Google Ventures Design Sprint: Day Two (Diverge)

This is a series of blog posts detailing our experiments with the Google Ventures design sprint for rapid prototyping. Learn more about it here, and day one (understand) here.

Day two of the product design sprint is titled “diverge”.

Now that our team fully understood the product and problems, we split the group up to generate as many solutions as possible. As the Google Ventures blog describes it: “Remember in the Legend of Zelda how the map would light up rooms you had visited as you explored the dungeon? That’s what you’re doing on day two: illuminating all of the possible paths.”

On day one our team had fully examined the product, user, and competitive landscape. We had agreed on the basic MVP (minimum viable product) user stories for the two primary users.

We started by setting up a “How Might We” section on the whiteboard. This addressed questions and discussions that weren’t necessary for the MVP but would need to be considered down the road. This made it easier to put aside non-essential conversations and avoid being sidetracked.

We spent 10 minutes examining our user stories from day one. We chose to initially focus on the the most complex of the two user stories.

Google Ventures Design Sprint day 2

To “divide and conquer” we broke down the story into four sections and assigned two people per section. Everyone was to work individually without collaborating or consulting with other team members. The goal was to avoid overlap of ideas or influence from others.

We were given 10 minutes to “brain dump”: jot down as many notes as possible on solutions, features, ideas, and questions. These notes were for our individual use only.

The next brainstorming step in the google process is called “crazy eights”, derived from the 685 exercise by Brynn Evans. We were instructed to fold a piece of paper into eight sections and sketch out a solution on each section. This step was only allocated 5 minutes, forcing us to work quickly. The sketches were meant to be an extension of the “brain dump” and not be shared with anyone else.

This process was the most challenging so far. Most of us were not used to generating ideas and drawing so quickly. Most of the team completed two or three sketches in the five-minute timeframe. We agreed that more practice with this method would be valuable, and that we had tackled too large of a problem. In future we would break it down into smaller pieces of the workflow.

Google Ventures Design Sprint Day 2

Now that our ideas were down on paper we moved into the storyboard phase. We were given 20 minutes to wireframe our assigned section of the user story. We used 8.5x11 pieces of printer paper with three sticky notes per page. In each sticky note we wireframed a feature, section, or idea for our section of the user story.

When our 20 minutes was up, the team put their storyboards on the wall with sticky-tac, museum-style. The storyboards were left anonymous. The sticky notes were helpful in breaking down ideas and features into distinct sections.

Once the storyboards were on the wall, each team member was given a sheet of dot stickers to be used for voting. With two different storyboards per section, this gave a number of options and ideas to chose between in each section. Everyone chose the best ideas by anonymously placing a sticker next to their favourites.

Google Ventures Design Sprint Day 2

The concentration of voting stickers created a “heat map” of the best ideas. The anonymous storyboards and voting ensured that the best ideas emerged without bias. We agreed that this was one of our favourite methods within the design sprint so far.

Once the voting had concluded and we had determined the best ideas, we went through each storyboard and revealed the creator. We spent 3 minutes on each concept discussing what we liked and what was missing or could be changed.

The Google Ventures design sprint recommended conducting a “super vote” at this stage, where the product owners are given red voting stickers that override the group votes. In our case we felt that there were clear enough preferences and not enough conflicting choices to require a super vote. We agreed that a super vote would be more effective when there were more competing ideas and concepts. Focusing on a smaller portion of the workflow next time would make this possible.

Our session was cut short when we ran out of time at the end of two hours. This was by far the most exhausting day yet, as we had all been engaged in idea generation and decision making the entire time.

Google Ventures Design Sprint day 2

The methods we practiced in the “diverge” day were extremely valuable. The division of the user story generated more ideas than would have been created in a group collaboration. Anonymous storyboards and voting allowed a meritocracy where the best ideas emerged without bias or peer influence. Often the loudest voice in the room or the most senior position overrides other decision makers. With this process we felt that every voice was heard and that we were all able to contribute and participate.

We agreed that in future sprints we would need to break the workflow down into even smaller sections. Our challenges with the “crazy eights” process indicated that we were focusing on too many problems at once. Choosing a smaller point of focus would also allow us to assign more people per problem, improving the variety of ideas and usefulness of voting.

Follow us on our next blog post as we tackle day three: decide.

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