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COLORADO: I was recently engaged to oversee and facilitate a Google Ventures design sprint for Promethean Learning Experience Design (PLExD, LLC), a boutique e-learning design company in Denver, Colorado, owned by James Finder. PLExD’s focus is on designing and developing content to get the most out of training for Millennials, Gen-Xers, and Baby Boomers alike, and legal cannabis is one of the spaces that PLExD plays in.
James already had a successful company based on subcontracting his e-learning services out to major players (contractors) in the space. What he needed was a best-practices marketing plan, a map that outlined his next steps to move up the food chain and become one of those major players that does the farming out.
What’s a Design Sprint?
A design sprint is usually a multi-day process that seeks to answer critical business questions through designing, prototyping, and testing ideas. One version, developed at Google Ventures, packages business strategy, innovation, behavioral science, and design thinking into a well-tested process that any team can use.
Working together in a facilitated sprint, a team can shortcut the endless debate cycle that is inherent to groupthink while compressing months of development time into a single week (or even less –- I’ve run sprints as short as two days). Instead of waiting until after significant resources have been committed to launch a minimal product that, in turn, determines if an idea is any good, this process allows clear data to emerge from a realistic prototype that is developed during the sprint. Decision makers are fast-forwarded into the future with a facsimile of the finished product that generates customer reactions before any expensive commitments are made.
A sprint always starts by surveying the stated problem and developing a metric that can indicate the point at which the problem is solved. Therefore, my team (including co-facilitator Annie Furlong along with team members Norbert Peyfuss, and Andrew Alvarez) first determined that James’s branding and marketing problem revolved around determining what distinguishes a contractor from a subcontractor. We decided that prospecting, more specifically the nature of the prospect as ultimate client instead of contractor, fit that bill. This led naturally to the proper metric, which was the number of generated quotes for ultimate clients.
We then worked dynamically with James to build up his strategy, quickly moving into prioritizing sub-issues and focusing on what seemed to be the most pressing element, that of implementing a new, rebranded website with an online quote generation engine to which all his other marketing efforts (also categorized during the sprint) could be directed. This enabled James to think through exactly how he wanted visitors (especially his newly defined set of prospects) to experience his website. We worked as a team to design a prototype of that experience we called, “The Journey,” that took a visitor through a short e-learning experience to devise a basic quote for the type of project she had in mind (or didn’t; many website visitors don’t have a clue what they want so we also had to design a pathway for them, as well).
To me, the most interesting part of the design sprint process is that it can work for any company, product, and service, even internal processes in branding, marketing, sales, operations, administration, and any combination of those vectors, because it is focused on first determining the nature of the real problem and an associated metric, then ideating around that problem until a testable prototype is generated. This then leads to a fruitful direction for further development after the sprint is completed. It’s also an exciting and fun way to build cohesion among a team in a way that generates immediate results without having to spend months (or years) and lots of resources examining the problem before testing a useable prototype.
The bottom line is that we helped James to focus on what was immediately important, while at the same time giving him a road map to achieve what he wants his business to become. What did James think? Here’s only one of his post-sprint LinkedIn posts: “#participated in a Google ventures #designsprint. I know how powerful this is Benjamin Weinberg…”
ABOUT BEN WEINBERG: Ben Weinberg, JD, MBA, the President of Ben Weinberg Consultants, has more than 30 years of experience in harnessing his creativity to tell your company’s story, including strategic and tactical marketing, sales, operational, and administrative consulting for small- and medium-size businesses across diverse industries such as law, medicine, wellness, leisure, and hospitality.