Product teams can use design sprints to quickly solve problems and answer important questions about customer needs. But because success depends on participation and trust, teams often find it difficult to get remote sprints right.
The best design sprint facilitators plan the conversation so people can bring their best ideas forward. Beyond that, running a smooth sprint — regardless of whether it’s remote, hybrid, or an in-person set-up — you must channel creativity to build trust and encourage more active engagement.
Want to run your best and most inclusive design sprint yet? Use these five practical tips from Jay Melone, innovation designer at New Haircut, and Richard Banfield, VP of design transformation at InVision.
1. Begin with a game
Play a low-investment game for 15 minutes, Jay recommends. Introducing creative play into a sprint helps relieve pressure and encourage divergent thinking. Jay provides this example: give participants 60 seconds to sketch “toast.” Some might draw champagne glasses clinking, while others draw bread being loaded into a toaster. At the end, challenge a participant to turn the different toast interpretations into a story.
2. Don’t take a hybrid approach
Hybrid sprints don’t work, Richard says. They either need to be co-located in an office or with everyone working remotely. If only some team members work in an office, set in-office participants up in individual conference rooms to level the playing field. Otherwise, you risk losing engagement from those joining virtually while those in-person huddle around a whiteboard.
3. Turn your team loose
Plan moments throughout the sprint for your team to turn off their cameras, think deeply, and then bring back their ideas to the group. You’ll get more participation this way, especially from introverted team members. Focused, creative work can be exhausting, so pace it.
4. Use a templateProblem Prioritization template from Jay at New Haircut will help your team identify which critical business challenges to tackle next. InVision built Freehand, their digital whiteboard, to be immediately accessible for everyone. This particular template builds upon that principle and helps narrow down which opportunities you should run your next sprint on and help you avoid groupthink. Reframe the problem inclusively, and then bring it into your sprint, he says.
Ready to run your sprint? This template by Design Sprint LTD can help move your team from idea conception to prototype in just five days. Stéph Cruchon leveraged years of experience working alongside Jake Knapp, creator of the design sprint at Google, to design it for remote teams.
5. Do one-on-one interviews before sprints
Opposing ideas, arguing, and negotiating can spur creativity, Jay says, so don’t protect against these discussions.
But, some team members may hold strong opinions and egos — or even leadership titles — can discourage others from sharing their ideas.
Richard suggests that facilitators do one-on-one interviews before the design sprint. This can be especially helpful if senior leaders can’t commit to a five-day sprint because they can voice their opinions, which can then be shared as insight with the rest of the team.
Brittany Anas is a Denver, Colorado-based freelance writer. She is a regular contributor to publications including Apartment Therapy, Forbes and Men’s Journal and previously was a reporter at the Daily Camera in Boulder and The Denver Post. She worked three years as a federal background investigator before transitioning into a full-time freelance role.