Lightning strikes on a dark night, with trees silhouetted in the foreground.

Lightning Demos - The Design Sprint Unpacked

| Sam Hutchings

Sixty Second Summary

In this series of articles, we’re taking a look at the individual parts which make up a Design Sprint, how each part helps us work towards a user-tested prototype, and how you can use the activity on its own within your business’s Design-led decision making process.

In today’s part, we take a look at Lightning Demos and how they can help your team level up their knowledge on the problems and solutions you’re considering, whilst building up knowledge together.

Lightning Demos

Up until now, we’ve been in a state of active learning, working with experts and activities to understand the problem we are facing and map the current situation that our customers or users are going through. With the Lightning Demos, we start to bring all that information together into active research, looking for solutions and products that may have already done part of what we’re looking to achieve, and demoing the key learning from each of our researched subjects to the rest of the Sprint Team, so that we can all learn together.

Research Existing Solutions

For the first time this week, we’re going to allow digital devices - smartphones, tablets and laptops - into the Sprint Room, as each member of the Sprint Team researches products or services they can draw inspiration and learnings from as we start to sketch and come up with ideas for our prototype.

Working individually, the team should spend 25-30 mins to each research and make notes about 2-3 products or services, looking for inspiring solutions as they go. Recommend to the team to think and look outside of their own industry or field, looking to other areas for inspiration and learning. They may also consider inspiration from within their own company, as long as what they review contains something good that they and the team can learn from. During a Remote Design Sprint, giving the research as homework gives each member time to focus.

A woman sat at a table researches a topic.
During a Remote Design Sprint, giving the research as homework gives each member time to focus.

As they research each product or service, each team member should write the big idea from the example on a sticky note, so that it can be shared with the team during the Demo stage. At the end of the 25-30 mins, each team member should have 3 big ideas inspired by the products, services and solutions they have researched, ready for them to share with the team.

Demo and Capture

Now that everyone has had time to research their two or three subjects, each member of the team must now present what they have learned to the other members of the Sprint Team, so that they may join in the learning and take notes on what each other have learned.

As each member of the Sprint Team demos each of the topics they researched - give them 2-3 minutes for each one - they should place their key learnings as sticky notes on the whiteboard. Unlike in other areas of the sprint, the presenter should feel free to use digital devices - such as a laptop, tablet or smartphone - to assist in their demo or features tour.

Product features are demoed on a MacBook and an iPhone
Using devices for the demos can be much easier, as it's quicker to show than to tell.

Whilst each person presents, choose someone from the group to take notes or make small sketches on the whiteboard about the key points of each idea. A great way to do this is to make a quick drawing of the inspiring component, write a simple but descriptive headline above it, and note the source underneath the sketch.

By the end of the Lightning Demos, you should have between 10 and 20 ideas covering your whiteboard, enough to have captured each person’s best inspiration, but not enough to overwhelm the team with ideas as they begin to sketch.

Notice that, at this time, we have not voted on or discussed the ideas being presented. They’ve just been presented and recorded. This is because the lightning demos provide inspiration for the sketch activities we’ll do next, so we want this to be all about information and not opinion. At the sketching stage, each member of the team will make value decisions on which parts they want to integrate into each of their sketches and which parts they feel don’t add value.

Tips for a Good Session

  • When searching for inspiration, remember that you don’t have to stay within your own company or industry. Look to other industries and businesses to borrow inspiration from.
  • If a member of the Sprint Team has worked on a similar solution or problem before, they can demo their own ideas from the previous project.
  • If doing a demo tour using a digital device, make sure to have a large display available, so everyone can see.
  • If running a Remote Design Sprint, give the research component of this activity as homework.
  • If you feel that coming up with the list of ideas to research could be tricky on the spot, feel free to assign the research portion of the Lightning Demos as homework.
  • During the Demos and Notetaking steps, notes can either be sketched by a volunteer on the board (digital or physical) or each member of the team can take notes in word form.

Next Week

Join us for a special week next week, where we’ll go through the whole sketching process in a week. We’ll start on Monday with “Divide or Swarm” and then take you through the Four Stage Sketch over Tuesday - Friday.

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