Side-stepping group dynamics: The 90-minute Mini-Sprint

How we generated 432 ideas in 3 hours and picked 5 winners without arguing.

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Luke BattyeFollowNov 17, 2017

So we recently ran a hack day where we wanted to reconnect everyone with the purpose in our business: uniting knowledge.

As not every member of the team had experienced our Design Sprint process first hand, we decided to design a taster experience and play around with a new format. I thought it would be fun to pull together 10 client briefs and run 10 ninety minute mini-sprints over the course of one day.

The process was designed to give people first-hand experience of a selection of our techniques and meant we needed a format that fully side-stepped all the usual psychological hurdles that slow teams down.

Over the course of the day we generated 432 different responses to those briefs and whittled them down to 5 winners. Here’s how we did it.

1. Setting the scene

So first things first, even mini-sprints need materials. We kitted out every team with timers, masking tape, a variety of post-its and a kaleidoscope of colourful pens to let their minds run wild.

We took a selection of briefs and turned them into simple “How might we…” formats. For example “How might we get Brand X’s toy on kids Christmas list this year?”.

2. Define the customer outcome (5 minutes)

We broke the group into teams of 5 and each one had their own name and special hat (not essential but quite amusing).

Each team of 5 was handed the brief and had 5 minutes to discuss, as a team, what they might need to achieve for the clients’s customer, for the client to be successful.

Teams had 5 minutes to review their ‘how might we’ brief and find a way to convert it into a customer outcome. If client wanted to drive sales, a customer outcome might “How might we make it easier to find product X”.

3. Solo research (10 minutes)

Teams then had 10 minutes to do solo research. No talking, no discussion, no questions. Just 10 minutes looking at the challenge, doing some research on the key issues to address and making copious notes.

4. Crazy 8s (10 minutes)

Upbeat music essential — consider Benny Hill style beats or even the countdown music

We then jumped into Crazy8s. Each person had 8 minutes to individually come up with 8 different ways to answer the “how might we” question. Every minute we sounded an alarm and instructed everyone to abandon ship and move onto the next one.

5. Six-Part Storyboard (15 minutes)

Pre-prepared storyboards helped create quick structure

After the crazy8s we got people to choose their strongest idea and develop it up into a short 6-part storyboard. First frame was scene-setting, final frame was desired customer behaviour. Their job was to spend a little time filling in the blanks and looking for clear ways to explain their concept without the need for a voiceover.

6. Lightening Demos (15 minutes)

Get ruthless and cut people off if they run over — they’re called lightning demos for a reason!

Everyone was getting bored of not talking so now we brought teams back together to present their concept in 3 minutes. No extra time allowed.

Everyone was given 5 voting stickers and had to place them, without discussion, on the concepts or parts of concepts they felt were the strongest.

7. Remix & Improve (20 minutes)

Teams could choose to combine ideas or just take a winner and they then spent 20 minutes developing and refining a single proposition. This was the chance to build more depth into the concepts and help make the storytelling crystal clear.

8. Art Gallery (10 minutes)

Big boards and surfaces are perfect for the art gallery — just space them out enough

The winning ideas were then transferred to one of our workshop spaces into an art gallery format. No discussion now, people had 10 minutes to read the client’s “how might we” question and the proposed solutions.

9. Vote (5 minutes)

Make sure everyone has enough votes for team-building

The team now had 10 votes to cast and were instructed to decide which briefs they thought best delivered against the brief. Not discussion, and they were free to vote multiple times on the same idea if they wanted to.

10. And the winners are…

This is what a winner looks like

At the end of the 90 minutes we surface the best ideas and the winning teams were chosen to turn their storyboard into a 5 minute live-performance for the whole company’s amusement (not essential but again, very amusing).

What did we learn?

A 90 minute dash is a pretty fun way to start a brainstorm on a new brief. It’s fast, it generates diverse ideas and it quickly gets the ‘obvious’ responses on paper so you can move onto the deeper thinking faster.

Why it worked?

  • No over-the-top background on the brief that bogs teams down in detail when you need ‘blue sky’ (gag) thinking
  • No time-wasting with discussions — just powering through to new thinking
  • No debates about who’s idea is best, just data on what the team thinks without any hurt feelings

So yeah, get mini-sprinting 🙂


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