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The Product Design Sprint: A 5-phase step to kick off your next big project

Nov 11, 2013

Define the Value Proposition (why will people pay you?). Define context-specific terms (this will act as a dictionary). Discuss short term and long term business goals (What’s the driving vision?). Gather and analyze existing research. Fill out the Business Model Canvas (this should be continually revisited). Capture our analysis of competitive products. Gather inspirational and informative examples of other people/products solving similar or analogous problems. If there is an existing site/app, map out the screens. As they come up in discussion, capture assumptions and unknowns on a wall or board with sticky notes. Later we can revisit this wall, group related items together and make plans to eliminate risky unknowns and address risky assumptions. All of these definitions are expected to change as we move forward and learn more. Deliverables: Notes & documentation capturing the definitions and goals we discussed throughout the day. These notes should provide a solid reference and help with onboarding others later on. A plan for initiating the next phase of the sprint. Phase 2: Diverge Goal: Generate insights and potential solutions to our customers problems. Explore as many ways of solving the problems as possible, regardless of how realistic, feasible, or viable they may or may not be. Why: The opportunity this phase generates enables us to evaluate and rationally eliminate options and identify potentially viable solutions to move forward with. This phase is also crucial to innovation and marketplace differentiation. Activities: Constantly ask, “How might we…”. Generate, develop, and communicate new ideas. Quick and iterative individual sketching. Group sketching on whiteboards. Mind Mapping individually and as a group. Deliverables: Critical path diagram: highlights the story most critical to the challenge at hand. Where does your customer start, where should they end up and what needs to happen along the way? Prototype goals: What is it we want to learn more about? What assumptions do we need to address? Phase 3: Converge Goal: Take all of the possibilities exposed during phases 1 and 2, eliminate the wild and currently unfeasible ideas and hone in on the ideas we feel the best about. These ideas will guide the implementation of a prototype in phase 4 that will be tested with existing or potential customers. Why: Not every idea is actionable or feasible and only some will fit the situation and problem context. Exploring many alternative solutions helps provide confidence that we are heading in the right direction. Activities: Identify the ideas that aim to solve the same problem in different ways. Eliminate solutions that can’t be pursued currently. Vote for good ideas. Storyboard the core customer flow. This could be a work flow or the story (from the customers perspective) of how they engage with, learn about and become motivated to purchase or utilise a product or service. Deliverables: The Prototype Storyboard: a comic book-style story of your customer moving through the previously-defined critical path. The storyboard is the blueprint for the prototype that will be created in phase 4. Assumptions Table: A list of all assumptions inherent in our prototype, how we plan on testing them, and the expected outcomes which validate those assumptions. Phase 4: Prototype Goal: Build a prototype that can be tested with existing or potential customers. The prototype should be designed to learn about specific unknowns and assumptions. It’s medium should be determined by time constraints and learning goals. Paper, Keynote, and simple HTML/CSS are all good prototyping media. The prototype storyboard and the first three phases of the sprint should make prototype-building fairly straight forward. There shouldn’t be much uncertainty around what needs to be done. Why: A prototype is a very low cost way of gaining valuable insights about what the product needs to be. Once we know what works and what doesn’t we can confidently invest time and money on more permanent implementation. Activities: Deliverables: A testable prototype. A plan for testing. If we are testing workflows, we should also have a list of outcomes we can ask our testers to achieve with our prototype. Phase 5: Test & Learn Goal: Test the prototype with existing or potential customers. It is important to test with existing or potential customers because they are the ones you want your product to work and be valuable for. Their experiences with the problem and knowledge of the context have influence on their interaction with your product that non customers won’t have. Why: Your customers will show you the product they need. Testing our ideas helps us learn more about things we previously knew little about and gives us a much clearer understanding of which directions we should move next. It can also helps us course-correct and avoid building the wrong product. Activities: Observe and interview customers as they interact with your prototype. Observe and interview customers as they interact with competitive products. Deliverables: Summary/report of our learnings from testing the prototype. A plan for moving forward beyond the design sprint. Our Product Design Sprint process has been heavily informed by IDEO’s Human Centered Design Toolkit and a series of blog posts by Google Ventures and we are grateful for the information they have shared.

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