How to Use Design Sprints to Spark a UX Culture

Paul Boag

This week on the Boagworld Show we are joined by Jonathan Courtney an expert in Design Sprints to talk about how they can be used to engage stakeholders and kick-start cultural change.

This week’s show is sponsored by Balsamiq and FullStory.


Paul Boag: This week one the Boag World Show, we're joined by Jonathan Courtney. An expert in Design Sprints, to talk about they can be used to engage stakeholders and kickstart cultural change. This week's podcast is sponsored by Fullstory and Balsamiq.

Paul Boag: Hello and welcome to the Boag World Show, the podcast about all aspects of digital design, development and strategy. My name is Paul Boag, and on this week's show we have as normal, the wonderful Marcus Lillington. Hello, Marcus.

Marcus Lillington: Hello, Paul. How are you on this-

Paul Boag: I'm all right.

Marcus Lillington: … lovely Summer's evening?

Paul Boag: Oh, it's gorgeous, isn't it?

Marcus Lillington: Yeah.

Paul Boag: Absolutely stunning.

Marcus Lillington: We shouldn't be stuck inside recording, should we? We should be something or something. I don't know.

Paul Boag: I have to say I don't feel like I'm stuck inside, because-

Marcus Lillington: You got the doors open, yeah.

Paul Boag: I've got my big bay window, bi-fold doors open. And it's all lovely and super, and smashing, and life is good.

Marcus Lillington: Lovely. I can't hear any birds tweeting though.

Paul Boag: Well, that's because I have such a good mic. And have got such a professional setup here that I've avoided all those kinds of problems.

Marcus Lillington: Okay.

Paul Boag: So yes, how are you?

Marcus Lillington: I'm fine. I got a busy week coming up. I'm going to be speaking at a conference later in the week.

Paul Boag: Oh, what are you speaking on?

Marcus Lillington: I'm speaking on … I'm speaking with Jane from Birkbeck University about the user journey mapping we did with them. And I'll talk about the user journey mapping and why user journey mapping is a good thing. And then she'll talk about how the actual work that we did with them benefited them. So it's a … It's called Content Ed. So education related content-

Paul Boag: Yes.

Marcus Lillington: … things. Yeah.

Paul Boag: Yeah. So I was quite envious you were at that one. That looked very good. Looked like a good conference.

Marcus Lillington: I will report back.

Paul Boag: Okay. Whether it gets your approval.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah, I'm-

Paul Boag: You can't go along to it and smoosh everyone, then come back on the podcast and slag it off. That wouldn't be very PC, wouldn't it?

Marcus Lillington: You know that's not gonna happen. I'm gonna say I like everything and everyone. So [crosstalk 00:02:23]-

Paul Boag: That is true.

Marcus Lillington: "On his grave. Brilliant." But Chris would've done this one, 'cause I didn't do the work with Birkbeck. So I'm sort of having to stand in. There's a little bit of a story here, 'cause obviously you and Chris worked with the Birkbeck people-

Paul Boag: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Marcus Lillington: … on their particular project. And so I had nothing to do with it. Didn't really know the people at all. Didn't know the project. And Chris was … Chris and Jane were talking, "Wouldn't it be great if we could do a little story? Do it, IWMW." And then that kind of what came out of that is the Content Ed one and the Engaging Networks conference.

Paul Boag: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Marcus Lillington: Chris was meant to do the Engaging Networks one.

Paul Boag: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Marcus Lillington: And then he suddenly had to go for a funeral, so I had to jump two days before.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: This one, he's selfishly gone on holiday. So I'm imagining that some horrible illness will befall him for IWMW, and I'll be speaking at that one as well.

Paul Boag: He is terrible. He always comes up with a way of getting out of it. It's quite remarkable.

Marcus Lillington: He really doesn't like doing public speaking. I mean neither do I particularly. But he likes it a lot less than I do. So I recon it's all just excuses.

Paul Boag: I do as well. I couldn't agree more. In fact, I would go as far as pretty much guaranteeing that it's excuses. But to be honest, I can't blame him, because I don't understand why anybody who is afraid of public speaking ever does it. I've said this before that for me it's not something that worries me at all. And it's when I was first chairing a conference and I was sitting at the back of stage. And it was the first time it really even occurred to me that people didn't really like public speaking. And there were all these people … Well, I knew some people didn't.

Paul Boag: But the idea that there were people that hated it, but would do it anyway just hadn't entered my mind. And sitting at the back of this stage and seeing all these people so nervous, and then go on and do an amazing job and being brilliant speakers. And I was thinking, "I wouldn't do it. If I got nervous about it, I just wouldn't do it." Simple as that.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah, there's two sides to that though. One, in our case we feel that we really ought to.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: Kinda wave our flag a bit more than we are. And that kind of forces you to do it. But there's that kind of at the end of a performance, it might be music, it might be in a play, whatever. If you are really nervous beforehand, I think you get even more of a buzz afterwards.

Paul Boag: Yeah. That's true.

Marcus Lillington: I do get that. So if you do it once and it came of well, then you want to repeat that feeling, I guess.

Paul Boag: Yeah. Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: But I still don't really wanna do it. But I'll do it. I'll do me bit.

Paul Boag: Yeah. And you're fine with it as well. You do a perfectly adequate job in the times that I've seen you do it. Actually I say that [crosstalk 00:05:08]-

Marcus Lillington: Thanks for [crosstalk 00:05:09], "Adequate." That's [inaudible 00:05:10] words, isn't it?

Paul Boag: Do you know, I don't like to lie, Marcus. Do you know, I honestly … The real truth is, I can't remember ever seeing you do public speaking. I must've.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah, it's a fairly rare thing. But I have done it every now and then.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah, now my mind's gone blank. I've never done it every before. This is the first time apart from when did it a couple of moths ago.

Paul Boag: Well, of course the other thing is, is when I was at Headscape, I always got lump … Well, not lumped up with it, 'cause I didn't mind doing it.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah.

Paul Boag: So I would've done most of them.

Marcus Lillington: Exactly.

Paul Boag: I'm sure you'll be brilliant. I'm every confidence in you, Marcus.

Marcus Lillington: Thank you, Paul.

Paul Boag: I bet a very kinda relaxed, chilled out kinda speaker, aren't you?

Marcus Lillington: Yeah. Totally. I wanna try and make them laugh, which sometimes I can manage.

Paul Boag: Yeah. It [inaudible 00:05:57]. But that's a very unpredictable one. That depends as much on the audience and the venue, and who speaks before you.

Marcus Lillington: Exactly.

Paul Boag: It's very hard to get them going if it's the wrong kind of atmosphere.

Marcus Lillington: Lots of stony faces in the audience.

Paul Boag: Well, it's not ever stony. Sometimes it's just kind of, "I'm exhausted. There have been too many talks. My brain is turned to mush."

Marcus Lillington: Yeah.

Paul Boag: That's a quite a common one.

Marcus Lillington: I have got their after lunch slot, but it's on day one. So hopefully it won't be too bad.

Paul Boag: Oh, not too bad.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah.

Paul Boag: No. That's all right.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah.

Paul Boag: So what's your thought for the day. Is it about customer journey mapping by the chance?

Marcus Lillington: It's not actually, no.

Paul Boag: Oh.

Marcus Lillington: I have to confess to have being a little bit buys, and therefore I've been a bit lazy. And I've dug out an old post. But it's a-

Paul Boag: That's all right.

Marcus Lillington: … subject that I kinda deliberately wrote about, because it's something that's a little bit contentious. So I've-

Paul Boag: And also, how many times have I been going on on this podcast and elsewhere about how important it is to reuse content.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah.

Paul Boag: That's good marketing. Good content marketing is the idea of reusing stuff again and again. So absolutely go for it. That's why I thought you're gonna be talking about customer journey mapping for the same reason.

Marcus Lillington: Well, we said that. But I didn't think of that, Paul.

Paul Boag: No, you could use it after you've done the Content Ed.

Marcus Lillington: I had a little … Yeah, afterwards. Yes. An excuse to talk about it again. But anyway, no. This one is, the title of the post is, Are Carousels, or sliders or galleries, or whatever you wanna call them, That Bad Really?

Paul Boag: Oh, that's a good one.

Marcus Lillington: Right. So I just thought, it's been years of us saying to clients, "You really don't want these things for these various reasons." But nine … I'm gonna exaggerate to make the point. But nine out of ten websites have them.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: So I'm thinking, well therefore, the rest of the world seems to like them. So I thought, "Well, let's have a little investigative look into what they're all about, and are they that bad really?" So as I said, I spent years saying to our would-be clients or actual clients that they're not a good thing. Studies show that people don't like any things that animate and annoys them. They don't go past the first slide, or they don't interact with the first slides that won't bother having more than one. Et cetera, et cetera.

Marcus Lillington: And do you really want to be having this tool on your homepage that's just really for kind of internal politics, and make sure that everybody who comes to you says, "I want my stuff on the homepage," when we can hide it in the carousel. And that was the first thing that I thought, "Well, why isn't that a thing? Why isn't dealing with internal politics necessarily a thing that you might want to deal with on your homepage?"

Marcus Lillington: If a carousel can provide a method to hide that content, then that's a legitimate reason to have one maybe. Obviously it shouldn't be distracting from your main objectives for your website. But if it does that job and it does it quietly, then why is that a bad thing? Was my first point.

Paul Boag: Yeah. It's taking … What you're doing there is taking a pragmatic view of it.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah.

Paul Boag: And that's why carousels are so common, because it's a pragmatic easy problem to an internal politics. But if I may be Devil's advocate [crosstalk 00:09:24], with you're saying there. But it's papering over a problem. It's not actually fixing the internal politics problem, is it? It's just covering it up. And it's covering up potentially at the cost of the user … To the user.

Marcus Lillington: Yes.

Paul Boag: Of a distraction or an annoyance, or whatever.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah. The large caveat there was that it mustn't get in the way of other more important objectives.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: But it's still a thing.

Paul Boag: Yeah, yeah. But-

Marcus Lillington: So my next point was, are these things becoming a convention? Because of their prevalence, do users go to … And I don't know the answer to this, but these are potential questions. Do users go to a website and say, "I'm on an e-commerce site. This is where I'll find the latest offers."

Marcus Lillington: Or, "I'm on a company website. This is where I'll find the latest news. I'm on a tourism site, this is where I'll find the lovey photos." Now, if that's true, then should we not be providing these tools that people are expecting to find this particular content in?

Paul Boag: Uh-huh. Yeah. Yeah. I haven't got the answer to that one because I don't know … Like you said, I don't know he that is true. I can understand the logic of it however. I'm resisting the urge to hit your head repeatedly against the table.

Marcus Lillington: I'll move on. I'll move on-

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: … to an actual examples. I mentioned tourism sites-

Paul Boag: Okay.

Marcus Lillington: … and pictures, right?

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: So let's say I'm thinking on going on a once in a lifetime trip to somewhere like New Zealand. The other side of the world.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: And I'm gonna be there for two months or whatever, and it's gonna be fabulous. All that kind of thing.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: Now of course, anyone doing that is going to carry out some research online.

Paul Boag: Yes.

Marcus Lillington: And I would certainly want to see some of the pictures of the wonderful scenery.

Paul Boag: Yes.

Marcus Lillington: Now, I could obviously visit a site that's got a big gallery of gorgeous images. But A, I'd probably have to link to that from the homepage that I've just landed on from Google. And or, scroll down that page to see all the images. Neither of which is a big deal. I'm not saying that this is a huge usability issue. But what if it's just there in front of me, animating these wonderful images one after another? I don't have to do anything.

Marcus Lillington: So surely that's a better user experience than not having a carousel.

Paul Boag: That one I have to agree with. But then I wouldn't call that a carousel.

Marcus Lillington: It's a gallery, isn't it?

Paul Boag: It's a gallery or a slideshow. A carousel in my head is information that has been … Well, I suppose you could argue that a photograph is information. Yeah, we're getting into the realms of semantics a little bit there.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah.

Paul Boag: But you're entirely right. That's a perfectly valid use of carousel. But don't you think this is like all things that there is no definitive answer to this stuff. You can't ever say … I'm just trying to think of the thing that I most hate on the internet. It would've Captcha at one point. But now it's op-up overlays, right?

Marcus Lillington: Well, or also auto-playing videos.

Paul Boag: Or auto-playing videos. You can't say with any of those things that they're always, always, always bad.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah. And I think that's my whole point here.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: It's like sometimes we should be considering these things as valid additions to a website. And I think that they've just got such a bad press that people just auto … People like us automatically say, "Well, we shouldn't have those." That was the whole point here.

Paul Boag: Well, I can go back being the old wrinkly that I am, and yourself-

Marcus Lillington: Indeed.

Paul Boag: … as equally old and wrinkly. I can remember when animated gifs were always bad. There was never an occasion where you would use an [inaudible 00:13:05]. And even better example, I remember going to @media 2005, and having this young upstart, Jeremy Keith-

Marcus Lillington: Jeremy. Yeah.

Paul Boag: … stand on the stage and say JavaScript was a good thing. And at the time, that was like blasphemy.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah.

Paul Boag: You know, JavaScript was what did pop-up overlays actually.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah.

Paul Boag: [inaudible 00:13:28] and those, and annoying things. You didn't use JavaScript.

Marcus Lillington: But it was also all added inline as well.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: And he was making the point that if you deal with it properly, then it's a fabulous tool.

Paul Boag: But that's exactly the point that you're making here.

Marcus Lillington: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Paul Boag: That if you use it properly, it's a fabulous tool. And that's the true, true, whether you're talking about a carousel, captcha. I don't know. I can't think of a good situation for captcha. But with any of these things, there's a time and a place.

Marcus Lillington: Absolutely.

Paul Boag: That's what we're trying to say. Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: And as long as you deal with all the accessibility issues and you make sure that as I've already said, you're not getting in the way of more important objectives for a site, then it might be something that is actually valid. So that's my thought for the day.

Paul Boag: Absolutely. That's a good one. I've enjoyed that one, Marcus.

Marcus Lillington: Cool.

Paul Boag: You got me quite enthusiastic. Not that I have any intentions of using a carousel.

Marcus Lillington: No, me neither.

Paul Boag: That's a lie. I've got a carousel on my site.

Marcus Lillington: Have you?

Paul Boag: I do. If you go to I have … It's got a load of photographs that people download of me for-

Marcus Lillington: Right. Right, right.

Paul Boag: … headshot type stuff that people need. So I use it there.

Marcus Lillington: There you go.

Paul Boag: Exactly. Right. Talking about things … Talking about carousels, here we go. This is gonna be a really dodgy link. Talking of carousels, one of the wonderful drag and drop tools you get in Balsamiq is the ability to drag in a carousel.

Marcus Lillington: Really?

Paul Boag: And in fact it has all of those kinds of UI components you could ever want from carousels to calendars, and everything in between. Wow. That is slick. Yes.

Marcus Lillington: You are such a pro, as I've said before.

Paul Boag: I know. So Balsamiq is supporting this season as always, wonderful that they are too. And as I've said many, many times before, it's one of the easiest, or it is the easiest in my opinion wireframing tool out there with this amazing bad … Bad? Sorry Balsamiq.

Marcus Lillington: "It's awful."

Paul Boag: Yeah. Freudian slip maybe? No, no. Not at all. It's the easiest to use wireframing tool with the lowest barrier of entry. I was trying to say, "Barrier," and it came out as, "Bad." That you can possibly get. Which means that anybody can use it. It's great for discussions, it's great for testing, it's great for iteration 'cause you could just throw stuff together really, really quickly.

Paul Boag: And because it's got all these UI components you just drag onto the screen. If you need a carousel, you drag a carousel on. So it's great for selling ideas to the team that you're working, without doing a lot of work. It's also great for putting together a quick prototype you wanna test with. So if you're a little bit unsure of an idea, you don't spend hours mock up in sketch. You just throw something together in Balsamiq and put in front of users.

Paul Boag: Maybe you got a few different ideas of different directions you could go. You can easily throw all of them together. And so it kind of competes with pen and paper. It's not there to compete with Invision or Marvel or any of these prototyping tools. It is a wireframing tool for creating very quick and dirty. And it actually looks shit, and intentionally so. It's made to look like it's been drawn. And the reason that they've done it like that is because they know … Well, it sets stakeholders' expectations about what they're looking at.

Paul Boag: They don't think they're looking at a final design. But they've also found when it comes to usability testing, if they make it look like pen and paper, if they make it look very basic, they get more honest feedback. Because people don't go, "Oh well, you know, you've obviously put a lot of work into that. I better be nice about it." You know?

Marcus Lillington: Yeah.

Paul Boag: So really interesting tool. Really well thought through. The whole mindset that they've got behind it of making something that's very low barrier to entry, that's really quick and easy, that is fast and furious. I just think it's brilliant. They should use that as their scrap line. I'm sure no one's used it before.

Paul Boag: Okay. You get a 30 day free trial. If you then decide you wanna sign up, so you get to the end of your 30 day free trial. You obviously go, "This is amazing. I wanna use it." You can then when you're putting your billing information on the rest of it, if you put in the code balsamiqboag … Sorry. Boagworld. That was told code I just gave you. Boagworld, then you'll get three months for free.

Paul Boag: So you get 30 days for free, and then another three months for free. And then you'll start being billed. You can go to sign up and give it a go, and all of the rest of those good things at And try it for yourself. It's simple, it's easy. And it's in my opinion, the best wireframing tool out there.

Paul Boag: All right. So we come now to our interview for today, which is a slight departure from the theme of the season, thought not really kind of, maybe. So we've got a gentleman joining us called Jonathan Courtney, or Curtney. Courtney? Courtney. I don't know how my accent's working today. Whether I'm going more West Country or less.

Marcus Lillington: "Courtney."

Paul Boag: "Courtney." Jonathan Courtney who is an expert in design sprints. So he's done quite an incredible thing. He runs an agency, and as you'll hear from him in a minute, they decided to focus their entire agency on just running Design Sprints. They're that big a believer in them.

Paul Boag: And so I thought, well let's get him on the show. Hear a little bit about his attitude towards Design Sprints. Because Design Sprints is something that I found very interesting. If I'm honest, I've got some concerns about Design Sprints, which kind of I mentioned in the interview, but I'll come back to them afterwards as well. But on the other hand, I'm really quite excited about their potential for engaging stakeholders and maybe shifting culture a little bit.

Paul Boag: So it's a very interesting topic to me, so I was really excited to get Jonathan on the show. So let's listen to what he's gotta say, and then we'll have a little chate afterwards.

Paul Boag: So Jonathan, thank you for being on the show. It's really good to have you here today.

Jonathan C: Thanks for having me on here, Paul. I'm excited.

Paul Boag: Good stuff. So I think a great place to start, how I'm really starting with everybody is to get them to say a little bit about themselves and what it is that you do. So let's start with that, if that's okay?

Jonathan C: Oh man, I wish I had a lovely clean answer to that. But let's get ready for the ramble. So I mean my job title, I guess what my actual kind of day-to-day work is product strategy. So I'm going from company to company, helping them figure out what it is they should actually build in the first place. Helping them to figure out what those user problems actually translate into, in terms of a product. Helping their product teams actually work together in a way that actually makes sense.

Jonathan C: And essentially being a kind of creative problem-solver and firefighter for product teams, I would say. It's an awkward explanation, but it's the cleanest I can think of.

Paul Boag: That's the trouble these days. Our jobs have all become so complicated, aren't they? We're not always entirely sure what it is exactly we do, or at least to articulate it in a clean way.

Jonathan C: Totally.

Paul Boag: So give us an idea of some of the kinda clients that you work with. And also the type of … First of all, tell us about the clients you work with. Then I've got a followup question about where you're focusing as a business. But let's talk about your clients first.

Jonathan C: Right. So the client base is pretty broad in terms of the types of organizations we work with. It can be for example, the U.N. We worked with them on a couple of products over the last four years. We work with companies like Lego. We work with a lot of Silicon Valley startups. We also help train companies like Slack and Airbnb, and Google. So it's as broad as you can possibly imagine.

Paul Boag: Wow.

Jonathan C: Everything from the Silicon Valley startups, to very old large Fortune 500s and brands. So it's almost every type of company. Even the likes of McKinzie, and Bane and Company as well.

Paul Boag: Oh, crikey. So I mean, that then brings us on to the interesting thing about you as an agency. Because okay, you've got this very broad client base.

Jonathan C: Yeah.

Paul Boag: And most agencies specialize in some way. They either specialize in what they're delivering, or in the sector that they're aiming at. Now you do specialize in what you're delivering, you quite specifically so, isn't it? So tell us about that and how it came about.

Jonathan C: Yeah. So I mean, we are really really aggressively focused on Design Sprints, to the point that looking at us from the outside you might wonder if we do anything else. And honestly the answer is, 90% of our revenue if not, 95% is coming from running Design Sprints with our clients.

Jonathan C: How that happened, I think you'll kind of recognize this problem. We were I would say, like standard design agency. We were doing UX, UI web design and development up until two years ago. And it was … That was about four years into running the company. And I just started to get really sick of these projects. They would always start really interesting.

Jonathan C: We would start of with a really cool brand and a really cool project. But after about three months, there was always this kind of buildup of misunderstandings, misalignment, and things would just drag on and on, and on. And the projects would rather than having a really exciting ending and fireworks, they always sorta fade out.

Jonathan C: And the client would be fine. They would be like, "Yeah, great. Okay. Talk to you next time." But for us internally at AJ&Smart, it was just like, "This doesn't really feel like … It's not satisfying. We can also just go on freelance and we'd have the same experience." And around the same time as that, a lot of the startups we were working with, they couldn't really afford our big company budgets.

Jonathan C: And so we started breaking down our packages into smaller things. So basically a company would say, "Hey, we have 10K." And we would say, "Oh, okay. So that's maybe like a two day workshop. And we'll do something for you guys." And that's how it started organically inside in AJ&Smart. And around the same time, Jake Knapp, the guy who wrote Sprint, he started publishing articles on the Google Ventures website. I was getting really into them.

Jonathan C: I was like, "Oh my God. This is kind of confirming a lot of the things I think about the way I'd like to work." Then I met Jake in January 2016. I was a 100% convinced about Design Sprint. We decided to quit all of the projects that we were working on, even huge giant, half a million Euro projects to start fresh and just work with the Design Sprint.

Jonathan C: It was a horrible transition that lasted about eight months. And now I would say the best thing is that now projects start and end super satisfyingly. And we get to focus on the part of the projects we actually enjoy, which is the strategic starting points. And it's just … I don't know. I just love it.

Paul Boag: That's really interesting, 'cause that's a very narrow focus to the work that you do.

Jonathan C: Yeah.

Paul Boag: Just for people, there will be some people that actually don't know what Design Sprints are. So do you wanna give us the kind of elevator pitch of what they are. And in particular why you consider them so beneficial to your clients.

Jonathan C: Right. Maybe I should really quickly, just because one of the most common questions I get is like, "What's the difference between design thinking and the design sprint." I think I'll just really quickly lay that baseline-

Paul Boag: Sure

Jonathan C: … first before answering. So the Design Sprint is derived from a lot of the learnings from design thinking. So design thinking is sort of like a philosophy and a toolkit for innovation, for user centered design, for all of these sort of things. But it's very broad, and you can kind of pick and choose how you want to use it, and how you want to interpret a lot of the things that are in design thinking.

Jonathan C: The Design Sprint just takes a lot of the learnings from that and turns it into a step-by-step recipe. And it's a five day step-by-step recipe for starting with something super vague like, "Okay, we wanna make a new feature that helps people to onboard a lot easier." That could be the starting point on a Monday.

Jonathan C: And by the end of the week, you already have a really high fidelity prototype tested with real users. And you're going through a step-by-step process that it's kind of almost like foolproof. A foolproof way of testing ideas extremely quickly and aggressively. It's not like … It's almost a brute force approach, which causes a lot of people to kind of hate it.

Paul Boag: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jonathan C: But we really really enjoy using it. It's also not like a tool for everything. There's a lot of cases where it's not worth doing a Design Sprint, or where a Design Sprint is not enough. But for the kind of sweet spot, it's a really really great five day step-by-step system for testing products, or testing ideas.

Paul Boag: So that then raises the question of when you should do a Design Sprint. And kind of what you can expect to get out of it at the end. So can you kind of enlighten us a little bit on that?

Jonathan C: Sure. Yeah, like I said, there's kind of a sweet spot for running a design sprint. I can tell you first of all, when you shouldn't.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Jonathan C: I'll show you the two extremes when you should definitely not do it. When it's too small, is if you're just doing something related to pure UX. Let's say you're trying to … Maybe it's something focused on usability. Let's say we're talking about redesigning a navigation, or thinking about how a page can be laid out. Or fixing usability issues or anything related to anything that could fall under the kind of UX or UI umbrella. When that's a little bit too specific, I mean, you can use the design sprint for that, but it might not be worth blocking everyone's time for it. Because you need to block a pretty relatively big team.

Jonathan C: Too broad is then if you just say, "Hey, we wanna innovate. And that's the project is, we want to innovate and we want to create an innovative product." That's a little bit too broad. But the perfect types of projects that I find for the design sprint is when a team says, "Hey, we've got this product. But we need to dramatically increase the engagement of this product." That's something that you can use the design spring for to experiment with a lot of different ways of doing that.

Jonathan C: Or even a brand new product that doesn't exist where they say, "Hey look, we wanna create a digital banking app that focused on giving people smart insights. But we have no idea how that should look in the first place or what angle we should take with it." That's also a perfect starting point for design sprint, because you can really just try out a few directions extremely quickly and have something tangible in your hand within five days as a starting point for making decisions.

Paul Boag: I think that's the key, isn't it? It's a starting point for-

Jonathan C: Yes.

Paul Boag: … decision making. Because I mean, five days isn't very long in order-

Jonathan C: No.

Paul Boag: … to achieve a huge amount. Especially when you actually read the book on this, that really only one day is dedicated to full prototyping of-

Jonathan C: Yeah.

Paul Boag: … what you're gonna test.

Jonathan C: Yeah.

Paul Boag: So does that … Yeah. You talk about, you could do something like, "We've got this new product that we're thinking about taking to market." I mean, surely you have … That could be quite a complicated experience. Even something like an app that has many many screens to it, or whatever.

Jonathan C: Yeah.

Paul Boag: Yeah, how do you decide what to build and test?

Jonathan C: Well, the first four hours of the design sprint, on a Monday are all kind of revolving around finding a focus point, so that you're not doing everything. You draw the map and you kind of create a target on the map that you're gonna focus on. And often you're trying to focus on the point of the product where the user first finds out about it in the first few minutes of usage.

Jonathan C: So it's generally … I mean, generally what you're trying to find out is not whether this is a well designed product. You're trying to find out whether this is worth creating in the first place very often design sprint. So you don't need to create 50 screens. Although some times, to be honest, we've been … I think we've run 235 sprints at this point. And we have two super crazy good product teams. So some times the products are 50, 55 screens long.

Paul Boag: Wow.

Jonathan C: And all created in one day, just because the team is now so well oiled.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Jonathan C: So it is possible. But for normal teams, it's important to have a super super clear focus with. And we recommend 10 to 15 screens as kind of the amount you can get done in one day if you wanna have something relatively high quality and realistic. Because we wanna make sure that the prototype is as realistic as possible. And that it's not like a paper prototype or wire frames. Because we feel like it's harder to get real clear answers from users with those.

Paul Boag: So you talk about your product team. They are I presume, from your agency that you bring into the organization. But you're also gonna need-

Jonathan C: Yeah.

Paul Boag: … people from the organization as well.

Jonathan C: Yeah.

Paul Boag: So who do you tend to have in the room? How many people are we looking at?

Jonathan C: So in total, we want to have about seven people in the room. Three people from our side, four people from the client's side. It's rarely seven, because the client always sends a lot more people. But yeah, we try to keep it under 10. And what we have from the clients' side is usually the product manager. Well, it depends on the team's size, but I'll give you … The company's size. But I'll give you an average.

Jonathan C: Product manager, if possible, somebody who's from marketing. If possible, somebody who's from sales or business development. And then usually we wanna have a designer from their side as well who can bring a lot of the learnings in-house. If the company's small enough, we try to get the CEO in the room, or some of the vice-presidents as well, because in the end we wanna make sure that we're getting as much buy-in as possible.

Jonathan C: And honestly, the sprint is in my opinion one of the best ways to get as much alignment upfront as possible. So from our side then we have usually a lead facilitator who is usually a product strategist, and product designer. I guess a mixture of kind of UX and UI, but more heavy on the strategy side.

Jonathan C: Then we will have a UX designer who's then the person who's gonna really be the main prototyper. And we have a user researcher, and this is something we don't really mention to the clients on our website or anything. But they start one week before the sprint-

Paul Boag: Okay.

Jonathan C: … interviewing clients, interviewing the clients and gathering as much detail as we can before we start anything at all, so we have a kind of a head start.

Paul Boag: Yeah. Because you very much have to get up to speed as an agency one presumes. So yeah, that-

Jonathan C: Yeah.

Paul Boag: … makes time. I mean the thing that immediately sprung to my mind, especially when you said about getting a CEO or vice-president, or whatever in the room. It is, getting 20 minutes with these people could be hard some times, let alone five days. I mean, how the hell do you even begin to broach with anybody, especially within a larger more traditional organization? "We want you to block out five days in your calendar."

Jonathan C: Yeah, so this is actually … I'm super glad you asked that, because I think any of the people listening right now are gonna get a, and especially anybody who wants to sell the design sprint are gonna get a nice piece of information. We only ask that the important people from the client side are in the room with us on Monday and Tuesday.

Paul Boag: Right.

Jonathan C: And basically agents are my company and the guy who wrote Sprint, we've been updating the Sprint over the last two years to the point where now it's so efficient that you just need them in the room for two days, and then we take over for the next two days. So it's already down to four days in total for the new version of the design sprint.

Paul Boag: Oh, okay.

Jonathan C: And even then it is still difficult to get them in the room for two full days uninterrupted where we don't allow them to check their emails and stuff. And this is gonna sound weird, but one of the ways that we ensure that they stay in the room is that our price is high enough that they feel like it's important enough.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Jonathan C: We're not charging like what we would normally have been charging for design work. Were charging at a kind of consulting rate of … I mean, I don't know. I can also tell you for your listeners if you wanna know the actual how much-

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Jonathan C: … we charge for this.

Paul Boag: Go for it.

Jonathan C: So we're charging on average 50K per week.

Paul Boag: Okay.

Jonathan C: From our side. And that basically what the client gets then is the three people from AJ&Smart for four days, for 50K. So it's a premium price for the amount of days-

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Jonathan C: That are actually being worked on it.

Paul Boag: And is that Euros?

Jonathan C: That's Euros.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Jonathan C: Sorry, yeah. So I don't know what that is in [crosstalk 00:35:25]-

Paul Boag: No, neither do I. But at least people can look it up now, can they?

Jonathan C: £45 000 I think. I mean, we work with a lot of companies in Britain as well. And we just charge the same in Pounds actually. So we just charge £50 000.

Paul Boag: And that actually makes a huge amount of sense to me taking that kind of attitude towards it, because it is true. With senior management, they will take their whole experience a lot more seriously if they're paying a lot to do it.

Jonathan C: Absolutely.

Paul Boag: And it's also, it's quite a good way of gauging or helping them not only understand the importance of the process, but understanding the importance of the underlying principals. Things like design thinking, things like being user-centric in your approach.

Jonathan C: Yes.

Paul Boag: All of those, you're kind of upping the value of all of those things in perception as well, I'm guessing.

Jonathan C: Totally. I mean, you said something that was kind of important. A lot of people think that the design sprint is almost like the anti-user research, anti-design thinking approach, because it's so brute force. And you kind of ignore the user a little bit upfront.

Paul Boag: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jonathan C: But usually it's just a Trojan Horse to get people who don't really care about the whole UX thing to for the first time in their lives be part of a process where they actually get to see something they've been part of creating being used by real people.

Paul Boag: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jonathan C: And usually after the first design sprint, it's completely unlocked for them and they're super excited to get in touch with people more often, and have users using something more often. Because … And that's another thing I would say is, and I've heard you say this before on your podcast, being able to speak to these people, these stakeholders in a sort of businessy non-designy way, is super super important for us. And running them through the sprint shows them that they can do these designy things, but ina very logical businessy way. And have sort of logical businessy outcomes. But at the same time it's like a Trojan Horse and they're kinda hooked after the first one.

Paul Boag: I mean that's like the first time you ever get someone from senior management to sit in on usability testing. That's really what … there's two aspects I like about this. One is that you get in front of real users, which is always a game changer. But secondly you get them to put skin in the game, by them being actively involved in the creation of something, they're actually taking the time to think it through, understand the background of it. So you don't get them swooping and pooping on the project later on, on some whim that they have one presumes.

Jonathan C: Yeah. That's the biggest thing. That was the thing I hated the most about running a design agency two years ago. It was like the … Everybody's sitting around at the table for the kickoff meeting. You do a few exercises. You talk a little bit. Everybody takes their notes from the agency side. And then I go back to the agency and I tell the designers what we're gonna do. And we work together on it for a little bit.

Jonathan C: And then we go back to the client and they're like, "Oh yeah, but in the meantime I saw this cool app. And let's maybe try to go in this direction." And we'd just go back and forth, and back and forth. And this sort of tension would build. Whereas now with the design sprint, we don't even offer the client any iteration work.

Jonathan C: We just say, "Here's the prototype. These ideas, a lot of them are from you. And we also drew the storyboard with you, so you know exactly what was gonna be in it." And they never even ask for us to make changes. It's crazy. They're just super satisfied at the end of it. And then of course they do book more work from us to actually execute the things that came out of the design sprint. And then we also do what we don't advertise, and what we don't talk about. Because that's what everyone else does. But we do then help companies then execute that all the way to being on the market.

Jonathan C: And so that's kind of like a … The design sprint for us is really the most important where we give the most value. That's why we just kind of ignore all the other stuff unless the client really wants it.

Paul Boag: Yeah. I mean, but that's quite interesting then in terms of the clients that are coming to you.

Jonathan C: Yeah.

Paul Boag: The majority of clients wouldn't know what a design sprint is if it jumped up and bit them. And of course not, you know? Even if they have internal digital teams, a lot of these teams are overworked, they don't have time to keep up on whatever the latest trend is, or whatever. And so in most agencies will have people coming to them with a design brief. They wanna rebuild a website or do whatever. Do you still get that? Or do you think the people that are approaching you already kind of understand the value of design thinking and user experience, because they're coming to you about a design sprint? What's the makeup?

Jonathan C: I'm trying to think about it. I think not a lot of people come to us for the design sprint in beginning. Usually they contact us because they are like, "Hey, we need some digital work done on our website. Or we need a new app. Or we need … " And they just say the word, "Innovation."

Paul Boag: Right.

Jonathan C: And stop taking.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Jonathan C: Or they'll say things like, and actually I'd love to talk to you about that maybe another day, because I'm kind of a little bit confused about how to deal with it. But they do call us up and say, "Hey, we are doing a giant digital transformation project. And it's gonna go on for the next two years, and we need your help." And for us, that usually sets off a warning sign where we're like, "Yeah, AJ&Smart, we can't be involved in something like this."

Jonathan C: So we generally, they come to us with something kind of broad, or they just want some product design work done. And then the first time they're exposed to something like the design sprint is when we do the sales call with them. Maybe that's 80% of the people, and then 20% of the people come through our YouTube channel or our Instagram, because we're pretty aggressive on all of those platforms in teaching the design sprint process.

Paul Boag: So I mean that's interesting then, 'cause that first conversation when you first talk to them is quite a hard sell. Because-

Jonathan C: Yeah.

Paul Boag: … they're coming to you with one thing in their minds.

Jonathan C: Yeah.

Paul Boag: And you're immediately saying, "Stop doing that. Instead we wanna do this." How do you go about doing that? Because there will be a lot of both internal and external people listening to this show who are thinking, whether they're stakeholders or clients saying, "Here's a brief. Go away and build this for me." How do you stop them going down that line and go, "Whoa, hang on a minute. What about doing this instead?"

Jonathan C: Yeah. So the first thing, I think the most important thing is to just understand what the person who's actually calling you wants personally themselves. And that's something that one of our sales coaches kind of thought is they have their external need, they want this thing to be designed. But they also have their internal need, which is to look good in the company and maybe get a promotion.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Jonathan C: And that's always the first thing in my mind. I wanna know, I wanna start kind of laying out and figuring out what this person who's talking to me actually wants. And I use that to sort of start talking about the kinds of ways that we would wanna work together. And the first thing is I'll say … Very often I'll say, "Look, most people don't enjoy writing briefs. And even if you have one, I'm sure you're kind of worried that you've kind of written it wrong."

Jonathan C: And that's something that they usually have a worry about, because they're creating these briefs, they have to create them because the ORFP process is sort of standard across design agencies. But we tell them, "You don't need to create any brief for us. We'll create the brief with each other at one day workshop before we start the design sprint. So you don't even need to think about it."

Jonathan C: And that's already the first thing, they're like, "Oh my God, really?" And the second thing is like we say, "Look, here is everything you're telling me, for me sounds like something that we could get kickstarted by just doing two weeks of work." Usually we do a design sprint and then an iteration sprint just to get closer to what they actually want to create. And then I show them what can be done in one week with some case studies that we have internally. And they're usually completely shocked.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Jonathan C: And they usually say, "Oh, I thought this would be like a six month thing, or an eight month thing." And we're like, "No, no. This is just two weeks of work to get things kickstarted." And they kind of start getting excited about it. The only problem is, I guess our biggest problem is procurement.

Paul Boag: I was gonna say exactly that. Yeah.

Jonathan C: Yeah. Our biggest problem … I'm assuming everyone who listens kind of knows what … Is that kind of a standard terminology?

Paul Boag: Yeah, yeah. You should be fine with that-

Jonathan C: Okay.

Paul Boag: … I would've thought.

Jonathan C: Well, so procurement is our biggest nightmare, because we make our clients pay upfront before the sprint.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Jonathan C: All in one go.

Paul Boag: Right.

Jonathan C: And there's no man days or hours on the invoice. It just says, "Design sprint. 50K." That's it.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Jonathan C: That's all it says.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Jonathan C: And so we have to be pretty creative working with the procurement department. And the cool thing is, most design agencies that I meet, they say that they can't change anything in these procurement departments, and that's just how it has to be. But if you're aggressive enough about it, and you just … If the person internally wants you to work there so bad, they'll move heaven and earth to get you through that procurement process, even if you have to use the HR budget instead of the design budget-

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Jonathan C: … or something like that.

Paul Boag: I've literally … I have just had an incident exactly along those lines where, it's with the U.N. actually.

Jonathan C: Oh, nice.

Paul Boag: That I'm invoicing via a third-party who's already got a retainer arrangement-

Jonathan C: Yeah.

Paul Boag: … and there is always a workaround if people-

Jonathan C: Yeah.

Paul Boag: … really wanna do it.

Jonathan C: Yeah.

Paul Boag: And so I think that's a … Yeah. You have to be aware of that. And of course the huge advantage of what you're proposing is from the very first conversation, you're differentiating yourself from the crowd. You're taking a different approach. And also you're establishing a peer-to-peer relationship. Because they've come to you asking from one thing, and instead of going, "Yes, sir." And, "No, sir." And going away and building whatever they asked. You're actually engaging with them as a partner to move towards a solution.

Paul Boag: And educating. You provide more value as well, because you're educating them about best practice as you go along.

Jonathan C: Yeah. And the other thing is that as soon as we do one design sprint with them, it almost happens every time, that somebody in the room, one of the stakeholders. Maybe the one person who is the most skeptical about having to be in the room in the first place, that after the sprint they come up to me, or they come up to one of the other product designers and they say, "I need you to teach my entire company how to do exactly what we did this week."

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Jonathan C: And then of course, then our training business kicks in, right? And then we're kind of going from team to team potentially for years if it's a big company, helping them to improve their processes. So it's really like … I mean, I'm talking about it as if this is a perfect system. We're still an agency. We still have cashflow issues. We're still kind of scrapping around trying to figure out what to do. But it feels really like a very neat package that we've kind of developed now, compared to what we used to have. Which was a client calls us, and then we figure out what it is that we actually do as a company based on what they want.

Jonathan C: And now we just say, "Hey, here's the two things that we do. You can just have those or nothing else."

Paul Boag: I think for me, you're looking at it from an agency point of view, which I totally understand. Of course you are. And there will be a lot of people listening to this who are on the agency side.

Jonathan C: Right.

Paul Boag: But the reason I was so keen to have you on this season as we talk about culture is, it's really what you said earlier that it's … A design sprint is almost like a gateway drug, isn't it?

Jonathan C: Absolutely.

Paul Boag: It's an opportunity to start exposing people to that better thinking, that better working methodology and approach that just is so much more effective within a kind of digital realm. The only thing I keep coming back to is that a sprint, if you consider the price that you've just talked about, if you considered the length of the time that you've just talked about is quite a high, a hard sell.

Jonathan C: Yeah.

Paul Boag: For want of a better word, is there a kinda gateway drug to the gateway drug, if that makes sense?

Jonathan C: Yes. Yes, there is.

Paul Boag: Right.

Jonathan C: Also glad that you asked that. So there's a an exercise called Lighting Decision Jame, which you can Google, and it should be the first article and first video.

Paul Boag: Okay.

Jonathan C: Which is … It's an exercise that's around anything … It's about one hour, 45 minutes up to three hours. Which is essentially taking every single principle in the design sprint and all of the best moments that happen in it, and putting it into a super short, super quick exercise that sort of gets across the point of it.

Jonathan C: And what we generally do is that we go to a company and we'll do this Lighting Decision Jam exercise with the stakeholders on a problem that's been bugging them for a long time, a non-design related problem. Usually an organizational or business problem. We on purpose tell them that it should not be design related. And out of this really short session, we get some really tangible actions that they can actually do to solve these problems, and they're usually kind of shocked that they managed to do this as a team.

Jonathan C: Because people usually get together to solve problems, and it's just a big mess. Everyone's talking at the same time. Nobody actually gets to any conclusions. And this exercise always has a conclusion, always has a bunch of solutions that can be executed on. And this is the exercise that we go to companies and do for free-

Paul Boag: Right.

Jonathan C: When we want to work with a company.

Paul Boag: Right.

Jonathan C: And it honestly works every … It's like a 100% conversion rate.

Paul Boag: Okay. So you've really picked that up. But what goes into it? What do you do in this exercise? I mean, I could read the post-

Jonathan C: Okay.

Paul Boag: … but you know.

Jonathan C: No, it's fine. I can describe it. I literally did it two days ago. So I mean, actually one of the things that I do the most is I travel now the world doing this exercise to show these companies how valuable this is. And honestly, I created this exercise just as a way to do retrospectives within AJ&Smart. Actually I didn't create it myself. It was kind of a team effort.

Jonathan C: And we never expected to use it as a sales tool. But okay. So what you do, you get everyone together. It can be a room with 100 people. It can be a room with seven people. If it's 100 people, you generally just split them into smaller groups.

Jonathan C: If you have a frame for the product, for the problem that we're gonna look at, it's always great. So for example, a frame can be communication within company X. That could be the frame, right? Or innovation within company X is a super common one. And then I ask … Do you know the sailboat exercise from Agile?

Paul Boag: I don't actually.

Jonathan C: It's like a … It's a really cheesy exercise and I hate starting with this, but it's kind of really … It's really really great for teams to get started. So I ask everybody to silently write down three post-its of three things that are moving them forward as a company for this topic. So if it is innovation, then it might be willingness to change, and really great talent. And blah, blah, blah, blah.

Jonathan C: The important thing is that they write these things without-

Paul Boag: Okay.

Jonathan C: … speaking to each other. So the whole point of Lighting Decision Jam is that you don't speak to each other. You do most of the stuff alone, and then it all comes together at the end. That's the same thing with the design sprint. So they stick those positive things up, and they actually present them. So each person says what they wrote. And then there's a good vibe in the room already.

Jonathan C: So the next step is when it gets more negative. I ask people to spend six minutes, one post-it at a time writing all of the things that are holding them back. By the way, the boat, the sail is moving them forward.

Paul Boag: Okay. Yeah.

Jonathan C: And the anchor is moving them back.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Jonathan C: So now I ask them to write for six minutes as many things as they can think of that are holding them back. And I make it clear that the results are gonna be completely anonymous, so they really should write whatever they want. Just watch out for the handwriting. So after six minutes, I ask them to stick up all of the negative things. And each team has a big wall of negative things.

Jonathan C: And then they get some dots. So they each get like six dots each. And they silently vote on what problems are for them the biggest problems in their work life. So they start voting on the biggest negative things. Usually there's a pretty … A couple of clear patterns. Then we prioritize those problems and we turn them into, "How might we," notes. "How might we challenges." Which is taken straight from design thinking.

Jonathan C: And it's also in the design sprint. So just reframing the negative problem as an opportunity, basically. So we have then, we take the three top voted challenges, and we work on those. So how we work on them is, we have the, "How might we," stuck on the wall. And then we give everybody 15 minutes to start writing solutions to these challenges alone, without speaking to each other again. As many solutions for each challenge as they possibly can.

Jonathan C: Then they stick those up. They vote on them again silently. And finally you're left with a … For each opportunity, for each challenge, you're left with a couple of voted up solutions. And these solutions we stick on an Effort Impact scale so we can see how likely these are … How difficult these challenges are … How difficult these solutions would be to execute. And how much of an impact they would have. And then we basically assign these tasks … Or we turn them into actionable tasks and assign them to people.

Jonathan C: And the results are usually, it's super simple. It's super basic. It might be difficult to understand-

Paul Boag: No, that makes sense.

Jonathan C: … I'm just explaining it-

Paul Boag: No, I got it.

Jonathan C: … in my voice. So at the end, what's happened is that what usually could've bee and a three hour horrible meeting where in the end most people give up, and on loud person keeps talking and talking about their solutions. In the end, everybody on the team has an unbiased way to put their solutions forward, to put their challenges forward anonymously, and come out with a generic kind of … Not generic, but almost like a, what the team generally wants to work on.

Jonathan C: In a way that people don't have to be embarrassed about saying, for example things come up in companies like, "I don't feel respected." Or I think one of our biggest clients, one of the biggest things that came up from all 10 teams at the same time was that, "The reason we are not gonna move forward is because there's such a big fear of failure that we're never gonna take chances."

Jonathan C: And that was such a big moment for the VP of, I think it was the … I can't actually remember exactly who it was. But he was just like, "Oh my God. We need to solve this. We need to do something about this." So that exercise basically then, we usually do a 20 minute intro to the design sprint before we do that exercise. And at the end of that exercise, we say, "And those are the principals of the design sprint applied to business, like daily life. Imagine that being applied to any of the bigger problems you have within your organization." And then the checkbooks just start flying at us.

Jonathan C: I don't even know if people use checkbooks anymore. But they start flying at us anyway. And what really opens the doors, because you're really showing the value of it straight up without having to just talk about how good it can be.

Paul Boag: I mean, that sounds like a great way of leading into the design sprint, in a proof of concept that is much more manageable in terms of time expectations when there's no kind of track record of doing this kind of thing. I love it.

Jonathan C: Yeah, for sure. For sure. And yeah, and I mean we also compete with … I mean, we are only 20 people here in Berlin. And we are competing with some of the biggest agencies in the world. So we have to … I mean, I hear a lot of people saying, "You should never do work for free." But I really disagree with that when it can turn into a much bigger project if you do kind of a good job.

Jonathan C: So we do those Lighting Decision Jams for free every single week all around the world.

Paul Boag: Yeah, yeah.

Jonathan C: Apart from the flight costs of course, and stuff like that. But yeah, we are all about giving as much value upfront as possible without charging, because we're pretty confident that they'll see the value and that will turn into something-

Paul Boag: And that [crosstalk 00:55:54] a very good way of engaging with anybody. If you can demonstrate, "I am so confident this will work. I am willing to do it, to take a hit on it myself." And you can use that principle internally-

Jonathan C: Yeah.

Paul Boag: … as well by saying, "Look, I'll arrange all this. I'll make it all happen. I'll do all the work for it. You just turn up." Is [inaudible 00:56:19] the equivalent attitude, isn't it? Which I like.

Jonathan C: Yeah. Yeah. It's a 100% exactly like that. And the cool thing is that the people who call us, let's say it's a product manager. Or it's usually and often these days like head of innovation, or yes, something like that.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Jonathan C: It also makes them look damn good when we come in. And when the stakeholders solve these problems, you always see this moment where the stakeholders are looking at the guy who called us-

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Jonathan C: … and just [crosstalk 00:56:45]-

Paul Boag: Absolutely.

Jonathan C: … with a smile [crosstalk 00:56:46]-

Paul Boag: Yeah. You've got the same kind of enthusiasm that I do over stuff like that. It's a great moment, isn't it? So-

Jonathan C: I love it. I love it.

Paul Boag: … we've talked about this kind of gateway to the gateway. Is there any kind of … I'm not gonna get you to explain what a sprint is in terms of the process, or anything like that. But is there any kind of top tips for those people considering running a sprint for the first time? They've read the book, they've done [inaudible 00:57:15]. Is there anything that's not in there that you think, "It's really useful to know that."

Jonathan C: Yeah, for sure. I'll give you … How much time do I have? Because I'd love-

Paul Boag: Go for it.

Jonathan C: … to give three-

Paul Boag: Yeah, go for it.

Jonathan C: … of my favorite tips before you run out of time.

Paul Boag: [inaudible 00:57:27].

Jonathan C: Okay. You just tell me if I'm going on too long. Okay, so my number one tip for doing your first design sprint, or even if it's not your first design sprint. Just for absolutely nailing it, is to make sure you have an idea of the first few exercises of the sprint before you go into it.

Jonathan C: So let's say you're facilitating, the first exercises of the sprint are the expert interviews, the map, the long-term goal sprint questions, and lighting demos. Those are all happening on the Monday of the Design Sprint 2.0, which you can find everywhere online. And if the week before, what we always do at AJ&Smart, and it's a game changer, is we contact the client. We interview them. But we're not just gathering random data that we can dump then on the Monday. We're actually specifically trying to fill out those exercises one week before for ourselves.

Jonathan C: So we're trying to figure out what could the map look like? What could these, "How might we's," look like in the expert interviews? What kind of long-term goals might come up in the sprint? And one super important one is an exercise called Lighting demos where you ask the group of people that you're working with, to find some examples of products and service from outside the current industry you're working in, that could help give us some inspiration for the kind of product that we want to work on.

Jonathan C: And so usually we find a couple of those ourselves as well the week before. We try to find the best ones so that we can really, really impress the client and get them super excited about what we're working on. Because usually you wanna be, if you're the agency, you just wanna kind of have the best stuff to show them.

Jonathan C: And the cool thing is, if you start the sprint on a Monday, a Monday is one of the worst arts of the sprint. You have to gain the trust of these people who usually don't believe that it's going to work. And you have to do that very very quickly. So if you already have a few of the potential answers up your sleeve, even though they won't be the final answers, it's a way that you can actually start the process and not … Already start with some momentum.

Jonathan C: So one of the problems we used to have at the first year running the sprint was, we always got stuck on an exercise called The Map. So we would be standing around with the client for two hours trying to draw this map. It was a nightmare and it killed the momentum. It killed the motivation. And it also, it kind of poisoned the well for the rest of the day. It killed the vibe. And they had less trust in us. And now before we go into the sprint, the people from AJ&Smart, we all look at what we think the map might be. So when that exercise comes up, we already can start drawing it in front of client and say, "So here's what we think that might look like, okay?"

Jonathan C: And this is stuff that's not recommended to do in the Design Sprint book. But it's been a huge, huge game changer for us. So that's tip number one and maybe the longest one. Maybe I'll just give you two of the main tips, because the second one's also super important.

Jonathan C: Tip number two is that there's always going to be a troublemaker in the room. And you need to already … You have to be ready to deal with them before the sprint starts, or you're going to lose the trust of the team, you're gonna panic, and maybe the results aren't going to be as good at the end. And how you deal with that is by constantly setting expectations before each exercise, before the sprint even starts, and during the whole day. And there are a couple of things that you can be guaranteed that will happen if you don't set the expectation.

Jonathan C: Number one, people will tell you that it's moving too fast and they're losing ideas. So if you say at the very start of the day, "This gonna feel like it's moving too fast. It's gonna feel like we're losing ideas. It's even going to feel like sometimes your ideas and the things you wanna say are being a little bit disrespected because we're just flying past it. But I want you to trust the process. I want you to know that this is normal. I want you to know that I've run this many times before. And I want you to know that that is completely part of the process for it to feel too fast."

Jonathan C: Often as well there's a couple of exercises in there that don't feel like they're connected to the bigger picture. There's an exercise called Crazy Eights. And almost every time when people are doing it, they have two things in their mind. And it's number one, "I don't see how this is connected to everything else." And number two, "I don't have any ideas yet, so I can't do this exercise."

Jonathan C: So we always say, "Don't worry if at this point you don't feel like you have any ideas. That's no problem. The system works with or without your ideas. And also, this exercise may feel a little bit disconnected from the rest of them." And this is like a … Because what happens is, if someone puts up their hand, if the stakeholder or the CEO puts up their hand and says, "Look, I don't see the point of this." Or, "Look, I feel like I'm losing my ideas," everyone in the room is feel that-

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Jonathan C: … as well, because you haven't said it, and people start to turn against you. So you need to really really be setting the expectations at the begging. And exaggerating as well. Tell them it's gonna feel tiring. Tell them it's gonna be hard to get through. And usually that stops people from causing trouble in the first place, because they kinda will feel stupid bringing that up [crosstalk 01:02:29]-

Paul Boag: That is spot on. I mean, I do that in all kinda of situations, not just one something like a design sprint. That idea of preempting common objections where you know-

Jonathan C: Yeah.

Paul Boag: … they're gonna come up. Because it makes you-

Jonathan C: Yeah.

Paul Boag: … look in control. It means it shows that you've done this a lot before, and you know what's coming. And all the rest of it.

Jonathan C: Just one more tiny, tiny, tiny one is if it's your first time around, or even if it's not your first time around, I would recommend at this point searching for … So read the book for sure. I hope everyone buys Jake's book. I don't get anything from you buying his book, but I like him.

Jonathan C: But I think you should also definitely search Design Sprint 2.0 on Google, and just watch some of the videos there. Because there's a lot of changes that have happened in the last two years that we haven't had a chance to put into a book format yet. But we've tried to put some videos together. And there's a lot of stuff in there that make the exercises more foolproof and less [crosstalk 01:03:26]-

Paul Boag: Right.

Jonathan C: … sort of fall-

Paul Boag: [crosstalk 01:03:27]-

Jonathan C: … apart under pressure.

Paul Boag: I was gonna ask you exactly that where people can find out more. Because you've got YouTube channel, haven't you? That I notice comes as you soon as you type in Design Sprint 2.0. So people shouldn't have a problem for finding you. But what is it in case they need to?

Jonathan C: Yeah. AJ&Smart. So just AJ. Yeah, it's just AJ&Smart. But really almost any Design Sprint question you have, if you type that into Google, you're gonna find us there.

Paul Boag: Good. Good.

Jonathan C: We're pretty wild on the whole Design Sprint thing.

Paul Boag: That's absolutely brilliant. Thank you so much, Jonathan for coming on the show. Loads, loads for people to check out and hopefully that can be an exercise that helps to shift the culture within your organization. So thank you very much.

Jonathan C: Thanks so much, Paul. Bye-bye.

Paul Boag: So there you go. That's Jonathan on Design Sprints. Of all of the things that you referenced in the show, in terms of things like the Lighting Decision Jam, and Design Sprint 2.0 and all the rest of it, I'll include in the show notes. You can check those out. Marcus, what did you think of … How did that leave you feeling about Design Sprints? Is it something you thought much about before?

Marcus Lillington: I guess to a lesser extent, we do that a bit. But the first thing I wanna say is that's my favorite interview of the season so far.

Paul Boag: Oh, really?

Marcus Lillington: Yeah. I really enjoyed that one. I think it's because it's more kind of, I can relate to it more. I think, and also he's very engaging, et cetera. But with regards to the Design Sprints, yeah. I thought that being brave enough to kinda say, "That's what we wanna do. And we're only going to offer that," even though he did say later that they're keen to execute the work as well, which is-

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: … my only … The only slight negative. But it was an incredibly brave thing to do. And obviously because nobody else is really doing it in the way that they're doing it, they're being incredibly successful at it. Obviously I think the main advantage of doing it is that you get senior people in the room-

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: … from day one. I mean, I was going … I've said a few times while I was listening to it, "What about the users? What about the users?" But that can come later, as he said. What you wanna do is ensure that you've got real true buy-in. If you get that, then all the other things that you've been talking about for years about digital transformation and that kind of thing, that will come afterwards. As we've said earlier on in this particular season, you don't … It doesn't happen unless you've got buy-in from the top.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: Excuse me. And in particularly the IBM interview we did, all of their change happened with the new CEO.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: And I supposed to a certain extent, that happened differently with them. But if you get somebody like AJ&Smart in to do these sessions, then you're going to be educating the people that can make real change happen. So that's their major advantage I thought listening to it.

Paul Boag: The thing that I couldn't past mine, is this to get those kinds of senior people in the room is major effort.

Marcus Lillington: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Paul Boag: It is very difficult to do.

Marcus Lillington: Well, [crosstalk 01:06:52]-

Paul Boag: And I know he said in part, you know, "Well, we don't have them in for the whole week." And then that began to … I then found myself going, "Well, are you gonna get that level of buy-in that you need to for having them for the short time?" But even getting middle management to sit in the room for a whole week seems like a stretch. And that is the one thing that I couldn't get past.

Paul Boag: He talked about doing the Lighting Decision Jam, when I was talking about the gateway drug to the gateway drug-

Marcus Lillington: Yeah, yeah.

Paul Boag: … and all of that. And that made sense to me. I've got it. He's obviously better at persuading people at this kind of stuff than I am, is all that I can conclude.

Marcus Lillington: Well, and the fact that they're expensive. You know?

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: I mean, basically … I mean, he said, "It's gonna cost you 50K for one week." And then a little bit of research prior to that.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: And then he said, and they're dying to do another week. "And then-"

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: " … we'll help them execute." So we're into seriously big budget stuff. And as he's made the point, there's no better way of getting senior management's attention.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: But you've-

Paul Boag: Yeah, no. He's right.

Marcus Lillington: … got to have an excellent product and be incredibly persuasive as well, which he obviously is.

Paul Boag: I was gonna go, "You have to have big balls."

Marcus Lillington: Yes. Indeed. Yes.

Paul Boag: But you are right.

Marcus Lillington: The point that he made may be that people might have missed a little bit was, "Make the client look good." And how important that is.

Paul Boag: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Marcus Lillington: I mean, we've been working with a particular client for years who told us [inaudible 01:08:30] terms early on that, "This will work if you make me look good." And it's so true.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: Because then therefore they will get … If they're looking good internally to their bosses, then all the things that you want to happen during the project are much more likely to happen than if they're struggling internally. And it's so important.

Paul Boag: Yeah. It was a very interesting interview. There was a lot in there that I find fascinating. I've gotta be honest, I've not got to run a full five day Design Sprint yet. I obviously need to up my self-pitch for it. Because it's not something I've succeeded to do. And yeah, I would very much like to do it. Although it does strike me as blooming hard work.

Marcus Lillington: Oh, yeah. Well, we all know what [inaudible 01:09:21] do in a day's work shop.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: When we work with our American clients, we always do at least three days in a row.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: And at the end of that, I can hardly walk.

Paul Boag: You're knackered. Yeah. Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: Let alone speak.

Paul Boag: I mean this is … 'Cause obviously I've done things of this, it is a lower level of activity. It's not a kind of 09:00 to 05:00. It's a 10:00 to 04:00 kind of thing. But even so, it's still a lot of work. It's still very tiring and very intense. Which he said as much, didn't he?

Marcus Lillington: Yeah.

Paul Boag: Anyway, right. Let's talk about our second sponsor for today, which is Fullstory. We've had the best wireframing tool with Balsamiq. We've also got the best session recorder in my opinion with Fullstory. Really one of the things that I love about this show is that I get to pick and choose a little bit which sponsors I have and which ones I don't. And there are may, trust me, many that I turn away.

Paul Boag: But Fullstory would be never be one of those. It's actually a brilliant tool that I personally use. I've learnt so much from using Fullstory. Even on … Obviously I've used it on client sites, but I even use it on my own site from time to time. I don't run it the whole time.

Paul Boag: But when I'm trying to find out a particular thing, I will run it for a while on my site so that I can discover what problems I'm experiencing. I mean I used Fullstory, and it was absolutely instrumental in me reducing my bounce rate. 'Cause bounce rates on blogs tend to be very high. And so I ran Fullstory for a little bit, and I've found some really interesting things about how people were moving around the site. How they were engaging with blog posts. And it altered the way that I write the blog posts. It altered the way that I inserted links to other blog posts.

Paul Boag: So for example, I was discovering that a lot of users as you would expect, weren't getting to the end of a post. So all of those related posts that I had at the end, people weren't seeing. So I started to embed them within the post itself. I did a whole load of changes based on just watching user sessions on the website. And I was able to decrease the bounce rate on my blog by over 5%, which I was over the Moon with.

Paul Boag: It's also got incredibly powerful search facilities built into it, which is really useful for kind of narrowing down just the kind of sessions that I wanted to watch. So obviously I could say, "Well, I wanna see sessions that have only … Where they've only viewed one page." But I could even go down and say, "I only wanna see sessions that are one page where someone has scrolled for this length of the page," or whatever else.

Paul Boag: You could do all kinds of really clever stuff. If you're a visual person like me, you probably struggle with analytics. I mean, you get someone like Chris Scott that absolutely eats up analytics, and can find out all these amazing things from it. I personally find analytics quite hard. If you're like that, and you're more of a visual person. Then something like Fullstory is absolutely invaluable for discovering stuff.

Paul Boag: You can sign up for free today and you get a month of their Pro account absolutely free. There's no need to enter a credit card or anything like that. If you still want kinda continue to use it after your trial, but you can't quite justify the price, then you can get up to a 1000 sessions per months free anyway on an ongoing basis. Which for me and my blog is absolutely enough for me to be able to do kind of periodic little tests.

Paul Boag: And then basically I get to try out and trial it, and work with it. And that means that I can recommend it to clients later who pay money, and I know my way around it. So that's why I guess they do the 1000 sessions a month is for people like me. Anyway, if you wanna give it a go, then try it out at And that's pretty much it. Marcus, what do you have for us in terms of a joke today?

Marcus Lillington: This one's from Aslan.

Paul Boag: Ah, Aslan.

Marcus Lillington: All right. Who's been on the show before.

Paul Boag: Yes.

Marcus Lillington: It's so bad it's brilliant. "I've forgot to put blueberries in the little cakes I sold at the big Alpine Slalom race. But it doesn't really matter in the grand ski muffins."

Paul Boag: Oh, that is the worst joke I think we've had on the podcast. That is remarkable.

Marcus Lillington: "Grand ski muffins." That's fantastic. Come on.

Paul Boag: Oh, Aslan. You feel that that's so bad he made it up himself. Do you know what I mean?

Marcus Lillington: Yes, exactly. There's quite a lot in the bad jokes channel on the [inaudible 01:14:23] Boag World [inaudible 01:14:24]. But you know they've made it up themselves.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah, as I said [inaudible 01:14:28] is so bad it's brilliant.

Paul Boag: Yes.

Marcus Lillington: So there you go.

Paul Boag: Well done, Aslan. Thank you very much. Okay, that about wraps the up fr this show. Thank you very much for joining us, guys. And we'll be back again next week. [inaudible 01:14:41].