Lab Notes

Getting Hyped For Sprints Like It’s The Super Bowl

The hype for the Superbowl last week was REAL. Really big. Really loud. Really congested. It was also really exciting (though, as a die hard Vikings fan, less exciting than I had hoped). I spent time walking down Nicollet Mall and taking in the spectacle. As I navigated the cold and crowded streets, I was completely blown away by the grandeur, the details, and the sheer level of excitement permeating a 10 block radius. Every light pole, shop, and bar were adorned in Super Bowl colors. There were activities at every turn, from a large concert venue hosting a local hip hop artist to a man made hill that people were skiing down.

But what REALLY struck me was how seamless it all felt. The whole area was like a frozen beehive of volunteers, staff, security, and police all working together in unison to help those attending feel the buzz of the festivities and enjoy a great night out.

And, in some ways, my team and I try to pull that same feat off once a month for our client’s design sprints. Designs sprints, as we use them with our clients, are 3 day sessions of concentrated effort where we bring in a cross functional team from our client and from GoKart to solve a problem the business is facing. Design sprints are exhausting, overwhelming, incredibly rewarding, and totally energizing all at the same time. The structure, pace, and energy of a sprint can make or break it. You can read more about how they work with one of your clients in this article we posted previously.

Sure, it’s at a MUCH smaller scale and with less grandeur and spectacle (though I’d argue that my giraffe costume is a sight to behold), but it definitely uses the same fundamentals to make a successful design sprint.

Prepare. Predict. Plan.

Watching the Super Bowl on Sunday, you probably didn’t notice the miles of cords weaving their way through the stadium. You also didn’t see frenetic control room changing camera angles constantly or the elaborate stage for the halftime show getting in place moments before halftime. And that’s the beauty of good designs and well organized day. All that hard work that goes into preparation, all of the audibles being called last minute, and all of the pieces you need to get in place just before they are ready to be deployed, should make everything you feel during the game day experience seem intentional.

The same is true of the design work we do at GoKart. So much time and effort go into it, but it should never feel like that to the end user. And we want all of our client experiences to feel the exact same way.

It’s one thing to have a tight agenda and detailed deliverables spelled out before the design sprint begins (that’s a given). But the devil is in the details. Do we have analytics and data related to the section of the site we are diving into? Have we sent pre-sprint surveys out to find out what users are looking for with this type of experience? Do we understand the technical constraints and political traps our client is facing? Have we researched what competitors are already doing in this area? If the answer to these (and many other) questions is “No,” then we’ve got some more work to do to “Get Smart” and not have a session that feels as complex as it is.

We don’t get hype; we STAY hype!

That’s not only a catchphrase from one my favorite wrestlers, Mojo Rawley, but also a good mantra to live by during the design sprint. Bring energy. Always. Every time.

That said, design sprints are meant to solve a challenging problem, ones that often have very real, major impacts on how people live their lives. That gravity is not lost on me. We take our work very seriously and take time to understand what ramifications our solutions may have on our users to help build user empathy.

And that same gravity also means long days, using our brains working through a maze of “what if’s” and a tangle of potential pitfalls. So while we need to take our work seriously, to keep up the energy, it’s important to not take ourselves so seriously. Sometimes that shows up by detailing a hilariously embarrassing story about my toddler laughing at me for being bald. Sometimes it’s sensing there are energy problems and having the team take a break so they can get their wind back. And sometimes I show up in a ridiculous costume because I told the client I would if we completed a certain task that day. The point is, a well designed and organized day is pretty boring and can fall apart pretty quickly if you don’t have a little pizazz to sprinkle in throughout the day.

So, see you later Super Bowl! It was wonderful hosting you and your pageantry in our humble and overly nice city. Just next time, let’s see if we can carry that whole purple motif you had going into the stadium for game day and I will bring my pizazz to a whole new level.

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