10 Design Sprint Hacks to Level Up Your Sprint

10 ultimate Design Sprint hacks that will take your Sprint game to the next level. Make your Sprint less stressful and more successful.

So you’re ready to run your Sprint. You’ve got the whiteboard markers in check, time timers ready and post-its neatly stacked. You’ve read and re-read the book, checked out every single article you could find on Medium, maybe even ran a few Sprints on your own already… And while you’re following all the instructions to the T,  it’s still not perfect: a bit too stressful, a tad too hectic. You feel like you could up your game, make your Design Sprints even better, give them a pinch of that little extra somethin’.

Well, today is your lucky day, because we’re going to tell you how to do exactly just that.

It so happens, that we at AJ&Smart are IN LOVE with optimizing the way things work and we’re never satisfied with the status quo. After doing well over 200 Sprints we’ve put together a list of the ultimate Design Sprint hacks and techniques to make your sprint less stressful and more successful.

Without further ado, let’s dive right into it…

Design Sprint hack #1: Make the space as comfortable as possible

Design Sprint hack

The Sprint process stretches over 4 entire days, and all activities take place in one room. Setting that space up the right way is essential to enable the team to do their best work. A few things we like to do to make the team feel motivated and cozy throughout the entire Sprint are:

  • Giving them slippers
  • Bringing in some bean bags
  • Ensuring the room has enough natural lighting (this is a BIG one. We’ve tried working in dark dungeons and the energy levels dips were dramatic)

Hack #2: Go offsite if you can

Trust us on this one, even if you reserve a room and tell the whole department to not disturb..they will. Avoid that by conveniently vanishing from the office territory. Sneaky, we know.

Hack #3: Time your snacks

Design Sprint hack

During a Design Sprint, the days are going to be very motivating, but also very hands-on, energy intensive and long. You and the team will be doing a lot of work and for the outcomes to be the best you have to keep the energy levels consistent.

You’ve probably read in the Sprint book that providing snacks is a good way to ensure your team has enough energy to power through the week.

We take that Design Sprint hack to the next level by timing our snacks. Nothing ruins the spirits quite like a sugar-crash in the early hours of the Sprint. Avoid the dips of energy by timing the snacks wisely: nuts in the morning, chocolate in the afternoon.

Hack #4: Have a nice Design Sprint playlist ready.

Not just to show off your moves (though that is nice as well), but to create the right energy and setting. Some of the exercises in the Sprint might feel unnatural and you’re going to be doing them in silence. Make it a little less awkward by tuning in to a nice playlist. Trust us, it will make a BIG difference in your Sprint.

Not sure which tracks to choose? We prefer a soundtrack that’s non-interruptive, like this one we’ve created.

Hack #5: Dress comfortably (even if you have a dress code in the company)

Design Sprint hack

If you follow AJ&Smart on any Social Media channel you see that we almost never wear formal clothes. That’s not just because we like to be the cool Berlin kids, but also because Design Sprints and suits don’t fit well together.

You are going to be moving around a lot, sitting on beanbags, walking around, maybe even be crouched on the ground…You really don’t want to be in a pantsuit for all those activities.

Want to learn more about the Design Sprint? Join Facilitator Club and connect with experts in the field

Hack #6: Encourage the Sprint team

Design Sprint hack

Design Sprints are not a normal way of working, things are happening very fast and activities might not feel very natural. Let your team know about that upfront so you don’t catch them off guard. Encourage them to trust the process and explain that they don’t have to hope for epiphanies and inspiration.

More importantly: constantly cheer them on during the Sprint.

As Jake Knapp, the creator of the Sprint puts it:
“I  like to tell people that we’re doing great.”
“We’re right on schedule.”
“You guys are doing awesome!”

“That’s the kind of thing you would hear me say a bunch in a sprint. I’ll say we’re on schedule even if we’re not on schedule because the team doesn’t need to know that, I’ll figure it out. I’ll crunch and move things around if I need to. But people should feel like the facilitator is feeling good about how things are going. “

Hack #7: Set the expectations for the Design Sprint from the start

Design Sprint hack

This is a BIG one. Let your team know exactly what you’re going to be doing for the next 4 days, why you do it and how the activities will unfold. Here’s a pitch Jake Knapp gives before he starts facilitating:

“This week we’re going to run a Design Sprint. It’s a way to try to come up with a prototype and test it in one week. By Thursday we’re going to show the prototype to our target customers. In order to get that done, we will follow certain steps and checklists, and I will be facilitating us through these steps.

Sometimes it is going to feel like we’re going too fast but I want you to keep in mind that we’re not trying to get things perfect or right this week. We’re just trying to get to a prototype that’s tested.

One of the key ways to accomplish this is not trying to be perfect, not trying to solve the whole thing. We’re going to pick a single moment to simulate and we’re only going to pick one kind of target customer.

So this week you’ll have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable: uncomfortably fast, uncomfortably imperfect and uncomfortably incomplete. But by doing this we’re actually going to make radical progress. And by next week after we’ve run this test we’ll have a much better sense of whether we’re on the right track.”

Say this, thank Jake later.

Related: 11 Design Sprint questions answered by Jake Knapp

Hack #8: Use this fail-proof formula for clear instructions

Design Sprint hack

At risk of repeating ourselves over and over: activities in Sprint are not what you’re used to doing in your daily working life. Naturally, you’re going to have to explain them to the team.  Use this formula to make sure everyone gets it, and that everyone is on the same page.

First, tell people what they’re going to do in one line. Don’t use too many words.

Then tell people why they’re going to do this. This is especially important for exercises that might feel ambiguous. You want the team to understand why they are doing what they’re doing.

Third,  tell the team how to do the exercise in very simple terms. Show them a picture of what it looks like. Tell them step by step how they’re going to do it.

Following these steps will help you improve the efficiency of your Sprints and take the team along in a really smooth way.

Hack #9: Say important things 3 times

Design Sprint hack

This Design Sprint hack is especially useful if you’re facilitating a sprint with a big group of people. We’re speaking from experience when we say: the first time you say something, just about 50 percent of the people listen or understand what you said.

The second time around, about 75 percent of people probably understood what you said and probably heard you.

The third time is when you’re going to get everyone and everyone’s going to acknowledge the information you shared.

Hack #10: Know your ways around post-its

Design Sprint hack

Post-its are the cheese to the Design Sprint macaroni. You’re going to be using LOTS of them (our latest count was 600 in one Sprint).

What that really means is that you have to be efficient with them. Otherwise, there’s a lot of time-wasting potential there. We recommend you watch these two videos to avoid the post-its madness:

This concludes our list of ultimate Design Sprint hacks that we firmly believe will make your sprint smoother, more enjoyable and just overall better. Try them out and let us know how it goes in the comments below. Or have you developed some hacks of your own? Do share it as well (we love to chat ‘bout Sprints).

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