"Everything is Design... Everything!"


This personal blog is where I channel my inner wordsmith, adding color to those design topics that often fall between the lines.

Pivot & Persevere

My reflections on the process of design sprints


On April 16, 2018 I attended a meet up hosted by the founders of a newly formed design consultancy, The SIX. What piqued my interest was the theme of discussing universal (and seemingly simple) topics of food, work, death and education in a structured setting. Thank you Genghis Mendoza (for the invite) and Raje (for further peaking my piqued interest). Addressing design topics that fall between-the-lines is what unleashes my inner wordsmith; so here goes my thoughts and notes on the process of applying design sprints to everything that makes us human.

I]  Icebreaker activity

While the real conversation starter was the joint task of figuring how to optimize sign-in and elevator group formation with fellow early arrivers Jenna and Mimi, the fact that the meetup was themed around relatable topics just allowed for more organic conversations.

Food for thought: Intended pun aside, produce shopping is not very different from any other material shopping - size, shape and physical appeal tend to become the main factors that determine selection. Now while we can’t possibly cure world hunger even in our lifeteam, let alone a 3 hour meetup, we surely can be more aware/accepting of our biases when buying as well as discarding imperfect produce.

We then made our way to the dining table, enjoying the spread - vegan cheese (first for me!) and ferrero rocher (classic indulgence) - while getting re-energized!

II]  Level-setting

While my initial interest was undoubtedly towards The Future of Food, the ask-the-experts style brief for each of the 4 topics helped set better expectations on the areas of focus.

An inspiration wall allowed for better context of research


Motivation to join the Future of Work group:

  • It was the smallest group with highest likelihood of talk time
  • Having worked at GE, I had some insight into the processes of solving automation-related inefficiencies at scale
  • As a young design professional in search of a new gig, it was an opportunity to learn more about the Gig Economy

III]  Break-out groups  |  Time: 1hr

Introductions and selection of a Decider

While the introduction style (of standing up to remind people to keep the meeting short and to-the-point) was a tried-and-true daily scrum method, the explicit, unexpected selection of a decider was an arbitrary, decentralized approach which raised questions in my mind around “what are the factors members should consider in choosing a decider?” and “what powers does a decider have?”. In the interest of time it definitely seemed like a reasonable approach, nonetheless I would choose (read: pivot)another consensus-building approach where selection bias (bias towards voting for what others have already voted for) is minimized. More on that in Phase II.

Phase Ii - exploratory research  |  HMW

While actively listening to the expert, group members asked questions, provided additional insights, and began creating How Might We (HMW) statements. 

The HMW note-taking method is all about “When you hear pain points, reframe them as opportunities.” (Given the limited scope for researching, I refer to opportunities as ideas)

Phase Iii - discovery research  |  Identifying and defining stakeholders

The various stakeholders involved in a Gig Economy


Phase II - concept and generative research  |  Converging on ideas

Value vs. Effort for themed ideas

In a eutopic world where the members are abreast with the HMW note-taking method, the shareback and thematic grouping of ideas would occur organically. Given the real world constraints of number of people and time, it was appropriate for the facilitator to lead (read: pivot) the combined effort of thematic grouping while prioritizing the value vs. effort of ideas in order to prioritize a winning solution from the ‘sweet spot’ quadrant of high impact/low effort. Specific to the topic of The Future of Work, the team landed on: ‘How might we be an advocate for workplace rights in a gig economy?’

Dot Voting to select top choice

Coming back to the need for a better consensus-building approach, here are my picks of the lesser-known alternates:

Phase III - refinement and evaluative research  |  Solutioning

The solutioning phase, while primarily limited to sketches of the digital solution, was where each member took some down time to create an approach for implementing the chosen idea.

Group members working alone, together


Considering the primary persona of an Uber driver who may be feeling underpaid and overworked, the team jumped into how might we give a lonely worker in a vast gig economy a stronger voice. The solution that evolved was to create a community and a platform that allowed gig workers to pool together to exchange ideas and resources, and more importantly build a community as one voice.

The solutions were sketched in a 3-panel template and displayed on the wall, art gallery style


IV]  Wrap Up

After the solution shareback, the floor was opened for Q&A. Overall, you know a design sprint is effective when you walk away feeling “I’m glad I took out time on a weekday to attend this.” I came in expecting to meet some interesting people, but did not expect to be so energized after a 3-hour event that I wanted to write about it and share all that I learned. Kudos to The-SiX for putting together such a thoughtful and fun design sprint!