At the intersection of Design Sprints and Growth Hacking
Design Sprints are repeatable and quick ways for teams to generate novel and useful ideas.
Growth Hacking is the process of running experiments intended to improve the components of growth from acquisition to referrals.
Put these techniques together and you have a repeatable growth recipe for businesses to build on.
The components of a Growth Sprint
The exciting thing about sprints in general is that they are repeatable. (And yes, the word repeatable in the name of this site is referring to these techniques that can be relied on to produce results for individuals and companies.)
Once you know the process you can turn the crank and improve your company’s growth prospects as often as you like. The process outlined here loosely follows the AJ&Smart method.
As with any sprint, the ideal group size is six or seven people. One of them is the facilitator – we’ll imagine that’s you in this post. One participant is the decider – typically the higher ranked person on the team. Their role will be clear later, but for now everybody has an equal say.
The growth metrics we will focus on are Acquisition, Activation and Retention. I describe all the growth metrics in my earlier post, Growth Hacking, Gotta Get Get Get Get Get.
The objective is create growth experiments. These are plans for four to six weeks of effort to test a theory which is intended to create growth. These can be large or small. Simple ones can be tweaks to the web page, or changes to online advertising.
Step 1: What is moving us forward?
Approximate duration 20 minutes
You, the facilitator, will ask all the participants to write out what they think is responsible for the success of the company. Each person works alone for five minutes, putting each idea on a post it note.
Then in turn each person adds their post its to the wall grouped into the three growth lever categories: acquisition, activation, retention. As they do, they explain their thinking and how the company is doing well. Each participant gets two or three minutes for this activity.
Examples of what could be moving a company forward include:
“We get along very well as a team.”
“We are getting good feedback on our designs.”
“We are getting a lot of repeat business.”
Outcome: Good vibes
Step 1 puts the team into a good mood so that the rest of the sprint doesn’t feel too doom and gloom. It can also reveal advantages the company has that can be used to address problems later on.
Step 2: What is holding us back?
APPROXIMATE DURATION 15 MINUTES
Here again, everybody writes alone. You, the facilitator, will ask the participants to write out the problems they see. Give the group fifteen minutes for this step.
Ask for at least one problem per participant per growth lever, i.e. acquisition, activation and retention. What is negatively affecting these growth levers?
Ask the participants to describe each problems as an opportunity, or what we can call a How Might We or HMW for short. For example, if the problem is that customers are complaining about their orders being damaged in shipping (a retention problem), the opportunity is “how might we get our orders to customers with less damage?”
What you want to avoid is making the HMW sound too much like the solution. So a limiting reframe in this example would be “how can we package our orders better?” This framing implies that packaging is the only solution and overlooks alternatives like changing shippers, making the product itself more durable, etc.
Then they put the problems they identify up on the wall without explanation. The team should review each item with fresh eyes.
Outcome: around twenty HMW questions
This is a divergence step. We are looking for lots of ideas to narrow down later. With six participants identifying at least three HMWs, you will yield around twenty HMWs.
Step 3: Show where it hurts
APPROXIMATE DURATION 5 MINUTES
Next do a dot vote, where each person is given an equal number of dots to place on the problem they think deserves the most attention. Then rank the problems. Ignore items with only one or zero votes.
OUTCOME: Around six HMW questions
This is a convergence step. The end result is around a half dozen highly voted HMWs.
Step 4: Lightning demos
APPROXIMATE DURATION 30 MINUTES
Once again, this step starts with the participants “together alone”, staying together in the room but working quietly on their own to do a little research.
For fifteen minutes, each member uses their phone or laptop to look for inspiration in what other companies and industries do to solve problems similar to the HMWs ranked in Step 3. Of course, they may already have ideas from the earlier activities – those are welcome too!
Then each member is given two or three minutes to present their ideas to the team.
OUTCOME: creative energy
Now everybody has had a chance to look to the internet for inspiration and also learned from what the others found. This is an orderly form of brainstorming, because it lets people benefit from each other’s ideas without risking the dynamic of only a few early and loud voices dominating the room.
Step 5: Define Experiments
APPROXIMATE DURATION 20 MINUTES
Inspired by the lightning demos, for the next twenty minutes they write out growth experiments. The goal is to have each participant come up with around three growth experiments.
This description will include the following items.
Experiment name: Friendly Landing Page
Hypothesis: Our landing page is a bit sterile. Some friendly faces might help.
Action: Include large photo of smiling people on landing page. Split test against original version to see if people stay longer.
Success criteria: An increase in engagement indicated by 20% more clicks after landing on page.
Outcome: Around Eighteen Growth Experiments
At the end of this process your team will have created around eighteen growth experiments, each with a one page description.
Step 6: Final Selection
APPROXIMATE DURATION 10 MINUTES
Have everybody read the experiments on the wall and decide which experiment they think is the best for the problem. To indicate their vote, they write their initials to a dot sticker and place it on their chosen experiment. All vote simultaneously.
Once this is done, the facilitator then removes experiments which have no votes. Then ask each member to explain their vote.
Now, having heard from each other and having had an opportunity to reflect on the various viewpoints, it’s time for the team to decide what to do first. On smaller post its write the name of each experiment and work with the team to place the post its on an effort-impact scale. (I prefer to use impact as the y-axis and ease as the x-axis as opposed to effort. This puts the best options in the top right making it a little more intuitive.)
At this point you may find there is debate about how easy and impactful the various options are. If the team is getting bogged down, the decider identified at the beginning can break the tie.
Outcome: A small number of actionable growth experiments – Success!
This is the final convergence step – we are down to one or a small handful of experiments the group believes will have a large impact with little effort. Remember, these are experiments, and the point is to press them into action to test their hypotheses. What you learn will inform the group the next time they go through this process.
Track your experiments
You can easily imagine that going through this process on a regular basis will result in a dizzying number of experiments to try. Keeping track of them is important, because not only are you finding out what works, you are finding out what doesn’t and why. This is vital team knowledge and you don’t want to trust it all to memory.
AJ&Smart relies on Google sheets to track its experiments.
Sean Ellis coined the term growth hacking. His company called, appropriately enough, GrowthHackers sells a software service called Northstar that is purpose built to track growth hacking experiments.
Coming up with all these ideas
Whether it is growth hacking, design thinking or lean startup, all these methods require each member of your team to come up with lots of ideas to be considered. If you and your team are getting ideation fatigue, you need some idea catalysts.
I’ve prepared a free guide to producing more ideas than you thought possible to initiate the innovations you need in your job, your business and your life.
Click here to get your free downloadable guide to the SCAMPER’s 7 Powerful Idea Generators, which includes seven examples of idea generation involving Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Delicious!