The core of the design sprint

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The design sprint is a straightforward logic process that boils down the essence of the design thinking method to 4 days. But it is much more. Looking into the core of the process unveils the essence of the building blocks itself.

The design sprint consits of what we see as 5 essential building blocks: 1) Goal setting, 2) design sprint questions, 3) Work-alone together 4) Timeboxing, and 5) working across silos. Having these 4 building blocks in mind enables you to build great workshops no matter the challenge and the output of the sprint.

Goal setting

On the first day of the sprint you define the overall impact of what you are working with in the sprint. (Protip: if possible, define hard quantitative success criterias in the scoping session to ensure these are present as well in the sprint. See the blogpost: link to “why the scoping session is the most important part of the design sprint”). Setting the millstone overall milestone for what you intend to achieve within 12, 24 or 36 months enables you to set the direction for the team and the sprint.

Design sprint questions (HMW’s)

After you have set the goal you simply ask, what barriers do we need to overcome to reach this goal? Be sure that you direct the question towards the challenge, project or strategic possibility you are addressing in the sprint. Sometimes sprint participants tends to focus on underlying conditions for the project and not on the project in it-self e.g. their own resource allocation in the project. Gather the challenges and flip them to questions and vote on what questions are the top priority to answer at this moment. 

With the sprint goal and the prioritized HMW’s you and your team are aliged on where you are going and which obstacles to focus on. 

Work-alone together

Tried an endless brainstorm that never materialized in concrete solutions? Ok. Lets try getting everybody to pin out their own ideas first and then combine the best ideas into a final solution. That is what work-alone together is about. In the design sprint all the exercises are designed so that each participant can make up their own opinion of the project before taking in other perspectives. Research shows that this leads to better final solutions than traditional brainstorming.  


Setting a time limit that each participant can use for each exercise ensure progress in the sprint. This means that you don’t get caught up in details or perfectionism, but keep a focus on the overall goal. Though it can be a bit provocative, timeboxing speeds up the overall productivity of the team.

Working cross silo

The design sprint advocates for bringing in different roles, seniority, and even external participants. This means that in the design sprint, we are actively setting up sprint teams that do not work together each and every day. This ensures fresh perspectives, and in our experience, humbleness among the ideas of the participants. 

Utilizing these 5 building blocks in every kind of workshop is a key to building more efficient, fun and engaging workshops whether you need to bring people together for strategy formulation, problem solving or solution sketching.