Lightning demos are supposed to help everyone get their creative juices flowing before they start to sketch. The right inspiration can be the catalyst for insightful ideas.
However, lightning demos can easily go off the rails. Sometimes people show inspiration that is irrelevant to the problem being solved. Sometimes people only show references from competitors, which isn't inspiring since everyone has likely already seen it. Sometimes people have too many demos, and what was supposed to be a quick inspiration session takes hours.
Some people just love being in the know. They like discovering the latest innovations, so a session where they get to show off cool products is a dream come true. It can be hard for these people to rein in their enthusiasm and just show one relevant demo, rather than a whole slew of awesome but less relevant products.
On the other hand, some people might not be super into tech. They might not explore tech blogs, read up on the latest design trends, or have a bunch of cool new apps on their phone. When you ask them to come up with inspiration, they tend to resort to what they already know, such as competitor products or products that might not be relevant.
We typically follow a set structure for lightning demos — everyone looks at inspiration for 15 minutes, makes notes for 1-2 demos, and then talks about 1 big idea and 2 small ideas that they like per demo. This isn't a discussion, so there's no critiquing whether demos are good or feasible, and we always move on once each demo is done.
This structure helps us finish lightning demos in the set time without an endless discussion. Otherwise some people will always want to share dozens of demos or dozens of ideas for each demo.
It's also important to set the right expectations before people choose their demos. Remind the team to look for references that are relevant to the sprint's How Might We questions, sprint questions, and chosen section of the user journey. You should also remind people to go broad, rather than getting stuck in their own industry. Inspiration often lies in unexpected places!
You've gone through a whole day of workshops, created Post-it notes galore, mapped out the user journey, and it's finally time to start sketching solutions.
Everyone's psyched to get their ideas on paper, but the session comes to a crashing halt when someone refuses to sketch. "I'm no good at drawing", they insist, no matter how simple the sketching exercise.
There are two main situations when people will push back against sketching.
One is with very senior stakeholders. They're used to laying down a vision and peacing out, rather than being hands-on and participating in a project. Since other people usually map out little details for them, they can find sketching uncomfortable.
Another case is when the team doesn't think sketching is their job. After all, they've brought in a design studio to run the sprint. Isn't it the designers' job to sketch? If we design everything, they argue, what are we paying you for?
Start by de-stressing the situation. People shouldn't be worried about whether they can draw well enough. Sketching in a sprint isn't about creating a perfect drawing or showing off artistic skills. It's just a way to make ideas tangible.
Everyone in the sprint will have great ideas in their head. They may prefer to communicate their ideas verbally — i.e. lay down a vision and expect the designers to execute it. But verbal solutions are never crystal clear, as senior stakeholders especially should know. There's always a huge gap between what someone sees in their head and what they can communicate to others.
The sketching process is the best way to show an idea so others can appreciate and critique it. Even rough drawings help people minimise the gap between their vision and how it's executed in a quick workshop. Explaining sketching in terms of ideas, rather than perfect designs, can help make the process feel less intimidating.
🤩 Pro Tip:
If senior stakeholders still object, remind them that sketching is actually the best use of their time. If they can be hands-on and go deep into important details for just 3 days, they can be completely hands-off after that. All the key details will have already been defined, leaving them free to focus on other things.
In a Design Sprint, people are supposed to sketch on paper. They then pin their paper up on a wall for an in-person sprint, or they take a photo and add it to a virtual board for remote sprints.
Even though pen and paper is the default, there will always be someone who insists on using their tablet. They'll insist it's no different than paper, and you just can't persuade them otherwise.
Everything lives on devices these days, so it can feel weird to reach for a pad of paper. That's especially true for people with a fancy new tablet, stylus and drawing apps all within arm's reach. Just like typing surpassed longhand writing, many people assume that digital drawing is just plain better than the old-school pen and paper.
There are three main reasons why it's important to firmly say no to digital sketching.
First, devices bring distractions. The moment someone gets out their iPad, they'll be inundated with notifications from their texts, email, Slack, social media and so on. Do Not Disturb can help, but it's not perfect, and it doesn't stop people from opening other apps when they're supposed to be sketching.
Second, ideas flow easier and quicker on paper. It's rooted in our childhood, when we created a steady, effortless flow of scribbles and drawings. Quick-and-dirty sketching is just easier on paper — at least, we've never seen otherwise.
Third, sprints are easier when everyone does the same thing. Logistics tend to go for a toss when people aren't using the same tools or following the same processes. Even if you're sprinting remotely, it's simplest for everyone to use paper, take a photo of their sketch, and upload it on Miro, Mural or whatever digital board you're using.
🤩 Pro Tip:
Yes, pro designers may be able to sketch just as well on a tablet, but your sprint probably isn't full of pros. Even if you have an expert designer in the sprint, don't make an exception for them. That just opens the door for more people to argue their case. Hold firm and insist that everyone use paper.
You've spent the last day aligning on which problems to address. But when it came time to sketch, people went completely off track. Rather than focusing on the same area of the user journey, different sketches are solving different areas — e.g. onboarding, user engagement, support, etc.
When this happens, it can be very difficult to compare all the solutions, put them together, and create something meaningful.
It's easy for a facilitator to keep track of a sprint's problem and focus areas. After all, it's their job. But it's much easier for participants to end up distracted or forgetful after lots of exercises and sprint workshops.
The whole idea behind a Design Sprint is to start with alignment, generate a ton of ideas, then validate the chosen solution. Monday, which focuses on alignment, aims to help a team figure out which opportunities they want to address. All of the exercises (How Might We's, long-term goal, sprint questions, map, etc.) help everyone choose and focus on a single problem.
That sets the stage for Tuesday, when the sketching process generates tons of solutions for that problem. When sketches don't actually address the problem at hand, all of the previous day's work goes for a toss.
To avoid this, it's important for facilitators to give the right instructions before and during sketching. Remind the team again and again about the HMWs, sprint questions and user journey. It's especially important to give this reminder in the first 15 minutes of sketching. If someone's initial notes and doodles are tackling the right problem, it'll be easier for them to stay on track through their final sketch.
Keep these 28 tips handy
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