What do you know about design sprints?
Guest Rohan Perera talks with me about design sprints, and lean thinking
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Hey folks! In this episode, we’re going to talk about sprint book by Jake Knapp,Knapp. It’s about designed sprints, how you can take a problem and with the right people in the room for a week, five days, you can create a prototype that will validate your solution to the problem.
I have Rohan Perera from Lean Disrupter. He is a facilitator and design sprint master. I hope you enjoyed the episode.
Dave: Hello and welcome to the podcast. I’m your host, Dave Albert. In this show, I talk about technology, building a company as a CTO and co-founder and have guests to discuss their roles in technology and entrepreneurship.
Today we’re joined by Rohan Perera. Facilitator, consultant and design sprint master at Lean Disruptor. Thanks for joining us Rohan.
Rohan: Thank you, Dave. Great to be here.
Dave: Excellent. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Rohan: Sure, sure. Where do I, where do I start? So if I go all the way back probably a bit too far back but and I started off my undergrad I studied accountancy. And the reason I’m telling you this is that it’s a bit of an interesting story at the end of my degree, I ended up becoming a professional poker player.
So a bit right there. A bit crazy, but I yeah. While I was studying, I was making some decent money playing poker. So at the end, I made a choice to go down the poker route instead of doing my accountancy exam. So at the end I, after I graduated, I decided to take four years well to take a year and see how it went. And in the end, it went pretty well. So I became a professional poker player for the following four years.
And after that, I ended up being so I suppose firstly, it wasn’t all that I expected to be. It’s on paper. It’s amazing. But in reality, it’s actually very much like a startup. It sounds very good on paper, and it has this illusion to it, but in reality, you’re grinding till 6 am in the morning in the casino, from 10 pm to 6 am. Every night and it was tough going.
And after that. So while in that space, I actually got quite involved in the startup ecosystem because I attempted and I say attempted, without success to create a couple of businesses. And in that I really found myself enjoying and buying into a lot of the methodologies that I was trying to practice are in lean startup, and design thinking.
And really, customer development was one of the things because I ended up going at doing a lot of research talking to as many people as I could when I tried to set up these businesses. And then I was working, I ended up working with my dad, Rama Perera, who, who is a lecturer and NCR and he’d created a couple of successful businesses. And he got so busy that he asked me to come and do some work with him.
And I fell into teaching so then I got into teaching Lean Startup, design thinking. Anything around startups and the whole ecosystem worked on the new frontiers program work to NCD, DIT so so that was amazing. And I’ve been doing that now for a good few years coming up on five years.
But I suppose this brings me to where we are today or in this design sprint world. So, so that came about because Rama, my father was the at Lean Startup conference in 2016. And the author of the book, Jake Knapp was there at the conference and he gave a speech around design sprints and the value of it. So Rama decided as he usually does is go and buy the book.
So he went and bought this book and I’m usually in the one who ends up reading all this material so so I picked it up in January 2017and read the book. And was absolutely blown away by it. So a lot of the work we do is around education but also consulting. So we consult with lots of larger organizations or startups or SMEs. And we’re really introducing concepts like design thinking, lean startup business modeling, and really a focus on the business model canvas and value proposition canvas.
And I find that this was a huge value, this concept of a design sprint. So I was so bought into it and supposed to around the book that I said, I’ll reach out to Jake and I reached out to Jake and he was just as it turns out, it was lucky, really, that he was she was finishing up inGoogle because of the success of the book. So he wrote the book and published it in 2016. And I’d read it in 2017. But in March of that year, Jake actually went on his own. He went out on his own.
He left Google Ventures where he was running a lot of these design sprints for lots of organizations like Slack, Savio, and medium all these organizations and I reached out and he was like, Okay, come over to Italy for my first ever sprint workshop. I’m going to train facilitators in this concept and I jumped on board went off to this, this sprint workshop and was just bought in straightaway and love everything that he was doing. and talking about.
So since then it’s been constantly learning more around design sprints, running these design sprints, and I suppose I’m quite a big advocate of design sprints in Ireland and, and just love everything about it and think it’s a really powerful process and a great way of testing new products, really testing and trying to solve big problems and these new ideas in the short period of time.
Dave: So how would you explain to somebody who hasn’t heard of the design Sprint’s? What exactly that is compared to you know, a typical type of Scrum sprint?
Rohan: Okay, so really a design sprint is a deadline-driven approach to innovation. And that’s, that’s what we do in the design sprint, we think of it as an application of design thinking. So it’s very much fast paced, every exercise is a time box. It’s a five-day process where we try to solve these big problems or test these new ideas.
So every day we have whatever it may be, it might be 5-10 exercises a day and we gather seven people in a room, quite senior people in most cases and quite a diverse range of people too. We got seven, we lock them into a room for five days, and say, “Okay, let’s let the magic happen.” Let’s focus in focusing from 10am to 5pm. And try and get aligned on some of the visions and aspirations for these new ideas or these new products.
Get everyone involved, get them aligned, and then start off coming up with solutions to maybe some of these challenges or these problems. And then what we do is we go and prototype and then test it with test our ideas with some real users. So in the design thinking process, you think of it as the five steps you’re looking at empathizing, defining you’re then looking at ID aiding, and then you’re looking at prototyping and then testing.
So in a design sprint, a lot of the empathizing is done before you jump into the sprint. So this is where we’re looking to validate a solution in a sprint. But before hand, we go into the sprint with a problem validated. So we look to validate a problem pre-sprint, then we go into the sprint and we try and validate a solution by coming up well it could be validated could invalidate.
A lot of people think that you need to have at the end of a sprint, a successful idea. But really, it could be the case of an unsuccessful idea. And in invalidation is even more beneficial. Because that means we’re not spending all of this time and research and resources to testing these products that aren’t worthwhile.
So, Jake Knapp says, it’s like having a glimpse into the future of how your product or service will be received, that’s what why we do a design sprint. Because we want to fast forward into the future and see if it’s worth going and maybe building this product or creating this service. So we want to do that in five days test it and then after we look at maybe going through more agile processes, or product developments, and here is all about testing.
Dave: Yeah. So five days, that’s not a lot of time. So obviously, you can’t build a fully working, I’m thinking mobile application. Because that’s what I spend most of my time with is the infrastructure for building that in mobile apps. But what is the prototype at the end often, like?
Rohan: Okay, yeah. No, that’s a great point. And this is, this is a question that comes back time and time again and sometimes even has some discussion or arguments online. Whether we should be creating a prototype for two weeks or one week. But the reason this is condensed into a five-day process, and I’m going to confuse all the listeners even more by saying I actually run four-day despite springs, but that’s an even a, it’s a condensed.
And as the popularity of this design sprint concept has come about, there’s been a lot of people who are iterating on the process, reducing it, time boxing it even further. So but it all depends on maybe the challenge or, or the idea whether it’s worth doing a four day or five day. But to come back to the question, we prototype in one day, because we want it to be Trello way. We don’t want to fall in love with our ideas.
And a lot of the time when I see people who end up prototyping for long periods of time. It’s very hard for them to be able to take the insights and feedback on board. So what we do is we rapidly prototype and then test it with users let them direct how our products should end up or our service should end up. And we use a lot of tools like maybe Marvel or envision, they’re great prototyping tools.
Fluid UI, as well as an Irish company and a great prototyping tool. So that’s on the digital side of things. But you can also prototype, you can prototype anything. That’s what Jake Knapp says, I’ve even run a design sprint, where we prototype a process. And that was an interesting one. But really, that’s where we focused on the journey more so and, and how we go about creating or testing if this is the right way to go about this, this idea.
And so it all is about focusing one day so the fourth day in the design sprints, you prototype, and you just jump in there you set tasks for all the five to seven people in the room, and really set them goals and targets and you piece everything together at the end. So the key as well as when you go into the user testing the following day is you’re not testing the user, you’re testing the prototype and the idea and it’s okay if there’s maybe some piece of the prototype that may not be functional.
You are creating a facade, you do want it to be high fidelity in a lot of cases so you can get some good feedback. And there are actually two ways of looking at this. HA and Smart were the big design sprint organizations and they end up testing with very high fidelity prototypes because they’ve got an amazing team of really experienced prototypers.
But Jake, actually, a lot of his friends were actually very low fidelity prototypes. And there’s the two ways of looking at it and some may be more relevant to the challenge. So it’s all about what challenge you’re trying to tackle. But sometimes if it’s a low fidelity prototype, you might not be able to get enough of the key insights to help guide you further on. But on the opposite side of the things, on the opposite side of the fence is if you go to high fidelity, then users can end up looking at things like oh, that button should be blue instead of red.
And it turns out to be very usability, as opposed to testing the concept. So it all depends. And I’ve done high fidelity prototypes, as well as the low fidelity prototypes with success in both in both scenarios. So it really all depends on what the challenge is.
Dave: How do you go about picking the challenge?
Rohan: That’s a great question. And really, the key in a design sprint is you don’t say, “Okay, we have an annual challenge, let’s just jump into a design sprint”, this is a huge investment. And I’m not talking about the fee of a facilitator, but to get some of your key team members into a room for 4-5 days is a huge investment.
And really the key when choosing a challenge is, is this a big opportunity? Is this a big risk? Or is this a potentially game-changing idea or a new product that has a lot of risks? Or there is that big opportunity? So so we’re looking at big challenges, big aspirations as opposed to “Oh, will we change maybe the layout of our website?”. Well, depending on some cases, that could be quite a big challenge, but if it was for maybe a startup or something who hasn’t put that much time and energy into something like this, then it might not be as relevant. So it all depends on the size of the challenge. And really, you’re looking for those big challenges and big problems.
Dave: Have you ever seen most of the ones you’ve worked with be more focused on, say, the product itself? Or have you seen any that were focused on maybe a marketing campaign or something like do you understand what I mean?
Rohan: Yeah, definitely. And trying to think now if I have run a sprint on a marketing campaign. I know that Jake Knapp and in the book has a good few examples of running a design sprint on a marketing campaign. And maybe it’s all around trying to get more buy in for a product that’s already out there. For me, a lot of the sprints I have run have actually been on internal processes or internal systems where the problem has actually been validated.
So a lot of people say, “Oh, how much pre-work to do on a sprint?” But a lot of the sprints I’ve run, the problem has been validated because it’s an internal problem. And we’re trying to maybe change the systems that we’re working on or increase the productivity levels by using a certain soft piece of software.
But there also has been new products or new services that we’ve tested. The majority have been on the digital side of things. haven’t worked on a sprint on a physical product as a VF. So most of my prototypes have been digital, but we’ve also had PowerPoint prototypes, explainer videos, canvases, A1 canvases, and documents paper prototypes. Yeah, so really, that is that’s where I’m at with about.
Dave: I’d probably was thinking that because I guess we’re at a stage now where we’ve got a lot of time and money invested in our product. And obviously, user acquisition is one of our key things at the moment. So thinking, could we use something like a design sprint to try to grow the user base quite rapidly with some sort of prototype like that? You know, just to see what the responses might be like. But I don’t know exactly how that might work in practice with the prototyping with a user.
Rohan: Interesting. So I read this book called traction, a couple of years back, it’s an excellent book and really want traction lines is how to grow awareness for your product or gain, gain that mass market expansion and really that they use a lot of great tools on how to test which channel to utilize. And I would say it’s an interesting one for a sprint on trying to test a couple of channels.
What I would say is, that I will run a couple of AV tests or look at layout, water the channels that you feel it’s all about your assumptions and you’re trying to test those assumptions whether it be using the Lean Startup principles or design thinking principles or design sprint I see there, or even Agile but I feel that’s more and the product development side of things. But Lean Startup design thinking and design sprint are very interlinked and it’s all about going out and talking to customers and getting that real feedback.
And when it comes to testing at a channel, I feel the best way is to, to outline all of the channels, all of your assumptions of which you feel will be the best channel to acquire new customers. And then go out run some smaller prototyping tests. Maybe it is a creating a website or creating a brochure or a flyer that you could hand out to users to direct them maybe to a website or a portal where they could put in their email address, and then you’ll find out how many users have signed up while using that particular channel and you could use it in social media.
So in terms of a sprint, I’m not sure I think you can run a design sprint for a lot of angles, and you probably could in that sense, but I would say first what I would do is a precursor to a sprint is actually run lots of little experiments, maybe there one day experiments or, or two day experiments to create a campaign and then obviously, you’re going to be spending a bit longer time to release that campaign. Use the Google Analytics platforms to really find out how many users have bought into us or signed up from that particular channel.
Dave: Okay, so just some of the tools that you are, activities that you do during the design sprint that I was thinking about the 8x8 box thing about coming up. So anyway, maybe marketing campaign is the wrong word, but activities that will drive user growth over some period of time, right. So whether that’s I hate to use the work gimmick but some sort of action activities. Unusual to your current marketing practices.
So to create that that viral guerilla marketing, you know what I mean, that everybody’s looking for and nobody knows how to actually make happen. You just happens or it doesn’t and most often it doesn’t. But everybody gets together to do the drawings separately to come up with ideas on how we might go about quickly acquiring users. That’s where I was going with it.
Rohan: I think you’re dead right there, Dave. So you can for sure run a design Sprint’s on how do we acquire customers rapidly or and it is, I suppose even going back to my previous point is you will have a particular assumption and maybe you’ve already said okay, maybe it’s going to be a guerilla marketing campaign or viral video. A lot of people talk about growth that when I work with startups or entrepreneurs, they say oh, or aspiring entrepreneurs.
They say, “Oh we’ll grow, we will grow and get traction so quickly by going viral on social media. It’s like okay, well, how are you actually going to do that? How many followers have you got? I’ve been on Instagram for four years and barely a hundred followers. It’s not that easy, guys.
Dave: I can’t break 400. Well, I can break four hundred and ten because up and down.
Rohan: I think you’re dead right in terms of a design sprint, you can definitely run a design sprint on a marketing campaign or on customer acquisition. What the key here is that I feel is that you go in with a big plan. So you have already thought about what are the potential strategies that you’re going to use to acquire customers, and now maybe on the day, you’re going to flesh out a particular campaign and test it.
And that way you’ll be able to find growth. And I think then, after the sprint, a lot of people think that, okay, it’s all over then happy days but really needs to do the analysis after and maybe there’s a case of a one or two day follow up mini sprint, the second week, but then you need to go into constant iteration of your prototype. So I know I say, we prototype in one day, but that’s not the end of it.
Then you’re listening to the user feedback, you’re trying to iterate quickly test again. And you’re then going into that whole Lean Startup loop. You build, measure, learn, and it’s just constant iteration until you then get into your Agile product development. Well, that’s how I see it as fitting in.
Dave: For the actual prototyping bit, how do you get honest feedback from users, especially those here in Ireland who were quite likely to say, this is great. I love it. Because you said you did it. Everybody’s often too polite.
Rohan: Dead right. Really, as they say, no one will call your baby ugly. And you need to ask the right questions to find out if it is. So all we what we say is the key is having this whole curiosity mindset at the start of any user test, you’re trying to make sure that the user is in their comfort zone, you’re asking them to, to speak their mind talk you through it, you’re not doing as much of the talking but you introduce them by saying, we’re here, we’re looking to improve our products and services and we’ve chosen you as you’re an expert, maybe in the space or we really would love your feedback.
We’re not looking for a tap on the back here. We’re looking for criticism we’re trying to improve what a what direction, we’re also trying to look at what direction our products or service needs to go. And any feedback is critical to us. So So I think there are lots of things and Jake Knapp has a couple of steps that he talks about in the book. And really it’s around a friendly introduction by putting somebody at ease.
A lot of people say, Oh, how do I dress for the user test, your dress is how you think your user will dress if you feel that this user is going to come into the room. And I shouldn’t call it by calling the user, this person of course, but this person is coming into this room and if they’re going to be wearing a suit, you need to be wearing a suit. If they’re going to be wearing shorts, you need to be wearing shorts, it’s to put them at ease.
And then you’re giving the user or the person who’s given you some feedback to some context around what you’re trying to do or a what is it that you’ve created? And really to put them at ease by saying that we’re looking for criticism, we’re looking for that feedback, and then maybe introduce them to the prototype. And actually then setting them some tasks to do okay, if you are looking for an app or you what would you do?
And then it’s like, okay, maybe I click into the App Store, can maybe I click on this, and you’re just watching them interact with the prototype. And asking them to fulfill some tasks like that. And then at the end, you do a debrief where you just ask for the overall outlook on what the product was, what that experience was for the user and just always constantly having that curiosity mindset all I always asking why, how, what whatever the case is.
So I think that’s the key in user testing. And really, there’s lots of great research that’s, that’s been done around it and well worth looking more into. But I do think that you can conduct a user test, even if you haven’t had years of experience dealing it. And similar to customer discovery, and for those of you who are familiar with customer discovery, you know that it’s the more times you do it, the more you’re you’re going to become experienced in it and and I’m gain value from it.
But you need to just jump in there and really try and listen and not follow too much of a script and just interact, let the person do most of the talking. You shouldn’t be talking unless you’re repeating back or maybe you’re empathizing or whatever the case is.
Dave: When would be too early? So can you use a design sprint to basically validate your entire company when it’s at a very, very early stage and so you’ve done some user interviews? We’ve gotten a lot of feedback on the problem space that you think you’re working in, you found the, you know, the overlapping answers from all those different potential users. Do you think you found an area where you can target enough of the problem? And is that enough? Or is that is that maybe too early?
Rohan: This process really took off from the startup community. So when Jake originally his first ever sprint he run was actually Google meet so it used to be called Google Hangouts and it evolved into Google meet but the first ever design sprint he ran was they were testing this, this new product. So Google Hangouts and it was then he started working on things like Gmail, Google X, lots of these new Google products and after the Google team had seen how successful they were, this was.
Jake and some of his team were reassigned to work in Google Ventures, which meant that any Google invested startup had to run a design sprint to validate or invalidate their solutions. So which was really interesting so so I would say that the first couple of hundred of design sprints were run first for startups, and a nowadays you do see more larger organizations running them for I suppose a couple of reasons.
One being, one being it’s hard to run a design sprint if you’re very early stage startup on you only have one or two employees or maybe it’s just yourself and a friend, and you want to test this idea. But you’re going to get more value when you have a couple of more bodies in the room. But you can always have extra friends or other startups who might be working maybe in the same coworking spaces you and you could bring them on and ask them to be involved in your design sprint.
And I feel that anyone who, who receives CSF. So Competitive Start Fund from enterprise Ireland should really be running a design sprint. And I think that’s really powerful for startups. It’s all about trying to get enough bodies in the room for when your design sprint is to make it valuable because I feel you really need to be having at a minimum four people in the design sprint. I’ve never run one for less than six people and I personally but I wouldn’t advise less than four people in a room just because you want as many ideas out there as possible.
And to really have have that alignment and idea sharing and to walk through all the exercise, I think even, you would need more than more than three. Preferably 5-8 is your ideal scenario. But of course, you can run design sprints for startups, and I would recommend them as long as you validated a problem. Some design sprint agencies have said you can validate the problem and the solution in the design sprint.
I don’t agree with that statement. Now I feel that this is when you validated the problem. And now you’re looking to validate a solution. So it’s, it’s questionable, it’s not like it will be a waste of time. If you just if you’re going in with all these assumptions, with the more educated these assumptions are the more vital you’ll gain from a sprint. But companies like slack started off with design sprints. And there was lots of smaller startups that even had three or four people.
So Jake ran, I think with Slack, there were only three people as well. But then he then there was a couple of people from Google who came on board, so you could have a couple of facilitators who couldn’t come in. So that’s where I see is, if this was going to take off, let’s say in Ireland in the startup world, it would need help from an enterprise Ireland because enterprise Ireland would have to gather a team arranged for the startups to be working with and working on that five day process, as opposed to “Oh, there’s one person coming in. Let’s go and run design sprints” Well, it’s just one person with that one idea that they have, so we can’t really mix and match lots of ideas together if you’re just on your own.
Dave: Gotcha. Okay. I’m just thinking through this here, I just so have a number of startups in my past that never became anything more than a side project that fizzled away. Think thinking, you know, had we done user interviews first? And then how could we have done this with a design sprint? So two people, maybe you can get a stakeholder so somebody who you know would likely be your model, end user in the end. And then who else would you want? So like probably a designer, if no one’s a designer, what would the makeup of the people involved be?
Rohan: In your design sprint in the core team, so you have seven people on your team. This is we usually run and we usually do have a designer in there and maybe there’s a finance person might be in the room, there might be a while it’s critical that there’s a decision maker in the room, whether it be the CEO or if she or he isn’t available or isn’t, won’t I won’t have the time then.
As long as someone who’s been appointed decision making authority, a lot of the time it could be had a product had a UX, whatever the case is Product Manager. If they have that, once they’ve been passed on the decision-making ability, then you can go ahead with the sprint. But the reason we have a decider is if you’re going to spend all that time in that design sprint, you need to be able to agree that you’re going to utilize those learnings, as this is a learning journey.
You’re going in there with the whole purpose of Yes, testing your idea, hopefully, it’s validated, but also being in that curiosity. mindset and trying to learn and improve your product or service. So then you’re going after the week you need to constantly go and iterate and learn and, and utilize those learnings and implement them. You need somebody who’s going to say, okay, maybe this has been validated let’s go and make this a reality.
So you could have lots of different people, someone who’s customer-facing, maybe there’s designer, engineers, there’s could be, as I said, finance and anyone else but I’ve run design sprints with no, no designer in a room as well. And then we’ve just shown people how to use these design tools is the beauty of prototyping nowadays is some genius has come up with all these amazing tools that we can use and then they’re so user-friendly things like Marvel, Canva, Video scribe all these tools are so easy to use that anyone can use them.
So I don’t think you need to have a set designer in there but obviously, it’s going to be a benefit it also depends on how high fidelity prototype you feel you need to build. But really it can be so I try to come back to this thought and how many people do we need and can the startups be running more design sprints with a smaller number of people that I feel you really need to either get help from other startups if you have two people I just don’t think is enough for design sprint.
There’s definitely been lots of blogs written about them. If you go into sprintstories.com you’ll see lots of blogs written about all these amazing sprints ranging from sprints in the British government and Sprint’s from the airline industries Sprint’s it all over ranging from maybe 1 person sprints to 15 people’s sprint’s but I feel that you’d be really looking at in between that 5-8 is the sweet spot and if you’re an early stage startup.
I think you need to join forces with some either facilitators, either mentors, maybe investors asking them as you said you mentioned stakeholders but asking some of those investors or stakeholders to come in sit in the sprint and give you some of the insights and try to align with them but it can be questionable if you’re bringing investors in you don’t want to especially if your many of them but then on the last day your user testing with your potential customers so that wouldn’t necessarily be your investors or someone like that.
Dave: I’m just thinking of the number of things that I went and built. I kept building and kept building I kept building and then nobody use it. Because of course, nobody used it because I was building the thing that was in my head from a problem brought to me by my partner in the project. And then we realized, wait, we’ve done this all wrong. We could have saved ourselves like two years. And it seems like there’s somewhere in there, where the design sprint plus the user interviews beforehand, could really validate a lot of what takes most people months and months and months to get to in a few weeks. Seems like I don’t know where you find those right people, though.
Rohan: Brilliant. No. And that is the point of a design sprint that we are going to test and validate or invalidate some of these ideas in your week long process or your extra few days on top of that. And instead of spending these months or potentially years building something that maybe somebody doesn’t want.
But I think we’re all wired to think about solutions anyway. And it’s sometimes you need to jump in. And that’s the only way to learn that “Okay, wait, maybe we should have empathized with some customers and conducted some research beforehand.” But it’s amazing now will the access to the tools and methodologies that we’re now looking at a more focused startup creation where we always tend in any of the programs that are run in Ireland, everybody is trying to focus on the problem.
Even if they have their idea in their head, they still do try to think about the problem as well. Well, you need to try to steer people away from those solutions. But I think definitely there’s a space for design sprint in the startup ecosystem because it was so successful. In the US a lot of these startups are our multi million slash unicorn companies. It’s well worth running a sprint to test some ideas.
And the key, the difficult piece for a startup where running a sprint is getting the right people in the room to run a sprint with. And I’ve heard some people who’ve actually run design Sprint’s with users as well. So we obviously conduct lots of user research before a sprint to validate some problems.
But also then, on the fifth day of a design sprint, you test, you do this user testing where you’re testing your prototype with these users, but I’ve had people, I’ve heard of people bringing in potential customers to help them in the solution creation part of your design sprint, so they say, Okay, well, we’ve only got two people in our business.
But let’s get in maybe an investor or maybe a stakeholder, maybe some other potential customers as well. And let’s get these five people in a room and lets IDA together. And a lot of people get worried on asking a lot from potential customers are asking for their advice or their feedback. Really, that brings you closer to your customers. And then they feel like they’ve been on this journey with you. And they feel like they’ve been involved in creating this new product or service.
So, so in that sense, they become your most loyal customers. Like we had a sprint, in one sprint in the US, we’re running this design sprint in the US. And one of the participants on the sprint was the head of sales. And this person was very, very much afraid of giving us the contact details of some of these potential customers. Because the sales side of him, in this case, was saying, Okay, well that’s my baby. That’s my part. I own these customers, although he didn’t say that, you do feel like you’re, you have ownership over these potential customers and you’re afraid that someone’s going to say something they shouldn’t, or they’re going to mess up something.
And these were quite difficult customers as well. But in the end, we convinced this person to, to let us ask a couple of these people in for the user testing and the user testing on the final day, some of the most difficult people were delighted the most of the users because they felt like this company was really thinking about their customers and trying to get their feedback trying to improve their products and services. As a customer, that’s what you want to see. You want to see these organizations really trying to delight you and really trying to improve how they do things.
So what the salesperson thought would be really difficult interviews ended up being some of the best interviews and they loved what what we were doing in this design sprints and and they actually validate a lot of the new product. So they’re in the implementation phase now. So, it just shows you the power of talking to customers and whether it be user testing, whether it be customer development problem or solution orientation. The closer you get to your customers that the more likely you are to actually attract them to be your loyal and most loyal following.
Dave: So how many people should be testers? How many testers should you try to get?
Rohan: So research has shown that if you were to map the value if you’re to map the amount of user testers on a value, two times scale than five would be the perfect number. Because we’re testing with five users, if they’re the right users, you can get up to 85% of the usability problems found.
And really, in that short space of time, five is that perfect number so we actually, one person in the sprint is usually in charge of trying to figure out who are the key people after day one, you’ll ever be aligned on the challenges, you will understand what are the key questions you want answered at the end of the week.
So then you put one person in charge of recruitment of these user testers, and you bind some ideas off each other and figure out okay, who’s the target customer segment where we’re trying to test this with and who will be those key people to be in the room, and that’s why we test it with five users. And that doesn’t mean that you talk to five people, you never have to talk to another person again, and is that constant, constant flow of talking to customers. But in that in the design sprint, five users is the perfect number.
We usually, we usually recruit six, sometimes even seven. In case there’s a dropout because you don’t want to end up on your last day with three users to test with. Four is ok, but you really want to make sure that you have four or five or six. Ideally, it is that five anyway.
Dave: It’s like that seven plus or minus two.
Rohan: Yeah, yeah, it is. You can’t guarantee there’s going to be seven people in sprint. This is the way it was written. Seven is the perfect number and they actually test it from running lots of lots of sprints and they run sprints with one person, they run sprints with 10 people, 12 people, it’s all outlined in the book and what they came by was seven as the perfect number after doing it, so it wasn’t just someone picked 7 out of thin air was tested.
Dave: No, but it’s the like the principle that you know, your menus. Should only have seven plus or minus two people can only keep so many things in there. And the people seem to match up to this as pretty funny. How do you typically find, is the best way to recruit these users?
Rohan: So a lot of people ask, ask me that when, when I’m conducting any training workshops around this process, is they always fear that they won’t be able to get the users in the room on the final day. But actually, what you’ll find is, the best way to recruit users is your own network. Or maybe it’s if you’re an external facilitator, maybe it’s the company’s network, but reach out to people on LinkedIn.
Reach out to any of your friends think about maybe your friends mum might be a relevant user, maybe your friends dad, maybe your friend, your auntie, maybe your uncle whoever the case is, or a colleague or colleagues friend and search on LinkedIn for maybe someone in this particular space.
You can, of course, do Facebook advertising you can talk on forums like Reddit they were talking about as ways you could recruit users. There’s lots of ways. I’ve always found that the customer or the client that I’m working with is able to find the users true their own network, or else it’s true. My own network that we find some users, but it never seems to be a big problem. And everyone always fears that’ll be a big problem.
And I’ve had clients email me two weeks before Sprint’s or one week before sprint saying Okay, okay. I need to, I need to find out these users for the final day. And I always say don’t worry about it. Well, if we know, there’s a specific challenge that we know we’re going to be tackling, and we know it’s going to be for specific customer segments, then we can schedule in some, some users for the last day.
But a lot of the times you don’t actually know who the customer segment is that you’re targeting, and who those users are going to be. So because that all comes out on day one. So that’s why we tend to have a more relaxed approach. And we’ve never had a case where we’ve had less than four user testers on in the design sprint.
Dave: Nice. For facilitators, do you always recommend that be somebody who is like a professional facilitator? Or do you see people I mean, obviously, that being part of what you do but, you know, you’ve got one angle on that, but have you seen people running with internal facilitators?
Rohan: Yeah, lots of times, lots of times companies do run it with internal facilitators and we actually we train internal facilitators in our workshops and of course you can do that. And the best way to learn is really jumping in straight away. I think that what I found is a lot of the clients who contact me, they feel that it is too much of a risk to have an internal facilitator if they haven’t facilitated many times before.
But that doesn’t mean that you can’t use internal facilitators I say definitely can you just need to do some practice facilitation before you run a design sprint. Maybe you’re going to run a lightning decision Jam. A lightening decision jam is essentially a one-hour design sprint and that’ll give you a bit of practice to run your, your next design sprint, but it’s just constantly giving a bit of, doing a bit of practice and also making sure that you are not involved in the sprint either.
If you’re going to facilitate a design Sprint’s you have to be completely on bias, and you can’t get involved in the exercises. So a lot of people do ask me that question is “I want to facilitate design sprint from our organization, but I want to be involved in it as well.” What we say is, you can’t because that isn’t the role of the facilitator. So you can be involved in these dock voting and decision making because you need to be there to guide the team along.
The whole point of a facilitator is to make sure that the team are on time and running through the exercises and then you can and that you can achieve everything you said to in that week. And yes, there is the design sprint, the sprint book that the author Jake Knapp wrote has actually an hour by hour, minute by minute description of what is required in the design sprint.
So hypothetically you can use that book to run your own design sprint, but if I was advising a facilitator, what I would say is if they haven’t, if they haven’t run a design sprint before, of course, do some of these prep activities like run the light and season jam, but maybe also get a smaller team, maybe a more junior team and facilitate a design sprint with them.
And that is as a test bed for whether you’re going to be able to not to say that it wouldn’t be an important challenge. Of course, it would be. But if you’re going to get maybe a couple of people to fly in across the world to jump in into a design sprint, I think you should have a practice run at least before. But definitely where we’ve trained to. We’ve trained over 250 at this stage design sprint facilitators.
Who then have gone on to facilitate design sprints in their own organizations who wouldn’t have been facilitators before and there’s lots of tools and resources available. I actually just wrote a blog there recently around facilitation insight so. And there’s plenty, Jake is always writing lots in that AJ&Smart, Design Sprint Academy, A new haircut all these organizations are talking about design sprint’s constantly voltage control another one.
So, so well worth researching and looking on sprint stories or even just googling information and we run a free monthly meetup as well on the design sprint process. I know you’ve been an attendee but that kind of gives you a bit more insight around this whole design sprint world and a bit of practice on facilitation.
Dave: Great, what sort of budget is someone looking at for facilitator for the week?
Rohan: So if you’re looking to if you’re looking for to hire a facilitator for a design sprint, it could be anywhere between seven and a half grand to 35,000. I know some of the largest design sprint organizations charge 50,000 for a design sprint. So our pricing is around the 10 grand mark for a facilitator. But that’s around what you’re looking at.
Dave: So I’m still trying to figure out how we can provide that for those startups that are just two folks sitting at the lunch table. That’s the job that the age and say I’ve got this idea how they can do that without spending all their savings and all of their time for the next two years?
Rohan: Yeah. And it completely defeats the purpose of running a design sprint and thinking of Lean Startup methodologies as well. So I wouldn’t even run a design Sprint’s or a charge a fee for a design sprint if I was running one for a startup if they hadn’t got the adequate funding.
Because really, in lean startup, you’re trying to eliminate waste and then if you’re gonna spend 10 grand on a facilitated on designs printer completely defeats the purpose of thinking and not lean startup way. So what I think is the best way and what I’d love to see is enterprise Ireland. Chipping in terms of anyone who maybe got funding from Enterprise Ireland and they’re given a sprint or facilitator to go and run the design sprint with them.
And really that way there wouldn’t be any cost on your startup. And I know there’s people who would, who are going out there and facilitating these design sprints as well ad-hoc for some of these startups just to really test out their ideas. And I think that’s, that’s key as well that they’re going into this process. They’re learning, they’re validating their problem that they’re trying to solve and then maybe later down the line, maybe they’ve got series A or something along those lines, they validated some of their solutions, but they need to validate the rest.
And that’s when then they could go and hire a facilitator to run a design sprint. I think it would be incredible for enterprise Ireland to partner up with some of these startups. And then run design sprints for them to validate and I think that’s why you’re seeing a lot more on the corporate side of things with these design Sprint’s even though it started in Google Ventures is a clear need for it.
Startups could clearly gain a lot of value from it. But really that’s because it was Google who investors and in them but all your everyday startups it’s not sustainable for them unless they have adequate funding.
Dave: Yeah, it’s gonna have to come through some sort of accelerator program or pre-accelerator program maybe to make that work.
Rohan: Definitely. But Ireland is one of the best places in the world to start a business. We have just so much access to pre-seed funding, accelerator programs, incubators it’s incredible and it’s a perfect place for something like that to happen. And enterprise Ireland are incredible, as well.
Dave: All right, well, I’ve covered everything that I can think of today. I could definitely do this again. Is there anything that we didn’t touch on that you think is important?
Rohan: I don’t think so. I think we’ve covered a lot, and maybe a bit too much, maybe. We’ve been just throwing lots of things and they haven’t hopefully some of you have been able to absorb some of it and, and, and it’s been valuable. But we love, I’m extremely passionate in this area of design sprints and always up for chatting further whether it’s having a coffee with someone or talking on a podcast obviously or, or our Meetup group.
So we do run a free monthly meetup called Design Sprint Ireland is the name of the meetup group. So it’s sponsored by Irish life so if anybody is interested in learning more in this process. Do pop along, we have free monthly meetups and we’re eager to meet more people who are passionate in this industry and in this space.
And we’re big advocates and are trying to really create a community around this process. And maybe that’s where it comes in as well as how do we make this possible for startups who are trying to test out some of their ideas but don’t have adequate funding. We’re always trying to help the startup ecosystem.
And I love being involved with startups and entrepreneurs because you guys are changing the world all the time and an incredible to have so many in Ireland and so many people like yourself, who are really out there trying to make a difference. And I feel with this meetup group, maybe this is a case where we can also help some of those startups to try to learn more in the process and maybe then run some sprints for these startups as well.
And it’s a great way for aspiring facilitators to learn the trade as well. So something to think about and we’d love to have any listener and add in one of our meetup events. And if there have any good stories to tell around this design sprint process, we’re always looking for more speakers too.
Dave: Great! How can people reach you?
Rohan: So you can reach me on LinkedIn Rohan Perera. You can email me if you look at leandisruptor.com is our website so you can email me at [email protected] and you can always see me floating around. I’m always there at the meetups obviously and usually at a lot of events around Dublin.
I’m very part of the ecosystem here. And outside of Dublin as well, if anybody is listening from all over Ireland, we’re always traveling around running sprints and cork or go away. I was even up in Donegal recently and all around the country. So it’s it’s great to see people actively looking to learn more about this process and happy to chat or engage with anybody who wants to know more.
Dave: Awesome. So if you are out there, and you have access to someone at an accelerator or a pre-accelerator, talk to him about design sprints. And how they might help their startups with that. I think that’s probably the best thing that could happen. So Excellent. Well, thanks so much for joining us.
Rohan: Yeah, thank you. It’s been a pleasure speaking with you, Dave. And happy to be here with you. So thank you.
Dave: Yeah, this was brilliant and thank you all for listening.
Until next time, remember any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.