The Illusion of Design Sprints During a Global Pandemic

Since 2015, I’ve run over 30 design sprints. I’ve run design sprints at an agency for clients. I’ve run design sprints with a small team at a lean startup. I’ve run design sprints in well-funded and large-scale ventures. And recently, I have been running remote design sprints at Facebook as a product design manager.

And I have a secret. Every time I run a design sprint, especially these days, I am playing head games with the participants.

Now, if you don’t know, a design sprint is an intensive, highly structured five-day innovation cycle developed by Google Ventures. Product teams come together to tackle a specific problem and come out the other side with a solution and, hopefully, a prototype to validate it. It’s an insanely fabulous and powerful way to jump-start ideas and get them into the market.

So how am I tricking people? Because when I gather designers, product managers, researchers, and engineers together for a sprint while they work remotely from home, they attend under the guises of a) following the typical Google Sprint workshop methodology and b) purporting to “make a product.” So, if we’re not gathering for a design sprint and we’re not getting together to prototype a product, what are we doing?

We’re connecting with each other at a time when everything is forcing us to disconnect.

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