Mind The Product 2017 workshop

In March 2017, I was keen to learn about Design Sprints. I went as far as going to London for Mind The Product workshop and experience the framework during 8 hours long intensive day myself. Mind The Product is a widely known conference among product people. It features Product Managers from companies like Google Ventures, Facebook, Pinterest and many more and has it's home in both London and San Francisco: the two important hubs of digital innovation.

Only during a workshop one can actually learn the intricacies of a framework and tricks that help the facilitator to apply it well within his context. Reading a book is not enough, though a good starting point. There are two, which cover the topic. I have already introduced you to one in my previous post and the second is published by O'Reilly and authored by C. Todd Lombardo and his colleagues from Fresh Tilled Soil, who led the workshop.

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We have started the session with energetic ice-breakers: give high-five to everyone in the room, followed by "Make everyone happy" exercise. Well, the last one was not that obvious. How does one make everyone happy? The mostly male group awkwardly and unanimously hugged each other. The result was a crowd full of cheers and laughs. This was only the beginning as there was lots of more coming. Just take a look at our agenda:

agenda

Many names of innovation

Design Sprint is just one of the frameworks (and names) that is being used within the innovation landscape, which is wrapped up in one single term: Design Thinking. Apart from Design Sprint you will find other terms that will describe the innovation process: Product Discovery, Design Spike, Discovery Session, Deep Dive, Discovery Sprint, Design S.W.A.T. Google came out with it's version of it, as did many other companies. Some of them as you see below, arrived at very similar process. It is usually divided into 3 to 5 stages in which product designers want to learn more about the users, market and ideas that could work to satisfy their needs. The stages act as a way for framing the problem, creating solutions by brain-storming activities and asking the right questions.

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All the frameworks have one single goal: to find the sweet spot between what's Desirable, Feasable and Viable for the product.

They do this by fostering creativity and stressing that doing is as much valuable as thinking, while discovering empathy for those, the product is being designed for and who in the end will consume it. The Design Thinking frameworks make you see the world through the eyes of the users.

What is not the goal

  1. We don't want to create outputs. We want to create outcomes.
  2. We don't want to create prototypes. We want to learn the answers.
  3. We don't want to make people want things. We want to make things people love!

Visual overview of the stages and activities

Understand

converge

diverge

prototype

test

Most interesting exercises

1. Assumption Table

This is a simple table in which you list assumptions in one column. Then next to it in another column, identify how you want to test them. Finally, in the last column you specify what outcomes would you expect for PASS/FAILing those assumptions.

assumptions-table

Take Away

Too many times, we assume things and don't even think whether it is only our belief that we don't dare to question (group thinking is dangerous) or is this reality. This exercise helps you to avoid the pitfalls of such behavior.

2. Paper prototyping

You will need paper, sharpies, glue, pins, cardboard, boxes and other office accesoires. Start individually, present you idea, dot-vote it with your team. Think, how you could combine the best ideas in one product coherently.

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Take Away

Drawing the user interface on paper (if it is the software that you want to design) or making a physical prototype out of cardboard, glue and office accessoires can be really helpful to start consuming the product right away as a user would without months of development, burning development budgets and hiring new people.

3. Crazy Eights

This is a brain-storming activity. You need a sheet of paper (A4/Legal size). Fold it, thus creating eight rectangles. These will be your placeholders for your ideas. The basic rules of this exercise is to DRAW and not to write. Now you have 45 seconds to ideate and draw the solutions quickly. Don't censor yourself, don't hold back, be crazy. The outcomes of the exercise can dot-voted within your team to proceed.

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Take Away

Visuals make a difference. They frame your problem well, open not only your creative side, that you might be not aware of, they also open up your colleagues to say "Yes, and..." instead "Yes, but...". They sort of force everyone to build on top of the ideas depicted and arrange for a more inclusive problem solving sessions.

As seen on Mind The Product

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Summary

Mind The Product conference is a great place to meet interesting product people and learn from the best in the industry. It also is really a fantastic, well organized bunch of people, who you will miss the minute you leave London.

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