Creative Planning Model  –  The Framework Every Learning Business Partner Should Have

If you’re going through hyper-growth at your company, there’s a framework you should have in your toolkit.

It’s the same framework I used when I re-architected new employee onboarding at Google in 2005. (more…)

3×3 Walkthrough  –  How to Create Compelling Content for Employees in 9 Words

Forget learning objectives. Forget scaffolding. Forget instructionally sound content.

The majority of employee training and learning programs fail because the creators don’t answer an essential question: (more…)

Validate Your Next Employee Training Program in 5 Days Without Making Costly Decisions

Say goodbye to 6-month learning and development projects. No more training programs that take a year to launch.

You don’t have time for that.

Do you ever wish you had the time and resources to test a working prototype within days?

For most learning and development teams, this seems impossible. You spend six months building and launching a new project or training, only to discover it wasn’t as effective as you’d hoped.

You can validate a prototype in 5 days using a Design Sprint.

Introducing the Sprint

The design sprint was developed at Google Ventures in 2010.

It’s a 5-day process in which you find answers to critical questions through designing, prototyping, and testing your ideas with the end user.

Traditionally, these steps looked like this: You have an idea, you build it, you launch it, then you learn how well it worked.

Design sprints allow you to bypass the build and launch stages, giving you a shortcut to the learning stage without wasting time and resources.

A Quick Story…

LinkedIn’s sales leaders needed a way to guide their team through sales career navigation.

They wanted to offer clear roles, responsibilities, expectations, and ways to pivot from one role to another.

Like most requests from execs, and especially from sales execs, they needed something fast.

They also got a whisper in their ear that we could make a web app.

They wanted it in three months.

The first thing my team and I did was host a design session where we invited the stakeholders into the design process.

We were able to get complete alignment on the purpose, guiding principles, and desired outcomes and even brainstormed a number of ways we could execute the project.

We also aligned on the constraints, budget, timeline (remember, three months!), and dependencies.

While we planned for a 3-month launch, the team couldn’t believe we pulled off a functional prototype of the app in five days.

How It Works

Our solution implemented design sprints by Google Ventures.

There are five basic steps to a design sprint:

  1. Unpack the problem and write a simple user story
  2. Sketch a variety of solutions
  3. Decide which sketch will become the blueprint for a prototype
  4. Prototype a realistic, working version of the sketch
  5. Test the prototype with real users to observe, learn, and iterate

With LinkedIn, we produced a functioning prototype by the fifth day of the project using a Themeforest HTML/CSS/JS theme and some custom code.

The sales team was excited to interact with a real prototype so quickly. They could give incremental feedback to ensure we stayed on the right track during product development.

Design sprints set a new standard for the team and amazed the stakeholders, confirming that the best approach is nimble and agile.

The lesson I learned from it all was how shocked the stakeholders and team seemed. They were nearly in disbelief that an L&D team could produce something that quickly and nimbly.

As you know, the old standard is months and months of waterfall style program design and development.

Instead, we went from months to minutes and produced a technology-based learning solution.

We also used the design sprint process at Medallia to test a 5-day drip email course for new managers.

It wasn’t perfect or the best, but you can read more about its outcomes here.

Apply Sprints to Your Work

Design sprints a great for the following:

  • Stale and stagnant projects
  • Programs that could use a lift, a change, an overhaul
  • Upcoming lessons or modules that require a fast turnaround
  • …and any other ideas you have

The basic resources you can use to get started are the design sprint book — a complete hour-by-hour guide to running your sprint — and Google Venture’s DIY guide, which includes daily checklists, videos, and other resources.

Before beginning, make sure you define the right challenge and get the right team together.

If you’ve applied design thinking, this means you will have already completed the empathize and define stages to correctly assess the problem.

Use this design sprint approach to go from an idea to a prototype in five days. You can do this starting today, or start a fresh week next Monday.

Design Sprints vs. Design Thinking

If you’ve already read our article on design thinking or heard the term, you may be wondering how these two work together.

Since they’re closely related, I think it’s worth addressing.

Design thinking is a methodology, a more holistic approach to solving problems. The design sprint, however, is a derivative of design thinking.

It’s modified to fit a certain urgency and need that some projects require.

Conducting a sprint prevents you from over thinking the challenge, making sure you don’t get lost in the weeds of design thinking.

There is technically no time limit to applying design thinking as a whole, and you don’t have to use a design sprint.

However, just think…

If you can prototype and test your project in five days, what can you do in five months?