10 Tips to Learn from Your Customer Through Design Sprints

Posted on November 20, 2019

Your focus should always be on your customer”

Building a product or service no one wants, or needs means you have no business. In other words, no customers = no business. Harsh but true. Therefore, your focus should always be on your customer. To help you, Google has designed a process to gain focus, make decisions and learn from your customer. The Design Sprint is a 5-day process for solving problems and testing new ideas though building prototypes. It helps teams and businesses save time, discussion and money. 

Save time because you’ll invest 5 days of dedicated work, versus months of meetings and no decisions. Save discussion because you’ll take decisions based on facts and data and not opinions. And save money because you’ll learn quickly what your customer thinks so that you can adjust and not create something that no one is waiting for. An expensive mistake any startup (or anyone!) should avoid.

Design Sprint Key Principles

So, what do you need to know? Let’s start with 3 key principles of the Design Sprint way of working.

1. Alone together. Discussions and decisions based on everyone’s input, not just the loudest person in the room. When working together, first let everyone individually write down their thoughts. Then share one by one with your team. Ideas and input are much richer when writing them down first as it allows you to capture the multi-disciplinary input. Tip: write 1 note per post-it, this makes it easy to move thoughts and ideas around.

2. Democratic decision making. Use dot-voting to help make group decisions. Whey everyone has written down and shared his/her thoughts, give everyone 2 votes to decide what is the most important note. After everyone has voted, you get a visual of where the priorities lie. It is more democratic and easier to stick to as you can actually see where the focus lies.

3. Get visual. No more hours of talking, brainstorming and throwing ideas around where no decisions are made. Draw! Get it on paper, everyone individually. The power of putting it on paper makes it real and tangible. You then have your first version of your idea to talk about, to show someone and to get feedback.

Design Sprint Key Elements

Next, the key elements in the Design Sprint. 

4. Start with a clear challenge (or opportunity). What challenge are you solving? Or what opportunity are you stepping into? Understanding what it is that you want to add to the world and for whom, is a crucial first step. Do not push a product or idea because you think it is a good. Solve someone’s pain or fulfill someone’s desire instead. Validate this before you start building a solution. The more focused you can be in your challenge or opportunity, the quicker you will learn. Focus a Design Sprint on one challenge at a time.

5. Know your customer. You cannot please everybody and not everybody is alike. Therefore, pick the customer with the biggest pain. The customers with the biggest pain will be most willing to buy your solution. Do you already know how they behave, think, talk and feel? Understand this and you will be able to respond to their needs better than your competition. When talking to customers, ask about their experiences and their past. This gives you facts. Talking about the future gives you opinions on which you cannot build a business. Tip: Never ask ‘would you…’

6. Talk to the experts. Anyone who knows more about a topic than you, is an expert. An expert can be someone that knows about an interesting technology but can also be a customer as customers are experts on their own problems. Don’t forget to look outside of your field. Don’t underestimate what value they can give you. Talk to them. It gives you new insights and makes sure you don’t get stuck in your bubble. Innovations and new ideas often happen at the edge of your own field.

7. Inspiration museum. How do other companies solve the challenge that you have? Get inspired by what they do. Remember, often the most unexpected ideas come from places where you are not looking. So, don’t just look at competitors in your industries but get inspired by other industries too. Crowdsource different ideas from your team because everyone has different inspirations for different ideas. Tip: Write down, or draw, all inspiration examples to create an innovation museum.

8. Prototype! Fake it, to learn fast. Build the solution in the easiest way possible in order to learn. A prototype can take many forms from paper, to digital, to a model representation. Rule: build in one day, otherwise it is too complex or too big.

9. Test. Always test a prototype with your customer, no one else can tell you if you are on the right track. Tip: Talk to 5 customers. This should give you roughly 80% of the feedback in order to make changes for a next version of the prototype.

10. Iterate, iterate, iterate. Based on user feedback, use your learnings and adjust the prototype. Learn again! The speed of learning is determined by the speed and number of iterations you are able to do. Learning is a continuous process as your customer will develop and evolve. Keep Sprinting 🙂


About the author

Margriet Buseman is a Design Sprint Master from the Netherlands. She is the co-founder of Orange Minds. Their mission is to create happy people, happy workplaces and a happy planet by solving one challenge at a time. Since 2016 Orange Minds has solved more than 85 challenges through Design Sprints. Margriet runs the company together with Robert Westerhuis. Together they have 10+ years of innovation and change experience to get teams to stop talking and start doing. They travel throughout the world to help companies with their challenges. Instagram: @omg_designsprints