Week 32 —How To Design Sprint Your Way To A Product-Market Fit

VB18 DLT Team

It’s almost like a mantra.

“ Validate your hypothesis, validate the problems you have assumed are even problems.”

“How big is the problem that you’ve defined? Can it be quantified? How deep is this issue?”

Everything that’s been taught to us through the ideasinc.veni programme and every other interaction that we have had with our mentors were met with the dissatisfaction of how we weren’t detailed with our research or explanations.

Yet, we are constantly reminded that father time takes no prisoners and looming deadlines steal the luxury of conducting in-depth research in a brand new industry, forcing us to react quickly and take a leap of faith.

Sometimes, we are stuck trying to solve problem(s) that are either ill-defined or so clearly defined that we become so fixated on viewing these problems from our biased eyes, we often fail to see the possibilities that are truly out there in the world.

To shake up the slump that we were going through, mentor Kwai invited us to participate in a very enlightening class that he was conducting for his students embarking on a masters in entrepreneurship.

The class was called a “Design Sprint”. The concept of a Design Sprint was first coined by three design partners at Google Ventures, with the goal of helping their startups solve tough problems using design, prototyping and testing ideas with customers within 5 days.

That’s right, all of that in 5 days.

Kwai intended to use this Design Sprint to literally force ideas out of our brains, and that didn’t work, at least shift our thinking slightly. He commented that while the use of the Business Model Canvas was great to draw out the vast pains and desires that our potential customers go through, it didn’t really help us with the creative aspect of building a product. That was something we sorely needed.

Although we only had 3 hours and not 5 days, we just had to make do with what was in front of us.

The phases of a Design Sprint are pretty straightforward:

  1. Defining the objective of the sprint
  2. How Might We Statements
  3. Lightning Demo
  4. Krazy-8 (No, it was not named after the drug dealer from Breaking Bad who eventually died horrendously *spoiler alert*)

Before you get cracking and deciding to go head first into sprinting, it is paramount to ask yourself why?

What are you trying to accomplish here? At this juncture, we’re not looking to answer any specific requests, just being able to formulate a rough direction is a great enough start to set the tone of the sprint.

In phase 2 of the sprint, we move slightly deeper into the objective of the sprint.

“How Might We” statements are great to define some of the problems that you wish to solve. The goal here is to ask questions that will spark some form of ideation process in your mind. It is phrased in such a way that to encourage everyone to think positively and expansively, not limiting yourself to what “reality” dictates.

At this juncture, we were only given around 5–8 minutes to write as many HMW statements as possible on post-its and our task was to be as broad as possible.

Each “How Might We” statement follows a simple rule:

Start the statement with … How might we, then input a verb, a target audience and a outcome that you wish to accomplish.

Here’s a couple of examples that I came up with:

“How might we provide maximum upside and minimum downside for our millennial investors to invest in securely.”

“How might we build trust between Pratu and our buyers so that they can invest with peace.”

The list goes on and on.

Once the allotted time has elapsed, the moderator (Kwai) would then call for everyone to stop and begin grouping all the different “How Might We” statements on the board.

If you are able to identify categories that you can group certain statements together with, do it! It makes visualisation of the statements significantly easier. We had categories like customer acquisition, trust, customer relations and miscellaneous. That helped Vanessa out tremendously as she was busying herself trying to sort out everyone’s statements.

After all the statements were put up and categorised, the interesting part begins.

Each participant has to survey all the statements that have been put up on the board and the individual has a total of 3 votes to vote for the “How Might We” statement that s/he resonates with the most.

Voting Time

After voting has been completed, the moderator will then take the top statements that have been voted for and the team will now focus on those few chosen statements to progress down the next phase of the sprint.

Now that we have reached a consensus on which statements are the most dire/ most intriguing, it’s time for the Lightning Demo round!

In the Lightning Demo phase, participants have to now look at possible competitors that are embarking on a similar idea or have already had a foothold on the industry.

With this phase, the goal here is to glean off anything that might have caught your eye about a particular competitor.

For me personally, I found that many of the competitors had certain similar questions that they had in their FAQs, and that signaled to me that those were the crucial questions that our potential customers would be asking.

Apart from that, aspects like the UI/UX design of the site were things that we investigated briefly. We also looked at the content that certain competitors’ were putting up to give a better idea on what we needed to take note of.

This round flew by really quickly, having only been given a maximum of about 5–8 minutes to do our lightning research which meant that we had to Google and note down our findings quickly.

After our research time has elapsed, we then had to gather together for a time of discussion. The whole goal of the discussion is to share with the team about certain interesting findings that they had discovered during the research round.

This part of the sprint is crucial because it serves as a fuel source to feed creativity, getting everyone’s brain all fired up and ready to enter the final and most fun part of the sprint …

Krazy 8 is by far the most stressful and the most rewarding part of the sprint.

After all the work that we had been through each phase, it was time to piece it altogether with Krazy 8.

The rules of Krazy 8 is simple.

Everyone takes a sheet of blank paper, each participant has 8 mins to come up with 8 ideas.

There is no room to think about how feasible the idea, you just have to flow, move and think on the fly.

With the timer set at 8 minutes, Kwai (the moderator) signaled the start of Krazy 8 and the whole class went frantically writing and drawing ideas on the sheet of paper.

At every minute, Kwai would call for us to switch to a new idea. The purpose of this is to ensure that we aren’t fixated on a singular idea, the goal is to have 8 ideas, it doesn’t even have to be detailed or “good”, it could even get crazy (hence the name).

Unshackled, almost everyone in the room managed to come up with at least 6–7 ideas which was extremely good for an 8 minute brainstorm session!

This was what came out of Krazy 8!

At the end of the 8 minutes, Kwai signaled everyone to stop what they were doing and to start pinning up their ideas on the board.

Explaining Our Ideas

Once again, we gathered in our teams and went around introducing the ideas that we came up with. Some were overlapping ideas, some were more questions rather than answers, but the spirit of Krazy 8 summoned some really interesting themes.

At the end of our discussion, we then continued with another round of voting. This time, each individual had 5 votes. The task was to vote for the 5 best ideas that resonates with you.

Kwai then appointed me to be play the role of “The Decider”. My task was different, I had more responsibility because my votes carried a little bit more weight compared to everyone. I had the power to supersede everyone’s vote, meaning that if I felt like a certain idea was really important, then everyone would have to sit up and listen.

If you look at the photo with the drawings on it, you would be able to see a red star on one of the ideas that was presented. That was my vote and everyone had to take notice of it because of the role that I played. The decider is usually played by a 3rd party, someone who is an expert in the field. Since we didn’t have that luxury, we had to settle for just me :D

Once I had casted my vote and rationalise my decisions, it was now time to use an impact-effort matrix to group our chosen ideas.

The whole point of the impact-effort matrix is to group ideas against the impact that it makes and the effort that it takes to execute it.

If an idea is deemed to be low in effort and high in impact, it means that this idea should be part of your MVP (minimum viable product), if the idea has been categorised under the high impact, high effort box, then decisions have to be made to see if this is something that your startup is willing to venture into.

Taking part in my first ever mini Design Sprint was really exciting and tiring at the same time because the sprint forces you to think as deeply as you can at a lightning pace. That really takes a toll on your mind and honestly, I can’t imagine how it would be like doing this for 5 days straight.

There were a couple of key pointers that I had gotten through this sprint in regards to the future of Pratu’s products.

The theme of trust kept popping up again and again, everyone seemed to be extremely concerned about the legitimacy of the product and whether the party that they were going into business with was trustable or a con-artist.

The other theme that kept popping up was the need for the user experience to be fun and enjoyable, almost as if people wanted to approach the product as a game.

This sprint has given me a starting point to investigate further and plow forward.

I wouldn’t have known that a design sprint would set my brain on fire like that …

If you’re with a group of friends 7–10, try it out and you’ll be surprised at what kinds of ideas you’ll get.

Till next week!

Entrepreneur In Training