Design Sprint in PLM Design: Where Creativity Meets Capability

plm design

Let’s face it, working remotely is great. It’s especially great because of everything it allows: flexibility of schedule and work method, total freedom to decide where you want to live, a better family and home life. This structure is perfect for an Ed Tech company like ours since we teach PLM training, planning and design through ecourses. However, those of us who have been transforming our home into our office for some time, know that as with everything in life, nothing is perfect.

One of the things we miss most about our daily routine is probably the direct contact with our workmates. Though it’s true that every day there are more tools that bring us closer to our team (video conferences, chat, email, etc.), there’s nothing that beats daily physical contact. Therefore, at Share PLM we do our best to get together at least once every three months. We choose a city (usually where someone from the team lives) and spend a few days taking part in co-working, team building activities and of course, have a beer or two! These days are always successful and we go back home with our batteries recharged and our heads full of new ideas.

On this occasion, our team meeting took place at the end of January in the city of Frankfurt, with Helena hosting. We dedicated the first day of co-working completely to the team. First, we spent some time taking part in a few ice-breaking activities, which always help us to let go and make the environment more relaxed. Then we had the opportunity to talk about our most important daily tasks and their future evolution. And finally, we shared anecdotes of our routine that helped us understand each other’s daily realities. The result? It was a very useful and productive day!

Helena and Bea had warned us that the second day of the team meeting would be a surprise, so we had no idea what we would be doing. We made lots of bets with each other and were truly eager to find out what they had prepared for us. The truth is that as a team we are forward planners and like to know the details of what we are going to do together in advance. However, this time it was different. What could they have prepared for us?

The Design Sprint experience

When we arrived at the co-working session they told us that we would be dedicating the day to a Design Sprint, I have to admit that I had no idea what they were talking about. It was the first time in my life I had heard those words and of course I didn’t know what the methodology consisted of. There was no time to waste so we immediately got to work to discover exactly what a Design Sprint was and what we could get out of it.

It’s true that we didn’t have the 3-day minimum that they recommend to carry out the process (ideally 5 days), and we had to condense everything into one VERY intense day. However, this time was enough to give us a tangible idea of the power of this tool. Want to know what a Design Sprint is? Let’s get to it!

What are we talking about when we talk about Design Sprint?

Firstly we should make one thing clear. The Design Sprint is a methodology developed by Google Ventures and made popular by Jake Knapp, author of the book ‘Sprint’. In it he explains the method for resolving problems and testing new ideas in just 5 days.

What does it consist of?

Basically in 5 days (or less) we need to be able to come up with an idea, design it and implement it. In order to do this, we help ourselves out by following a strict time schedule as well as methods based on Design Thinking.

The final objective of the Design Sprint is to generate innovative solutions that add real value to existing problems or needs. To be more specific, I will give the practical case that we faced as an example.

The sector of e-Learning training and PLM design in which our activity is framed is continuously evolving. The rapid advance of new technologies makes it essential to maintain an open-minded attitude to all the demands of the market. And not only that, it is our obligation to study and understand those demands and then transform them into extraordinary services that solve real problems.

With this in mind, we have recently detected what could be a future need of our customers: the adaptation of Virtual Reality to our packages or PLM training courses. The sense of interacting in a real way with a system will probably accelerate the learning processes, making them more easily memorable. That’s why in our Design Sprint we experimented with a fundamental initial component: VR glasses.

In our case, the whole process was developed based on the idea of using Virtual Reality to train PLM design and therefore, our goal was the launch of a product that would integrate this technology and be easily sellable.

Phases of the Design Sprint

1. Map Day

The first stage encompasses the first day of the process. In it, the main objective is to gain context and define the real problem. To do this it is very important to identify the consumer and ensure that all stakeholders are aligned to the same objective and have the same information. In short, it is about generating the map to follow during the rest of the days.

In our particular case, the first stage helped us identify our target audience and what their experience with virtual reality was. To reach our conclusion we used techniques in which through empathy, we put ourselves in our clients’ shoes. Specifically, we realised the importance of good listening when we have a conversation. In the following exercise, each person had to adapt a role (client or salesperson) and carry out the following instructions:

What conclusions did we arrive at?

Many times in the past, we were losing focus of what our client was telling us because we were too worried about the sale. We do not realise that our business potential is precisely in the words of our clients.

In the second part of the exercise we could see how, in many cases, there was a big loss of information between what the client said, and what the salesperson took in.

Another exercise that gave us great perspective to generate the map was the use of fictitious interviews. In this case we repeated the roles of client-salesperson, but this time it was the salesperson who had to carry out a very thorough questionnaire on the client to analyse their needs. The rest of the team would act as listeners to later give feedback to their peers.

2. Sketch Day

Once the problem is identified and our target audience recognised, it is time to discover how to solve it. The sketch phase is the most creative of all, and basically consists of exploring the multiple ways of solving the problem. In this stage, there is total freedom to be creative and no idea is discounted as bad⁠—everything goes.

To make our Sketch phase more fun, we took a large sheet of paper and each member of our team had to draw 8 ideas that they thought of to solve our problem (all in record time!). The result was a lot of creative ideas, and in some cases some crazy ones, but none were received with indifference. Thanks to this exercise we were able to later develop the idea that seemed most appropriate in Phase 3.

In the following video you can see our colleague Jeni explaining her ideas to the rest of the team:

Video Jeny design sprint

3. Decision Day

In this phase the objective is very clear: to decide which of the ideas discussed on the sketch day is the best and which ones we ought to abandon. For this, it is necessary to follow a process in which we can assess the viability of our ideas one by one and why we should or shouldn’t continue with them.

4. Prototype Day

Probably the hardest day of the whole process is Day 4 when action needs to be taken. It is time to get down to work with the creation of a prototype that can be tested by the target we have defined in Phase 1. We must remember that the main objective of this phase is not for another one to be tested, therefore it is essential that we build something based on this condition.

Something that is very useful for generating the prototype quickly is to divide the team and assign specific tasks. In addition to having this ready, on this day the interview that we are going to do with the users the next day has to be worked on.

5. Test Day

During the fifth and final stage we have to validate our idea and discover any errors in the concept design. To carry this out we need to do tests with real users that are framed in our target. Subsequently, we must interview them to learn from their experience of use and expectations.

At the end of the day, the team will meet again to reflect on what has been the main learning process and thus determine the next steps to follow. In our case, in having to concentrate 5 intense days into just 8 hours, the stages of the prototype and the test were merely theoretical. Even so, this introduction to Design Spring opened the doors to a very powerful tool that we gained great knowledge from. We hope to expand this knowledge even more during the next team meeting.

What about you? Have you already tried this methodology? Tell us your opinions in the comments.

See you soon!


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