Design Sprints: finding value with real people

Our most powerful ‘tool’ to create valuable solutions for our clients is to play with real people in our design sprints.

To make a product or service that helps a company, we focus on making things that are appealing for real people. We tend to exclude ourselves as ‘real people’ because of our strong professional bias as domain experts. This bias clouds our view on the majority of the world. Although we can force ourselves to think like real people, we found that playing with real people is much more natural and wonderful.

Mirabeau Scrum Board

Curious how we do Design Sprints? Watch the video:

Solving problems in finance
The financial market is a clear example of an industry where design sprints with real people as 'life experts' work very well. Employees working in the financial industry have a healthy interest in finance. In general, a disproportional large group also likes the feeling of having a well kept bookkeeping and even uses spreadsheets for fun!

Real people however find finance tedious, complicated and regard money as a means to an end. Clearly there is a gap between the perception of people working in the industry and real, or normal people. To bridge the gap, we invite real people as experts on what they find interesting, important, complex and how they experience ease and fun.

Solving big and small problems with the help of real people enables us to create better and significantly different products and solutions for finance, and industries alike.

Design Sprints: Finding out is key

During the design sprints we frequently have with our clients, it is our job to find out if an idea is worthwhile.

The product of such a design sprint is basically a ‘yes’, or ‘no’ with a lot of notes on the why

In the design sprint we determine the context of a perceived problem by interviewing real people. Most of the time this gives us insights we totally overlooked, or took for granted. With this information, we adjust and solve problems with ideas that we think might work. Then we put those assumptions to the test by asking real people.

Play, taken literally

If you ask anybody what they want, their brains starts crunching and most of the time they will give an obvious and a socially correct answer. That’s why we tend to not ask for the 'what' but ask real people to 'play' with us. Play might be role play, a drawing contest, walking through a park, or a classical associative game.

In our experience recreating a natural context is key. Because experiencing a problem and your solution in the right mindset is key, be it ‘late, tired and stressed at an airport counter’, ‘relaxed and kind of tipsy with friends at a bar’, or ‘a last-minute shopping spree’.

Playing out these scenarios helps us to understand what people find interesting, boring, important and annoying. By doing this with a couple of people we can blueprint the context and target the cause of the problem we try to solve.

Prototype, Replay and verify

In the sprint we also replay the behaviour and conversations of the real people ourselves. By replaying, we find natural behaviour, bumps, and basically a story in the process. With that story we can constantly validate and optimize during the prototyping process.

After the prototype is done, we verify again with our favorite tool: real people. Most outcomes are right on target, but some of them are also quite surprising!

Experts vs the people you’re interested in

Although an expert's view is valuable to create viable ideas, it is the real people that will connect the value with your idea. Their involvement is key in our experience and makes design sprints not just fun and insightful, but also surprising and a neutral base to continue your process.

So, what’s the next problem you want to solve with real people?