June 27, 2018

Is your organisation missing out by not using design sprints?

Design Sprint Academy

Image Source: Design Sprints – A Tool for Transformation Panel, Google, 12 April 2019

The need for organisations to become agile is not over-exaggerated. The driver is digital technology. Since the inception of the Internet in the 1980’s, it is developing rapidly, bringing with it profound change and disruption. At a minimum, you need to keep up with it and how it is being applied in your sector. Ideally, you should be setting the pace.

If not, your organisation may lose market share to a more adaptive competitor or you may even be displaced. To thrive in this era, mindsets and cultures need to take big leaps. The reward? The timely launch of products and services people will love. Design sprints are a great way to help create them whilst helping your business become more agile.

This subject was the focus of Design Sprints for Change hosted by Google in London on 12 April 2019.  The well attended event curated by the Design Sprint Academy featured speakers from diverse organisations including including Barclays, RGAx, Idean and the Design Thinkers Academy all champions of the approach.

For those who may not be familiar with it, some useful resources are signposted here, as well as the business case underpinning the need for legacy organisational cultures to change and how design sprints can help.


Digital technology is driving massive societal change

Well-designed useful technology like the iPhone is driving uptake at an unprecedented scale. The compulsive nature of social media, which enriches our natural ability to connect with others, has enabled it to spread quickly worldwide. These inventions are influencing everyone’s behaviours and expectations creating new threats and opportunities for business.

If you have any doubt about the speed of technological change we are experiencing today, check out the tech adoption chart below:

Adoption of Technology in the US (1900 to the Present)

Adoption of Technology in the US (1900 to the Present)

Image source

It shows the time it has taken for inventions from the telephone to the Internet to reach a critical mass. Note how, with new inventions including the smartphone and social media, the curve is becoming less of a curve and more of a vertical line.

In our instant globalised world, we truly follow the herd.


What does the new tech adoption rate mean for your organisation?

With such rapid uptake comes pressure to move quickly. Quite simply, if you don’t keep up with customer expectations for seamless digital services, you will lose them. You also need to know how technology is impacting  business and operating models in your category. To avoid displacement, you need to stay ahead of such developments.

Whole sectors and traditional supply chains are being disrupted by technology like block chain, whilst AI and the data revolution promises to augment business intelligence capabilities exponentially within decades. Those who miss out on deploying these new tools, will not be able to compete.

To surive means transforming your approach, not only to how you engage and serve your customers, but crucially how you manage the process internally as well. You won’t be able to truly respond to digital opportunities and threats until you become more nimble and customer focused inside.

For legacy businesses, this transformation into an agile enterprise is compulsory. It entails doing different things as well as doing things differently. It is essential if you are to develop desirable products that are customer-centric, technically savvy, and quick to market.


Setting yourself up for success in this fast moving world

Whilst this aim is possible to achieve in many ways, design sprints are a great way to get started. Using the insights and tools of design thinking, design sprints enable you to create new products, transforming your organisation, from the inside out, along the way.

Design sprints are part of an agile approach. They bring together the right specialists from across, and when needed, outside your organisation into a concentrated design process. This intense experience results in the creation of a prototype within just a few days. It can then be tested with customers, and other stakeholders, quickly and developed iteratively based on their feedback.

Instead of talking about doing something for months, or even years, design sprints help you make progress within days. This flexible methodology can be applied to product development as well as conceptualising new business and operating models. Google Ventures has codified the best of design thinking in their design sprint method. They’ve written a book and created a host of resources to help people master the approach quickly. I refer to them here as they are so well executed and easy to adapt and use.




In addition to developing prototypes quickly, design sprints have other important benefits. They are fun, immersive, and, by nature, collaborative. They break down departmental silos and internal barriers showing what can be done when people work together around a shared purpose and timeline.

The enthusiasm of The Telegraph team who used the approach shines through in this short film.


I first had the chance to use this approach myself whilst at the Disasters Emergency Committee. We wanted to explore what the DEC would look like if it was created in 2017. The DEC recognised its future was not guaranteed. I’ll share insights and lessons learned from that experience in a separate post.

In the mean time, if you are focusing on digital transformation and would like help planning and running your design sprint, please get in touch. They are a great way for your organisation to modernise, get results quickly, and learn some of the skills needed to become customer-centric and agile.

Before you know it, you’ll be setting the pace in your sector.

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