When to run a design sprint?

What is the design sprint?

If you’re reading this then you probably know what a design sprint is,  but let’s start by defining what it is so that we are all on the same page.

A design sprint is a process/method that teams across the world use to focus on a problem, come up with ideas, build a prototype and validate or invalidate with real users in a time-boxed environment. A design sprint is a small investment (Time & Money) that helps teams design better products faster before they commit to building the product.

Why a design sprint?

Design sprints help you answer big problems fast with minimal team/company politics and friction. Sprints allow teams to move quickly on any project they are on. It helps make sure that things keep progress, better decisions are made and validated.

After you have put your minimal viable product (MVP) in the market, this is a great methodology to use when iterating and improving on your product or game plan. Below are six high-level situations where design sprints can help big and small organizations cut the B.S and take out better products that people want to really user in less time.

1. When you have a blocker on your project.

In any project, there are many things that derail us from archiving our goal and stay aligned as product teams. This could be technical issues, a decision that is not being made because of office politics or stakeholder misalignment.

All these are practical everyday challenges we find as product teams. Design sprints assist in creating a focused, time-boxed and political-less environment to be able to move faster with making product decisions and test ideas efficiently.

2. Validate or Invalidate high-risk products.

Usually, companies or teams need to take a huge bet on a product or strategy. This could be to be a groundbreaking idea, bringing something new to the market or to beat a competitor with more innovative ideas.

Big ideas usually require a big budget as an initial investment to execute and go to market. Design sprints help by taking away the uncertainties if the product will be a success or not. It answers if the product/service is going to work as intended and if customers are going to want to use/buy the product or service.

3. Align teams.

When product design teams, developers and stakeholders do not align on an idea or a way forward on a project. Back and forth meetings without outcomes can become a common practice and a true waste of time. This is a great time to run a design sprint because it places the different stakeholders in one room that creates a level playing field for everyone to be heard.

By defining what the problem is,  focusing on it alone but together helps teams align on what they are trying to solve. This allows teams to identify and focus on the big problem for the period of the design sprint.

The outcomes of the design sprint will guide which direction the product/project is going to go and what the next viable steps are.

4. Improve products, get new ideas.

Coming up with new ideas for a product or service can be challenging. We usually find ourselves falling into the trap of getting inspiration from competitors and try and beat them at their own game. This, in most cases, leads to products not being tested and optimized to solve the real customer needs.

Most products in any market are designed to serve a purpose with different variations of features and design. To improve a product or service requires teams to look into the finer details of the customer experience. Teams need to identify the small things that make all the difference to the customer and solve for them.

Design sprints are a good way of gathering many ideas quickly, deciding on what to focus on and build a prototype that can be tested to validate or invalidate the idea in just a few days.

5. Show them, don’t just tell.

Getting internal or external stakeholder buy-in can take a long time get ready for. Data is hard to gather and translating it to executives without anything tangible can prove to be difficult and may take long before the green light is given.

When pitching an idea showing is always better than telling. Running a design sprint validates your idea and gives you a working prototype to show stakeholders actual results. If you are building a digital product, a design sprint will provide you with working files that you can use to go into development if given the green light.

6. Before creating a product or business.

This is the most obvious time to run a design sprint and can change the course of your product development. Defining what your product or business model is a huge and hard task, usually requires a lot of research time and money to get it right.

Before you make any big investments you want to know if everything is going to work and almost have a snapshot of the future if you could. Unlike numbers and data projections, a design sprint is a fast way to get qualitative customer feedback and can be used in an agile iterative way to develop products and business ideas with more certainty and less upfront development commitment.


If you want to validate ideas, get decisions made and keep moving forward with a project fast, then you may want to really consider running your first design sprint to test the process.

I think that you can run a design sprint in almost any situation. Whether you are trying to define a new product, come up with new features, define a strategy, create a brand name, a brand voice or just solve a big problem. Design sprints are a great way to keep things moving fast.

Author avatar
Varima Henry

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