7 Things I Learned from Running My First GV Design Sprint

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Most people have participated in a sprint. Some have heard about a Design Sprint. At Kulina, we ran our first Design Sprint about two weeks ago. It was a new concept to our team members, and pretty much to the startup community here in Yogyakarta (known as Jogja), Indonesia (see where it is on the map here).

This exercise has been an excellent tool to change the way our team members think about approaching problems, designing solutions and developing products. We were lucky to have our CEO, designer, marketing lead, developer & customer support lead attended. I highly encourage everyone to give it a try.

Here are the seven things I learned from running our first design sprint:

1. Be prepare for the sprint preparation

Our co-founders, Andy Fajar Handika and Andy Hidayat (yes, both of them named Andy) and I decided Thursday the week before our sprint that it would be best for me to move to Jogja since most of our developers and marketers are based there. And, my first task? Running a design sprint. So, I bought the book Sprint and hopped on the plane. This means that I hate to finish the whole book over the weekend.

We also needed to prepare writing materials, block out the room and clearing the team’s schedule to be ready before the meeting. If you have an amazing HR team like we do, they could be a great help!

In addition, everyday after running the whole day meeting, I came back home, wrote a summary of the day’s meeting, reviewed the next day’s section in the book, and jotted down notes. The next morning I arrived early, prepared the whiteboard and other materials to be ready for the meeting. But trust me, it is all worth it!

Note to facilitator: everyone else’s sprint might be done at 5pm, but yours doesn’t. Be prepared for the week!

2. It also required you to think on your feet

Sprint book is an amazing resource, no doubt. However, there will be a lot of things you have to improvise and adjust on the spot. Small little details like suggested supplies in the book couldn’t be found in Jogja, so what should we use?

We scheduled things for 1 hour, but it took a little bit longer. Things we scheduled for a couple hours took 30 minutes. We had to adjust on the spot.

I added a few techniques that I used at my previous companies. I like the idea of doing double crazy 8s where we posted our first solution on the wall, explained our solutions, looked at others and redid it one more time. My team found that to be very useful.

Be ready to adjust, adapt and innovate!

3. It’s about bringing people together

You would assume that smaller teams like in startups would communicate better. WRONG! It still amazed me how we sit next to one another but didn’t really know what others were working on.

Through running this design sprint, the team now sees the values of learning from other departments, and how their work might affect others. Our developers used to deploy new features without informing our customer support team, so they only heard about those features through customer complaints, HA!

Our customer service lead realizes her team had to be more active and get involved early on in the development process. Our team now values working cross-functionally and they are craving more time to work together like this again.

4. Failure = Amazing Learning

Our sprint question was “will customers understand the values of our new cashback feature”? The answer we got from the user interviews was a harsh “no.” However, what we learned along the process is much more useful than getting this right the first time.

For the first time, we actually spent time understanding the shared goal.

Our Incomplete Customer Journey & Interactions

For the first time, we actually understand the whole customer journey! How customers experience our product. Can you believe it?

5. Working individually together actually worked

Everyone talks about brainstorming sessions, and wants to do more of those to generate innovative ideas. But most of us hate attending one because it doesn’t go anywhere, and usually it’s one or two people that talk.

During the design sprints, everyone writes their own ideas and share it after. You will be amazed by when I asked the team what we should do, everyone was silent. But when I told them to write it down with 5 minute times, we have the room full of post-it notes. I now apply this technique to most of my meetings.

6. Design sprint plays the office politics perfectly.

How many times have we voted on an idea, and one of the cofounders, C-level executive or your boss came in and changed the entire thing? During the design sprint, we involved the HiPPO early on, so they felt like they were part of the team. We let the team vote on the best idea (everyone loves democracy), and our HiPPO make final decisions. Perfect! Now we can move on!

7. Anything can be tested, and it should be

On the 3rd day of our design sprint, our team was a little bit ahead of a schedule, so we decided to test whether what we have been working on makes sense to others. In addition to prototyping how different pages flow, we were curious to see if the copy we wrote together is easy to be understood. We tested of solution with a couple of non-participating members, we realized we were pretty terrible at writing it together. So, I decided to let each team member come up with their own copy. We then put it right next to one another, name it differently and test it with other non-participants.

Our coworkers to read, explain and rank the solutions based on their preference and clarity. Who do you think come up with the easiest to understand explanation?

A marketer?

A designer?

Nope. It’s our developer.

To make it even more interesting, the solution of our beloved CEO got the worst vote consistently. It was painful for him to watch this happen live, but I am sure the team learn the benefits of testing our solutions before making final decision.

Our Sprint Team Celebrating the Week

In short, my team and I have learned a lot throughout this process. It has transformed the way we think and do things. I would like to thank the Fira, Rebotak, Andy, Imung and Thomas for working on the holiday to finish our sprint. I would also like to thank the team (Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky, Braden Kowitz) at Google Ventures for sharing this wonderful tool with the world.

If you have any question or suggestion, feel free to contact me at casper.sermsuksan@gmail.com, LinkedIn or Twitter!

I’m currently the Head of Product & Growth at Kulina, food subscription service and startup based in Indonesia. Previously, I led the product marketing team at Product Madness in San Francisco. I also advise startups in the US & Asia on product design and growth. During my free time, I write to share my learnings on Medium.


7 Things I Learned from Running My First GV Design Sprint was originally published in Muzli -Design Inspiration on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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