Practical Design Thinking Part 2: How to Embed Design Sprints Into Your Teams "Product people - Product managers, product designers, UX designers, UX researchers, Business analysts, developers, makers & entrepreneurs January 01 2021 True Design Sprint, design sprints, Design Thinking, Framework, Organisational Transformation, Pack-Agency, Prototype, Prototyping, Team Alignment, Mind the Product Mind the Product Ltd 2280 Product Management 9.12

Practical Design Thinking Part 2: How to Embed Design Sprints Into Your Teams


The Secret Sprinter: How to embed Design Sprints into your teams, stealth style.

This article (Part 2 of a trilogy) is all about introducing elements of the Design Sprint in a manageable way, to get your teams working better together. It encourages adoption of the process from the inside, out.

So, you’ve heard of Design Sprints?! The week-long framework originating from Google Ventures to solve challenges and test ideas, fast. You know they’re a great way to harness your team’s ‘Hive Mind’, and set about solving challenges together which have had you stumped for more time than you’d dare to admit.

But here’s the thing – Getting buy-in to run a design sprint is often difficult. It’s not that your team doesn’t believe that they’ve been used by some of the biggest product companies the world over to fuel rapid innovation and save weeks, months, even years of time by validating you’re working on the right thing at the start of the process. They very much get the gist.

So what’s the problem?

Well, more often than not…

  1. Your team are time-poor

    Time is any human being’s most valuable asset. It’s finite, unfortunately, and we spend most of our days working out ways to make sure we’re getting the most from our daily schedules.However, this means that we’re quite often closed off to hearing about or trying new ideas or techniques. This leads onto our next point…
  2. Old habits die hard, and the Design Sprint isn’t part of how we work

    Like Bruce Willis in a vest, our habits Die Hard, real hard, with a vengeance. It takes a while to break or make a new habit and, sadly, the techniques within the Design Sprint just aren’t part of the way we work. They are not woven into our methods or habits when we come to solve a challenge or test a new idea.Well, like Bruce stuck on the roof of a skyscraper, don’t let this small barrier hold you back. Yippee ki yay, and all that.
  3. Getting everyone required involved can be hard If an individual’s time and buy-in are tough to get a grip on, then what happens when you declare you’d like to get input for an intense period from a group of stakeholders? Yup, you guessed it. It’s going to be tough. But if you seed in enough benefits about the Design Sprint process to your team over a period of time, the FOMO of not getting in on the action when you start to kick things off will prove too much for most.
  4. How do I even go about running a workshop remotely?! An in-person Design Sprint is a wonder to behold. Sharpies flashing before your eyes, a smorgasbord of brightly coloured square paper with little sticky strips whizzing past in furious motion. It’s a sight for jaded eyes!However, in these times, taking into account pandemics and distributed teams, the in-person Design Sprint feels a world away. The next best thing is a distant digital cousin, in the form of remote workshops, but that sounds complicated and time-consuming, right?!Wrong. Actually, you can use short-duration, collaborative workshops to quickly and easily get your team working better together.

It’s time to go stealth

There’re always going to be barriers when you want to do something radical within your team. But that’s OK; you’ve got this.

The thing is, as with any new process or technique, to really drive interest and adoption you need to work on building advocates from within. This may mean that a full-blown Design Sprint is off the cards, to begin with, but don’t be deterred. Little by little, you can get your teammates to adopt the techniques involved, eventually converting them to full-blown ‘framework super fans’.

Let’s compare it to another product framework: Agile. Going ‘Full Agile’ is often too far. But what’s important is to adopt the practices and rituals that are useful for your team, and forego the rest (until you need them!).

Similarly – if you use the tools that help you embed “design thinking” into your team via exercises borrowed from Design Sprints, you can then build out from there as necessary, adapting and adding to your process as you go.

Your stealth toolkit

So where do you start?

As with any good framework, you need to learn the tools and techniques to get the job done. The Design Sprint is full of wonderful tools to aid idea generation, empathy with your audience, rapid decision making, and experimentation via sketching and prototyping. Not to mention drawing on your team’s insider knowledge to unleash solutions that stick!

We’ve pulled out 3 tools from the Design Sprint arsenal which you can use with your team today (remotely or in-person!) to start laying the foundations for wider adoption tomorrow.

Man is a tool-using animal. Without tools, he is nothing, with tools he is all.
– Thomas Carlyle – Philosopher

Secret activity 1 : Note and Vote.

Ever been in a meeting and wondered why you are there? Or get told you’ve run out of time and need to arrange another one to try and resolve the same issue? You are not alone. Meetings suck! 👎🏼

They are used too often in the wrong way and can easily sap time and energy leaving you with poor ideas and less than ideal decisions being made. It goes without saying, the traditional way of groupthink is broken, but there is a better way.

Welcome to Note and Vote

Design Thinking Workshop #1: Note and Vote

What is it?

Note and vote is a fun and engaging 30-minute workshop designed specifically to help you get the most out of your effort by working to a strict set of timed exercises. Work together yet alone to come up with multiple ideas, present them back to the group, and then discuss and vote on your favourites.

Use this tool if:

You’re struggling to make a decision and need to work as part of a team to agree on the right way to move forward.

Check out the template

Open to create a mural from this template in your workspace. Powered by MURAL

How it works

1. Note

  • Grab a pen and paper.
  • Set a timer for 5-10 minutes.
  • Individually write down as many ideas as you can.

2. Self-edit

  • Set the timer for 2 minutes.
  • Individually review your list, pick your top 2-3 favourites.

3. Share & capture

  • Pick someone to write everyone’s ideas on the wall.
  • One at a time, share your top ideas with the rest of the group.

4. Vote

  • Set the timer for 5 minutes.
  • Together but alone, review and place your votes on your favourite idea.

5. Decide

  • If there are multiple ideas with the same votes, there needs to be a decider.
  • The decider will make the final call.

Facilitation tips

  • A ‘no-device’ rule, outside of participants using their machines for the exercise. Switch off emails, etc. and focus on the session. Mics on mute whilst the facilitator is talking. Cameras on.
  • Ensure your team knows how to use Mural or Miro ahead of the session. Give them a short run-through to warm them up or allow a little extra time at the beginning.

Why it works

Unlike a traditional meeting, you have more individual time to focus and think. Groupthink is avoided as you aren’t having to listen to one person’s train of thought, allowing more individual solutions to be considered and evaluated.

Voting is done privately, so you are less inclined to follow the group, and more likely  to commit to what you think will work best.


You’ll leave the workshop with a solid idea on how to proceed, which has been not only discussed but also evaluated by the whole team. Powerful stuff! ⚡

Secret activity 2 : Zero to Hero (AKA Problem to Solution)

Every product team has their fair share of problems and challenges they have to face on a daily basis. But what’s the best way to prioritise those problems and come up with the right solutions to help solve them?

Enter the Zero to Hero workshop

Design Thinking Workshop #2: Zero to Hero

What is it?

Zero to Hero is a great 30-minute workshop which replaces all unstructured discussions with a clear purpose. It allows you and your team to define and address a real challenge, prioritise it and help produce solutions.

Use this tool if:

If you’re struggling with a problem or challenge and need some help to identify what the best solution is to move forward.

Check out the template

Open to create a mural from this template in your workspace. Powered by MURAL

How it works

1. Note

  • Grab a pen and paper.
  • Set a timer for 5 minutes.
  • Individually write down all of the problems you are currently facing.

2. Vote

  • Set the timer for 2 minutes.
  • Together but alone, vote on the most important problems to solve.
  • Order in terms of priority, according to votes.

3. HMW

  • Set the timer for 5 minutes.
  • Reframe the problem into a ‘How Might We…?’

4. Solutions

  • Set the timer for 5 minutes.
  • Write down as many ideas/ solutions as you can to the HMW.

5. Vote

  • Set the timer for 2 minutes.
  • Together but alone, vote on your favourite solution.

Facilitation tips

  • To stop people from jumping ahead, you can reveal each exercise, step by step. Simply hover over the stages in the outline pane and it will display an eye icon which you can turn on and off when needed.
  • Try and keep conversation to a minimum. Remember that these are timed activities and, although you are working together, the value lies in the time you spend alone capturing ideas.

Why it works

It’s a very structured, tried and tested process, aimed at getting things done, fast. Rather than lots of endless debate, you get to work together as a team, yet alone,  making it easier to focus on what matters most.

Ideas are shared and considered, and voting on the winning solution is done by the whole group without a decision-by-committee approach.


You leave the session with a prioritised set of solutions to your key challenges.

Secret activity 3 : The 3-Step Sketch

Visualising a solution to your key challenges is never an easy task, especially when it involves getting your whole team into a room to collectively come up with ideas. You’ll be pleased to hear, this no longer needs to be the case! The Pack team has come up with a great solution, and we can’t wait to share it with you.

Enter the 3-Step Sketch

Design Thinking Workshop #3: 3 Step Sketch

What is it?

Using similar exercises to those you would find in a Design Sprint, the 3-step sketch is a super-interactive, 30-minute workshop you can run with the team when you’re next facing your biggest challenge.

Go from ideas to sketched solutions within a small amount of time, and work collaboratively as a team to discuss, present, and vote on your favourites.

Use this tool if:

You’re struggling to ideate, and want to visualise what a solution might look like to move forward.

Check out the template

Open to create a mural from this template in your workspace. Powered by MURAL

BUT WAIT… I can’t draw!

It’s cool, as long as you can draw these basic shapes then you can do the sketching exercise!

How it works

1. Note

  • Grab a pen and some Post-it Notes.
  • Set a timer for 5 minutes.
  • Individually write down as many ideas as you can relating to your key challenge.

2. Select

  • Set the timer for 2 minutes.
  • Review your ideas and select your favourite 3.

3. Share

  • Set the timer for 2 minutes each.
  • Individually take turns to stick your top 3 ideas on the wall as you present them to the rest of your team.

4. Vote

  • Set the timer for 2 minutes.
  • Together but alone vote on your favourite idea from the team.

5. Sketch (Crazy 4’s)

  • Set the timer for 5 minutes.
  • Fold a piece of A4 paper into 4 panels.
  • Taking the winning idea, individually sketch out a storyboard narrative.
  • Present your sketch whilst you stick it on the wall.

6. Vote

  • Set the timer for 2 minutes.
  • Together, yet alone, vote on your favourite storyboard.
  • Review your votes.

Facilitation tips

  • As a facilitator, remember to be clear about what each exercise involves and what’s expected of your participants.
  • Remember to do a check-in every 5 minutes or so to ensure everyone is alright and no one is stuck on what to do, or having issues with the technology.

Why it works

When exercises are timed and you follow a set process, it’s easier to focus on what matters most, allowing you to collaborate better together and come up with more considered solutions. This workshop can be used alongside the other ones featured in this article, or standalone, depending on where you are in the product journey.

This isn’t about the loudest person in the room winning, it’s about working together as a team and allowing for all ideas to be shared and heard.


You’ll leave this session with a winning solution idea to trial and test.

The art of Stealth:

As with all stealth activities, you’ll need to have patience, and exercise the art of balance and timing to maximise the chance of buy-in on your wider Design Sprint plans.

But start working these activities into your day today, and before long you’ll have a team hungry for a chance to participate in a full-blown sprint!

Enjoy this article?

If you’re hungry for more, stay tuned for our next article:

Or catch up on our previous article: Practical Design Thinking Part 1: What is it? And why Should I Care?