Digital Business

What is better for your project - Design Thinking vs. Design Sprint?

7 minutes reading time
People in Project Design Thinking vs. Sprint
  • Christoph Schulte
    Christoph Schulte

Design Thinking vs. Design sprint. Both methods have become part of the business practice of many companies. But which of these two methods Design Thinking vs. Design Sprint is better? Find out in this article.

The development of digital products with a good user experience is becoming increasingly important, also in B2B business models. As part of product design, digital teams need to understand exactly which problems a product is supposed to solve and which not. This view, the user-centered design, is used in many companies in the modern working world. In practice, you come across two similar terms, but behind which there are somewhat different methods: Design Thinking and Design Sprints.

We explain to you what is behind it.

What is Design Thinking?

Design Thinking is primarily a mixture of mindset and framework. Design Thinking comes with a colorful bouquet of methods that help you adopt the user's point of view. David Kelley is considered the father of Design Thinking. His goal was to give engineers at IDEO a process that is based on the way designers think. In a business context, companies mostly use Design Thinking when the company has not yet identified a specific problem that can be solved by a digital product.

Design Thinking Process

The working method in Design Thinking can best be described with a double diamond: There are opening and closing phases. This double diamond is something like the “engine compartment” of Design Thinking, which separates the problem space and the solution space.

Design Thinking is primarily a mixture of mindset and framework. Design Thinking comes with a colorful bouquet of methods that help you adopt the user's point of view.

The problem area (the introductory phase) is about building an understanding for the user and thus for the potential customers with the help of intensive user research. In order to understand the users' world in detail, other methods are also used, such as Observations or surveys. In order to remain able to act and become specific after the research, the opening phase is followed by a closing phase. In this, the challenges and target groups are assessed according to factors such as relevance or size. Innovation teams always sound out what options you have with your company to solve these challenges!

Only after all of these steps have been taken is the solution room about using brainstorming methods to develop solution ideas. Existing ideas are also further developed. To do this, teams use various methods, such as Silent brainstorming or a change of perspective. Similar to the problem area, innovation teams select one or more solution ideas that they want to make tangible. To do this, they create prototypes which they then repeatedly test with real users in an iterative process. They incorporate the feedback they have received in order to improve the solution idea or to gain new knowledge about the target group.

In business practice, the duration of a Design Thinking project can vary from several days to several months. The choice of methodology can be adapted to different project durations thanks to the large number of methods. This is another reason why Design Thinking has established itself as a blueprint for innovation projects.

Nevertheless, there are some arguments that speak against the use of Design Thinking: In order to practice Design Thinking correctly in practice, the philosophy behind it must be understood. Only then can innovation teams use the multitude of methods, tools and approaches effectively. Another challenge for innovation teams who already know their target audience well is the fact that you have to pretend you don't know about them. In addition, some users say that it takes “forever” until one can finally develop specific product ideas.

What is a Design Sprint?

The Design Sprint is a very specific process lasting several days to answer specific questions using design, prototypes and customer tests. In contrast to Design Thinking, in the Design Sprint a team agrees on a real problem on the first day that is to be solved as part of the Design Sprint.

Design Sprint Process

The Design Sprint method was developed by Jake Knapp for his work at Google Ventures in order to quickly, effectively and independently develop solutions for specific questions in a team. The experience of the individual team members and the integration of experts help to develop solutions quickly and to test them directly with the help of tests.

The Design Sprint is a very specific process lasting several days to answer specific questions using design, prototypes and customer tests.

The result of the Design Sprint method is a presentable prototype, qualified customer feedback and the feeling that the team has worked on a problem in significant depth within a few days.

The original Design Sprint method launched by Google Ventures takes 5 days. Since it is sometimes challenging in business practice to free a team from operational activities over this period of time, shorter formats have also become established in practice. Thanks to the clearly defined process, teams manage to develop a tested prototype based on a clear problem within a few days. For this, certain preconditions must be met, such as a strong understanding of the target group or a clear problem definition. Only then can the Design Sprint method develop its full potential.

Which is better now: Design Thinking or Design Sprint?

Design Thinking advocates would clearly advocate Design Thinking, while “sprinters” will only bet their lot on the Design Sprint. From several years of experience I can say clearly: It depends. It is not a question of choosing a religion, but of choosing the more appropriate tool.

Choosing "Design Thinking vs. Design Sprint" is not about choosing a religion, but about choosing the right tool.

For a team that has been in a Design Thinking mode for a long time, a Design Sprint can be a real booster for team spirit. If the problem is clear, the team has been dealing with a problem for a long time or the team knows the problem from its own experience, a Design Sprint is the right choice. However, if there are no specific options for action or if the target group is still unknown, a Design Sprint will not bring any useful results. In order to free teams from their vacuum, the foundations must first be laid. This is where Design Thinking can show its full strength.

How do you feel about the “choice of religion”: Do you belong to the Design Thinking or the Design Sprint camp? When do you use one method, sometimes the other? I look forward to hearing from you!

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