Design Sprints are the creation of Jake Knapp and his co-authors John Zeratsky and Braden Kowitz of Google Ventures (GV). A technique that, as per the title of the book, shows 'how to solve big problems and test new ideas in just five days'. But is that fast and agile enough?

Key stakeholders and subject matter experts in a workshop.
What's faster and more agile than a Design Sprint?

Thank you for reading our post about Agile, Design Thinking, Design Sprints and Lightning Sprints. Here you will quickly learn what each of these mean to you as a product manager or business owner. Despite their similarities you'll soon see why each are so valuable in their own unique ways.

“Stop procrastinating and design something”

As it is said, it takes one to know one. Uservox founder Matt Jones admits to being adapt at procrastination, and confirms his deployment of a number of its tricks in pursuit of staving off something needing to be done - at least until the very last possible minute. It's this experience that has pushed him into finding solutions to act fast and overcome inertia and complacency. After all, clients do not buy support for sitting idle. Clients buy support for getting 'stuff' done!

In this arsenal of procrastination-busting techniques, none better can be found that delivers as fast as Lightning Sprints - A workshop that can be completed in under 2 hours - delivering a crude prototype that can be instantly shared to gather feedback. But what is a 'Lightning Sprint'? What is it based upon? To answer that, we need to take a look at the project management practice of 'Agile', the creative process of 'Design Thinking', and the recent innovation gold standard, from the Google Ventures stable, known as 'Design Sprints'. Three strong pedigrees, each with their strengths, and weaknesses.


Agile is great - once you have enough of the problem identified. This is the process of bringing empowered individuals together, each with a different skill-set, in order to rapidly deliver working solutions. Great, once you've got the budget approved; And that's if you know the broad strokes of the problem and potential solution. Not great if all you have is a blank piece of paper.

Agile works for small teams with a clearly defined problem, a solution in mind and budget.

Design Thinking

Design Thinking is powerful stuff when you have time. The double-diamond process alots time for research - insights into the the problem; definition - focusing on an area; developing potential solutions before delivering the ones with most promise. The process is absolutely foolproof and when applied correctly can deliver incredible results. If mismanaged, it can become a pursuit in mental gratification. All theory. No concrete result.

Design Thinking provides the right theory to identify and solve problems when applied correctly.

Design Sprints

Design Sprints provide the perfect management framework for innovation teams. It is the gold standard for a company that can afford to bring together, across a period of a week, all the right people: facilitators, stakeholders, subject matter experts, designers, prototypers, researchers and test participants.

Design sprints break up the Design Thinking process and applies creative workshop facilitation techniques, going from a challenge on Monday to a tested solution on Friday. AJ+Smart have been working with Jake Knapp (creator of the Design Sprint) over the past couple of years and condensed the process down from five days to just four - titled 'Design Sprint 2.0'

Here's a typical schedule:

  • MON Make a map and choose a target

  • TUE Sketch competing solutions

  • WED Decide on the best solution

  • THU Build a prototype

  • FRI Test with target users

In Design Sprint 2.0 Monday and Tuesday are combined, reducing the overhead by one day.

The challenge remains getting all those key people in a room over a period of a week. When you can, it is exactly the right thing to do. When you can't...?

Design Sprints provide a quick and engaging way to identify and solve a problem, working with many people during a single week.

Lightning Sprints

Lightning Sprints takes the exact same principles of Design Sprints (the original and 2.0) and delivers them in a timeframe that works around the schedule of the stakeholders, subject matter experts and test participants. When you can bring many people together, run a half-day workshop. When you can only meet with one or two people at a time, then book a 2-hour slot with them. It's even possible to get it down to an hour - and over lunch.

Gathering people together, asking them to commit to a time that works for everyone, let alone according to a well timed schedule like that of Design Sprints, is hard. Some will agree to being nearly impossible. Some people simply don't have the time, or can't be let go from one project to work on yours. People may work in multiple locations and unable to travel. Remote works... when you have already built a rapport with your workshop participants.

Lightning Sprints takes the key steps of the Design Sprint practice and applies them in short bursts of high activity. Whether 1:1 or with a group. At a time that suits the participant. At the end of each session you have the problem or opportunity identified and an example on which you can share and gain feedback. Pooling these great insights together provides the product manager or business owner with clarity on what is important to the people that matter most. Everyone feels like they contributed; gave value; and are excited about the next steps. All without co-location and co-ordinated calendars - the central requirements of Agile and Design Sprints.

Lightning Sprints are the quickest, most cost-effective way to get from a blank sheet of paper to a fully tested prototype. Run as many Lightning Sprints as you feel the problem or opportunity warrants. Learn fast. Deliver fast. There's no time for procrastination when you are working in Lightning Sprints.

Lightning Sprints provide a scalable workshop method to quickly identify and solve a problem, with the right people, at the time that suits them best.

If you would like to learn more about Design Thinking, Design Sprints and Lightning Sprints, please do get in contact.

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