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Divide or Swarm? - 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.

By the end of today, which will be a short one, we’ll know when we should divide or when we should swarm around a problem to come up with and sketch out ideas.

To Divide or Swarm, That Is The Question

Before we start the true sketching process, coming up with and sketching ideas that we’ll then share with others, it’s important for us to understand the approach we should, as a Design Sprint Team, take to this sketching.

From experience, there are two approaches to sketching that work well within the Design Sprint, one is for everyone to divide up and take ownership of a specific part of the problem, and the other is for everyone to work together, swarming on the problem.

Use What You Have

When it comes to deciding whether to Divide or Swarm, it’s important to use the learnings from previous activities within the Sprint to make sure you’re making the right decision. The two key activities for informing this decision are the Map and the Sprint Target.

The Sprint Target

When writing the Sprint Target, you decided as a team which customer(s) and which step(s) along the journey you would focus on for this Sprint. It’s important that you look again at the Sprint Target before making the Divide of Swarm decision, especially looking at how narrow or broad your targets are.

The Map

Once you have decided on whether to Divide or Swarm, you’re going to want to use the Map to illustrate who is working on what area of the Map, and keep it visible as a reminder to the whole team. Sticky notes are a great way to do this, putting them on the journey points that are to be sketched and putting the names of those responsible on them.

When to Divide

The decision to Divide should be made when the Sprint Target your team has agreed upon impacts multiple customers and/or steps within the Map. To approach each of these customers and steps with a Swarm approach would take too long, so Dividing up allows for multiple customers and steps to be worked on at the same time, improving efficiency.

This route means that you will have fewer ideas per step, but that you’ll save time over redoing the sketching activity for each part of the customer journey your Target touches.

If you do decide to Divide, then you as Facilitator should give each member of the Sprint Team an area of the Map to focus on, based on the Sprint Target. Do not wait for or ask for volunteers.

When to Swarm

If the Sprint Target you and your team have agreed upon has a very narrow focus, for example one customer type at one step along their journey, then you’ll want to decide for the team to Swarm on the problem. This means that everyone on the Design Sprint Team will focus on and come up with ideas and potential solution sketches for the same area.

This approach means that you will have many ideas on the same subject to work from, including some likely duplicates.

If you do decide to Swarm, then your role as Facilitator is to make it clear to the team which area of the map they are working on, and to make sure they don’t deviate too much from that area.

Next Week Is Sketch Week

Now that you have decided whether to Divide or Swarm and made it clear where the Team’s sketching attention should be, it’s time to move on to the “Four-Part Sketch”, which we’ll be covering a little differently.

We’re shaking things up a bit next week, with Sketch Week. As the sketching activities in the Design Sprint’s “Four-Part Sketch” are so important, we felt it was inappropriate to squish them all together into one post. So, we’ll be releasing a new post everyday from Tuesday - Friday, so that you can get all you need for Sketching in just one week!

If you’d like a notification when this new part launches, then don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter or follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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