Why Remote Design Sprints Work

Design Sprints opens a new window lend themselves nicely to a virtual format, and digital tools can enhance this widely-used process developed by Google Ventures opens a new window .

It’s Flexible

There are a lot of benefits that come with working remotely and running virtual meetings, of course, but some of those aspects are especially helpful for running a virtual Design Sprint.

In most ways, it’s just like any other Design Sprint opens a new window . We use similar types of activities but with digital infrastructure. Some things, like using paper and pen to sketch and take notes, don’t change.

A lot of the benefits are around added flexibility in tools, work styles, and being able to bypass the need to be in the same physical space. Remote Design Sprints can level the playing field in a lot of ways.

For example, they make it easier for people from multiple time-zones to participate, and give you the option to split the workshops into shorter meetings to accommodate the realities of work life.

Bonus: Remember how annoying it was to try and book a conference room big enough for a series of meetings? No one has to book a conference room anymore. Yay!

Virtual Tools can be Better than Physical Tools

Digital whiteboarding tools (e.g. Mural opens a new window make it so much easier to run virtual Design Sprints. Everyone always has enough post-it notes and it’s a lot easier to read typed text than your colleague’s handwriting (no offense).

Another benefit is that it’s easier to make a record of previous meetings by just copying and pasting our ideas from activity to activity. I am glad that we never need to go back and look at pictures of an actual whiteboard to try to remember something that was drawn or written there 2 days ago.

There’s also the option to turn off your camera and mute your mic for quiet and focused heads-down work time in the activities. We can combine the benefits of doing something as a group with the benefits of working solo for a little bit.

I also find that it’s nice to not be on camera the whole time. Video calls are a special kind of tiring, and we can avoid that video-call fatigue with some solo work time sprinkled in.

Maintain Group Focus

Each task happens on the same virtual whiteboard, so there’s always just 1 URL to access for the group. Workshops are pretty quick and focused, and there are breaks between each activity to keep everyone feeling good and ready to focus on the next task.

Preferred Snacks Forever

It’s comfortable at home, so be comfortable. It doesn’t hurt concentration and creativity to have your own snacks, preferred caffeine beverages, comfortable chair, and stretchy pants if that’s your thing.

The Tools

We use a laptop or desktop computer, Mural opens a new window , Zoom opens a new window , and our smart phones with a camera and internet access to participate in the sprints.

Everyone needs to have a reliable high-speed internet connection, a video conferencing camera (like the ones built into many computers these days), and a microphone to participate.

Basically you need the basic trappings of work from home and you’re ready to go.

One Thing that Won’t Change

The people. All the people need to be involved and available just as they would during an in-person Design Sprint. Everyone really needs to participate. Otherwise it won’t work.

How to make it work as an organizer

  1. Plan everything! Every workshop needs to be planned out with all materials ready to go as soon as the next activity starts.
  2. Do a dry-run and walk through all the instructions of each workshop.
  3. Make sure you do a test run/warm-up activity to make sure everyone’s tools are working.
  4. Expect things to take slightly longer than in-person. Make time for transitions and for providing a bit of tech support where needed along the way.
  5. Plan lots of breaks for stretching, resting minds, staying hydrated, and otherwise taking care of yourself and others.
  6. Make group playlists if you want!
  7. Have fun! This is a creative exercise. We think better when we aren’t too stressed.

You’ve Got This

With distributed teams, it’s especially important to find digital formats that work. Remote Design Sprints offer ease of participation to broader audiences and help create access for more team members to participate which just makes them better!

There are so many tools that are better than their physical analogs for participating in these workshops that while the experience is certainly different, you can still have an equally rad Design Sprint with a fully remote team.