You need to get fast-track sprinting!

At a recent (rainy) family barbeque my 3-year-old decided that we should all go inside and build a mega wooden railway. He dragged several members of the family inside, sat them down and set them to work.

It’s fair to say that everyone’s idea of a mega wooden railway track is different. Some wanted a double bridge. Some wanted to build a tunnel under the armchair. Some wanted the station to be the central point (it has 8 lines coming out if it so that is a challenge). Everyone set to work on his or her own section.

Each of these sections looked great but when it came to fitting all the sections together we ran into difficulty. It just didn’t fit. It was a mess.

We had to work out a solution. Maybe we shouldn’t have a double bridge but the double bridge creator wasn’t having that. Ok, maybe time to move the station. Nope. That's integral to the aesthetic of the railway.

The moment felt eerily familiar. This is what it’s like when you ‘design by committee’. It was the perfect visual representation of this issue. Lots of different ideas and priorities. All have merit on their own but you need to think about the big picture. What’s the overall objective? You need to have a plan. A shared focus and goal.

This is where Design Sprints really come into their own. The team here at Whitespace have been working in various sprints over the last 18 months or so. Roughly following Google’s Design Sprint philosophy it has proven an incredibly effective tool.

The most important aspect is that everyone works together. Including the client and key stakeholders. So everyone decides up front what the challenge is and how to approach it.

How would that have worked for the construction of our mega wooden railway? Well let’s take a look:

Stage 1 — Understand

We are going to build a super big mega railway. So let’s agree on what would make it a mega wooden railway. Trying to use as many of the wooden railway pieces as possible is the key goal (according to the 3-year-old boss man).

Stage 02 — Sketch

Let’s sketch out an overall idea of how the railway could work. Everyone comes up with ideas and sketches them out. Nothing is wrong at this point.

Stage 03 — Decide

We all come together and look at the sketches for the mega wooden railway. We decide, collectively, which idea will work best (based on what we agreed to in Stage 01).

Stage 04 — Prototype

The fun bit. Let’s build. Two of the best builders are tasked with building the mega wooden railway. Everyone else can go for a cup of tea and a natter.

Stage 05 — Validate

Now we need to do some user testing. Luckily we have a willing 3-year-old who is happy to play with it for half an hour and then feeds back to the team. In this case, it’s a success. He’s pretty happy. A small issue that the bridge keeps falling over so we'll tackle that during sprint 2.

So there we have it. I wonder if this process would work for the Lego Millenium Falcon? Only one way to find out...

If you want to find out more on Design Sprints go here or check out this series of videos starting with this one.

This article was written by Charlie Bell.