Design Thinking, Design Sprints and Agile Sprints… what’s the diff?
First, let’s talk about the difference between Design Sprints and Agile Sprints.
Since they both are technically “sprints”, what gives?
Design Sprints and Agile Sprints don’t have much more in common than their name.
The Agile methodology is a type of project management, mainly used for software development, that relies on quick, iterative cycles to create a product (website, application, operating system) or other solution. These cycles are called sprints and are a system for teams working together on constant releases. It is not a one-off system but is in place to set the rules of how the product is built. So, an Agile Sprint is essential a set amount of time in the product life cycle where a feature or enhancement is worked on. (This is the way the DPE product team operates).
The Design Sprint is a one-off problem solving tool that is for figuring out which problems to solve, concepting possibilities to solve them and testing with users. It is not the system to build the product but the process to determine if the product shouldbe built. The Design Sprint will help define requirements based on users needs, and the product team would use those findings to build the feature identified (among other features and enhancements) in a Sprint within their roadmap.
Now that that confusion is cleared up, where doesDesign Thinking fit in?
Design Sprints and Design Thinking are not the same but they have some things in common. Consider Design Thinking as the mindset for creative problem solving and the Design Sprint is a step-by-step process for executing possible solutions to those problems. The Sprint is very logical and each step needs to be followed… very calculated and almost robotic. Design Thinking is more exploratory and open – and sometimes more fun (Although for the record, I’ve had some fun Sprints!).
The work that is done in a Design Thinking workshop can be foundational to a Design Sprint and is often a great next step after a workshop. But it is not required to complete a Design Thinking workshop before jumping into a Design Sprint.
The best way to think about this is to use this analogy … If you were really into Italian cooking, you would first take a class about Italian cooking – giving you a broad overview of how to cook in this way. This is Design Thinking. Next you would create a recipe for beef bolognese using what you learned in your overview class. This is the Design Sprint.
Ideally, once the recipe is made you would taste it and tweak it to see what needs to be done to make it better. This is a usability review. We have a process for this that is called a UX assessment – this includes user testing and competitive analysis. All of which can help influence your product pipeline for the better.
There you have it, the difference between Agile Sprints, Design Sprints and Design Thinking … and I only used one analogy!