Dissecting the Design Sprint Event


The solution design portion of a design sprint is often considered the most fun and free-flowing part of an event. This is what people come to the event for: to come up with solutions to their problem. What most newcomers to the design sprint process don’t realize is that the solution design portion is still part of a much larger process. Knowledge and artifacts from the previous steps in the event feed into ideating solutions and then paring them down for realistic solutions that will have a strong impact on the organization.

All the work the stakeholders and participants have done up to brainstorming solutions lead to creating a wide pool of potential solutions. Cole Stamm is an AF CyberWorx UX Research Fellow through the ORISE program. As he explains, “The personas, journey maps, task flows, task optimization – all that is the foundation for creating ideas off of.” From the initial discovery call to writing out personas and scenarios, the artifacts that map out the problem-solving journey the team has taken leads up to ideation. Cole went on, “You can’t create solutions without doing those first steps or they’re just arbitrary solutions.” Arbitrary solutions don’t provide the impact to the organization a team hopes to create.

The best solution design phases pull in focused information and give back actionable, well-developed solutions. Cole relates a specific event that had excellent results. Part of the key, he says, was because “it had a very specific focus…with very clear constraints and personas.” Another successful event “had a number of interesting solutions that benefited from the task analysis approach.” For each, the solutions were based on a strong foundation built throughout the event. The solutions focused on the end user and solving their pain points.

Ultimately, solution design is really just another step in the entire problem-solving process. Cole stresses, “Problem solving goes on throughout the process. It doesn’t really stop with the solution process.” AF CyberWorx facilitators are there every step of the way to assist the team with staying focused on the problem and reminding them of the gains they’ve made during their problem-solving journey to finish strong with impactful solutions.

The Solution Design Process

Once the team has a cohesive, shared vision of the problem, end goal, and requirements for success, they enter the ideation phase. This is the fun part. Cole outlines some key things participants need to know about ideating solutions: “Stay open to making connections between different peoples’ ideas…put off judgement until a later time…stay focused on the user at the center of the problem.” Keeping these ideas in mind, let the ideas flow freely, have fun, and trust that the process will weed out the ideas that are too complex, expensive, or off topic later.

The next step puts the products of previous steps to active use. Often, a team will find a process or design has specific requirements, objectives, or key questions that need to be addressed. After creating a large group of great ideas, the team needs to whittle down the number of solutions to narrow their focus. As Cole states, the group is looking for “the idea that’s really going to change the game.” The team votes, considering which solutions would be “easy wins” which would have the greatest impact on the problem, and which solutions generate the most passion among the participants. After that, asking which requirements each solution meets helps prioritize them and sometimes further weeds out unlikely solutions.

Now the team has a set of solutions that the majority agree meet the requirements, will be impactful to the problem and users, and are feasible. The team next needs to prepare those ideas for action. To do this, each solution gets fleshed out with a process Cole calls “make it or break it.” Here, the critical cap needs to go back on to determine the pros and cons of a solution and what acts as assists and barriers to the solution. Some examples of both include expenses, manpower, time to implement, or utilizing existing resources. Ultimately, it’s the decision-makers that decide if a solution is a go. It’s the participants’ job to give them the information they need to make the right decision.

AF CyberWorx guides participants through a tried-and-true process from discovery to solution design so a problem-solving team’s efforts result in finding a direction to improvement. Whether the solutions call for a change in process, prototypes for a new product, or a proof of concept, we help the team discover areas for improvement and develop paths towards success.

*The postings on this blog reflect individual team member opinions and do not necessarily reflect official Air Force positions, strategies, or opinions.

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