Innovate Faster and Take Action

Many times, big problems are solved with small tactics. For example, my phone chargers frequently frey at the connectors. However, a small tactic – covering the connector with the spring from inside of a pen – can prevent the frey. One broken pen saves me hundreds in new charging cords. 

I spend a lot of time running Design Sprints for our clients. I’ve found that there are several valuable tricks I use in a Design Sprint that business leaders can use to not only innovate faster but also to quickly build consensus and strengthen teams. 

Essentially, a Design Sprint is a structured but very quick way to design a solution to a problem. (If you aren’t familiar with Design Sprints check out my last blog  here). The techniques used in a Design Sprint aim to collect feedback from everyone in the room, spark creativity, push the group to make decisions, and build consensus.

These techniques are also effective in everyday business situations. They can:
  • Give everyone a voice, not just the most outspoken
  • Eliminate endless discussion without a decision
  • Put the emphasis on action 
  • Help step into creativity even for the “uncreative”

Here are a few techniques that I recommend trying the next time you need to quickly build consensus among your team members.

4 Design Sprint Techniques to Try in Everyday Business Meetings

Technique 1: Note & Vote

Design Sprints use a “together alone” approach to brainstorming. I love that this gives ideas from quieter people equal weight with the ideas from the more outspoken. 

How it works
Each person writes down as many ideas as they can on sticky notes. No discussion. This should last 5 minutes max. Yes, set a timer. 

You can set a guideline that everyone writes at least 3 ideas. If people are enthusiastic and write 10 post-its or more ask them to pick their top 3-5 ideas.

Post them (see my blog  here on how to do this in a virtual working environment). Again no discussion.

Everyone received dots to vote for the best ideas. They can vote for their own. They can put all their dots on one or spread them out.  

How many dots? Count up the ideas posted and divide by 2, that is the number of total dots. Divide the dots to all the people in the room.  

Now rearrange the sticky notes based on votes starting with the most dots at the top. It often looks like a tree.

Congratulations to the team! A decision has been made!

Advanced option 1: 
If you have one person in the room that is the ultimate decision-maker you can give that person 1-2 additional dots to provide added weight. 

Advanced option 2:
 Alternatively, the ultimate decision-maker can have a different color dot(s). Ask them to wait until voting has taken place. They then choose the final ideas based on the voting of their team.

Technique 2: Effort vs. Impact
You may find yourself in a meeting arguing over many competing ideas. Perhaps even after a Note & Vote, four ideas received an equal rating. Now what?

No problem,  Effort vs. Impact to the rescue.

How it works
Take your top-rated ideas and hold them over the middle of your Impact v. Effort grid.  

Start with impact and ask the team, “with this challenge do you think this idea has greater or less impact” and move up and down. 

The team answers with only higher or lower--this isn’t an invitation to discuss. 

Once the team has agreed on impact, ask the same question of effort.

For the ideas that fall in the:
  • upper left with the greatest impact and least effort = DO NOW
  • bottom left with lower impact but low effort = SET A TASK
  • upper right with high impact and high effort = MAKE A PROJECT
  • bottom right with low impact and high effort = IGNORE
For the  Do Now ideas quickly determine a plan, set success criteria, and assign responsibilities so that people leave the meeting with action steps. The team will never have felt so productive.

Technique 3: Crazy Eights
No, I don’t mean the card game.  Crazy Eights is a technique for a group to quickly produce as many solutions as possible. It is particularly helpful when a team doesn’t feel particularly creative and needs to warm up a little before getting down to drafting a solution. 

How it works
Give each participant a piece of plain white paper. 

Ask them to fold it in half three times to have 8 boxes.

Set a timer for eight minutes.  

Everyone receives one minute to sketch one idea before moving on to the next idea. They can sketch eight completely different ideas or two ideas with four iterations each or any other combo they like.The key to Crazy Eights is that these drawings are just for them, not to share.  

The Crazy Eights exercise becomes an easy stepping stool and takes a lot of the pressure to perform out of the whole ideation process because we get the chance to test out little ideas without the pressure of sharing with the broader team. With Crazy Eights there is no need to be perfect. There isn’t even the need to have the right solution.

The next step is to build out a full idea, concept or solution which is so much easier with your favorite Crazy Eight ideas.  

Technique 4: Timeboxing

So this isn’t an activity like the others on this list but it is still a valuable technique I recommend.  

In Design Sprints, everything is timeboxed. When you know you have five minutes to Note and five minutes to Vote, people feel less compelled to discuss. Any conversation that does happen must be simple and straight to the point.  

You can use a large timer or if you are working virtually tools like Miro or Mural have timers built-in.  

Those are my favorite Design Sprint techniques to make our day-to-day meetings more productive. Do you have other favorite techniques? I would love to hear about them.

​If you are interested in exploring a virtual Design Sprint to get your team moving faster and taking action,  schedule a free consultation now.