A conversation with Paul van der Linden, business consultant and Design Sprint Fellow

Why is the design sprint a new way of creating business value for organizations?

Hey everyone, this is Steph. Today I wanted to experiment with a new format. For these videos, the idea is to deep dive in a very specific aspects of the design sprint. So it’s not going to be a one hour video with a crazy case study, but it’s going to be more like, you know, small chitchat with some friends, and and guests to talk about a specific topic.

And today, I have the pleasure to welcome with me, Mr. Paul Van der Linden. Paul, this is great seeing you. So today, we wanted to talk together about why the design sprint makes sense in business. You have a crazy business consulting background. And yeah, now we have you have chosen the design sprint as one of your methodology of choice.

So maybe before we start, can I just ask you to introduce yourself?

About Paul van der Linden

Sure, I can do that in very, very short time, basically, in innovation and digital innovation and marketing, or the 2025 years, worked for companies, like Procter and Gamble really transitioned from TV print into the digital area of internet and internet marketing or social networks. And then, of course, we saw that speed is key in this whole process of delighting your customer. And basically, we went through also a whole transition in methodologies in order to be as efficient as possible. And then when Design Sprint came knocking on the door, like five years ago, we adapted that quite quite fast. Of course not fully… But nowadays, I would say, this is one of the the most important tool or methodology within my toolset.

How would you like if you need to, to explain what to design sprints to someone who is really into business right now? Like, what is the business value of design sprint?

What is the business value of design sprint

Okay, I would say there is. A lot of companies, they see that there are some some issues or there are some new ways or ideas, to get new products out to improve their services to get more direct information back from from consumers. But they still think, in a traditional way.

Now with the design sprint, what we see is that you bring your top people of your company together in a very, very focused session of maximum one week, where you really go into this, this, this, this this problem statement, and all really think about solutions that you prototype and test. And that’s, I think, is one of the key elements, you have the right people in the organization, seeing directly the feedback from the end user consumer, to what you want to do. And that saves months and then sometimes even longer, have discussions.

And yes, things have been so important. Because sometimes, you know, when some some clients are coming in the they are a bit confused. They’re like, Yeah, but what’s the difference with a hackathon, for example? And there’s a giant difference. It’s just the number of people who participate. And hackathon you can have 50 or hundreds of people who participate. The design sprint, as you said, it’s a very focused team. It’s the right persons for the project. So I like to compare it you know, like, the hackathon is like the bazooka, you have hundreds of people and you try to get any results in slack short, in a lot of people and the design sprint is longer. It’s five days, but it’s the right persons.

Maybe to add to that, because I agree with you on but in the hackathon, let’s say from five, six years ago, it was all the nerds, coder, yeah, that’s we’re sitting eating pizzas, and I’m over exaggerating, of course … And then we’re showing their skills of how good they could create a technical solution. And that was fine. But all the elements that for business are important. Were not in scope. So it was technically maybe working fine. But is it also working in other countries? Does it have the right support from the internal organization, customer services, everything that goes in is more more or less not taken in consideration and with a design sprint, you are in principle, not having any coders you have a graphical designer that that creates a product type. But on the rest you have, maybe you’re a product owner, you have the head of marketing, you have the head of customer services, all people that have that really have the knowledge and of the organization and for whom you are doing this, this this exact work. Something that’s super important is like, a hackathon, for example, is like, it’s more like, Kinda for the marketing of the company it’s like, okay, let’s innovate and you make it very visible that you innovate the problem doing that, especially if you welcome some people from outside of your organization, you can’t really share with them something very secret, you can’t show numbers, you can’t show data, you can’t show something, you can’t even really show your real problems.

During the design sprint you have a very specific team, it’s seven, eight people really well chosen, it could be totally secret. And then, you know, you can really show them everything because you can trust them. And that’s really the difference between innovation theater, or showing that you innovate, versus innovating for real, because then you are able to actually achieve something if you have the right problems and the right data. Am I right? I think I think so. Although you can have a sort of business hackathon within the boundaries of the company, which I believe it could be extremely successful as well. Yeah. But it has it serves completely another purpose.

Great. The another question that I get a lot from the business people is how does this connect with Agile, you know, like, sometimes people talk about the SAFe framework and all of these agile at scale. What’s your perspective on that?

What’s your perspective on Agile at scale?

Okay, for me agile is, is extremely good if you start your development, because you are not like in the in, in the past, basically have everything defined, then you go into a dark room for for six months, and then something comes out. So the Agile methodology for me that that’s super clear, but the start of the Agile development cycle is still where to start.

So we have a problem, we maybe do some design thinking, we have to talk to a lot of stakeholders in the organization and maybe outside of the organization. And that process also takes extremely long, if you at the start of your agile development cycle. Start with a design sprint, you actually after five days of running this design sprint, you have a working tested prototype with already feedback from your consumers. So your your start is extremely good. You basically have everything that you need. And in within the next couple of months, you can really make that a product that you already with tested data could expand more to get more detailed information show for me. In principle, every agile development process should start with a design sprint to do to get you really running start.

Yeah, yeah, that’s right. And one thing really is like in Agile dev is that whole idea that you need to accept to start with something that’s not perfect. You need to start somewhere with you know, a good base a prototype and then you will iterate you will refine that prototype exit. So it’s a great way you know, even with teams, one that’s familiar with agile who don’t exactly know how to design the product, it’s a great Crash Course right? You get the right people in the room for five days. They see day one they have just big problems and lots of questions, Day 4 they have a prototype, Day 5 they test that prototype with stakeholders or clients and they learn a lot because they fill in that scorecard and that’s the really the three the beginning of Agile so you can start reading what works or you can start refining or rethinking what didn’t work.

My last question for you Paul about this is like how would you convince  some very important stakeholders or maybe a C-level people or VP of sales to participate in this design sprint?

Well, I would say first of all, Google: “design sprint” and really look at for example, how companies that are disruptive companies that really changing their the way that their business models, how they are acting and you will see that many of them are using design sprints to kickstart new development. It is not strange at all this digital savvy companies are using design sprints, but also traditional ones as as Lego and I know this is maybe the too much used example. But if we take the British Museum, that’s using design sprints to really see how they can renovate and optimize their consumer experience in the coming years, that for me, that is that is really showing there is really a truth in this methodology. And it’s already there for five years. And what you see with a lot of methodologies that is coming and going. And there’s an extra version.

Yes, design sprint has also some flavors, but the base of design sprints, is there. And it’s growing. And it’s there to say, in my opinion, yeah, I totally agree. I think it’s a it’s just like scaling now in the companies like, the most of the big organizations have been through the process of like, trying to design sprint and be one or two design sprints. And now they really start to scale it across the company, which is very interesting.

And it’s not only you know, like, cool startups from from the west coast of the US, really some very, some very traditional companies that operates worldwide. So that’s very interesting. And we have a lot of case studies of Europe and Switzerland. So yeah, that’s, that’s also at least the way I convince the big stakeholders is telling them, okay, look what we did with these companies. And also and that’s an advice for anyone who is watching this video and thinks “How can I convince my boss to run a design sprint?”, show some examples, with some important executives being part of the design sprint, because we document the process, these these photos of these videos are available online, and you can show Okay, you can show other companies running design sprints, and that’s a seller. Yeah, absolutely.

Thank you so much Paul for for your time. This is great. Cheers!

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