Wednesday, May 5, 2021

The Stages of a Rapid Innovation Sprint

Ben Wakeman, Sr. Director, Head of Product Management
Strategy / Innovation

In the second part of our series on Rapid Innovation Sprint Engagements, we introduced the team members who engage in RISE and produce exemplary experiences.

Here’s more on the process itself—how unrelenting creativity, extensive user testing and inhouse camaraderie leads to an almost magical collaboration and one-of-a-kind experience solutions for your brand. 

Understand

There's arguably no word that's contributed more to the advancement of humankind than "why." I’m such a fan that, last year, I devoted an entire post to the word. In the first stage of a RISE, we deeply interrogate the problem space to get to the heart of the real opportunity to innovate. To completely frame up an opportunity, we work to accomplish the following things:

  • Understand and record the Client Decider's goals
  • Identify and agree on the metrics that will measure success
  • Draft a concise Product Vision that encapsulates the spirit of what we want to achieve
  • Develop and document Proto-Personas to represent our target users
  • Enumerate the primary needs and pain points for our users
  • Plot a Journey Map to help understand our users' mindset at each stage of interaction

These outcomes are driven through spirited collaboration from the team as we work through a series of time-boxed activities that allow people to work independently; then, we discuss and evaluate as a group. 

Explore

Once we’ve framed up our problem space, understand the opportunity in front of us, and know how we will measure success, it’s time to open the aperture and explore the broader landscape. At this point, we want to hear as many points of view and ideas as possible.

This magical collaboration only works if we’re successful in fostering a safe, creative space that encourages experimentation. A huge aspect of creating this environment involves the way we run activities in our working sessions. Rather than conduct unstructured, verbal brainstorming—where the loudest, quickest or most senior voices in the room prevail—we opt for a variety of brainwriting exercises with stickies and free-form sketching where each team member works independently. This approach levels the playing field for all voices and encourages a breadth of unique ideas.

We typically kickstart the ideation process by having every team member share a couple of real-life examples of apps, websites, or other digital experiences that inspire them and are in some way relevant to the solution we’re hoping to find. Maybe it's a mobile onboarding flow, or it could be an elegant navigation system. 

After team members share a couple of real-life examples of apps, websites or other digital experiences that are inspirational and somewhat relevant, we move into independent sketching and storyboarding of concepts. With a little encouragement and permission, it’s often the non-designers that come up with some of the best ideas. Once everyone has had a chance to commit their concept to paper, we reconvene as a group to allow each person to present their concept at which point the group can pose questions and make suggestions. After all the concepts have been presented and discussed at length, the group does a silent voting exercise using sticky dots. This is where the collective thinking power of the group works best.

Decide

By this point in the process, we all have a thorough understanding of the problem space and the opportunity. We've also explored a wide range of possible solutions from every member of the team, and the group has voted on the concept for a solution we think is most viable. It's time to make a commitment so the Rightpoint team can move forward and bring the solution to life. 

The Decide stage represents more of a milestone, really, but we must allow enough time and space for the Client Decider to reflect on everything we've learned and to review the proposed direction. This is the time to gut-check the wager they're about to place. It's often during the Decide stage that some last-minute insights come to light that provide critical direction that will significantly improve what the team will develop. 

The Product Manager will organize the best work from our collaboration workshops and present it back to the Client Decider to facilitate this decision process. Questions will be asked and answered by the team; tweaks will be applied to the Product Vision. Adjustments will be made to the storyboard for our solution until, at last, the Client Decider feels confident that we can move forward. 

Create

By now, we have collected most of what we need to bring the vision to life, so the Rightpoint team members begin the work of designing a testable prototype. Right away, the Product Manager starts to carve up the big idea into smaller work items in the form of epics or themes, which can be further broken down into actionable user stories. The design and tech teams take ownership of those user stories to bring the various features to life. The team will then iterate week-over-week until we've accomplished the vision that came out of our workshops. Our client is always a part of the Create journey and invited to attend daily stand-ups and ad-hoc sessions to review the work in progress.

Depending on the scope and level of fidelity we are trying to build in this prototype, the Create stage could minimally last one week or extend for several. It may be that we've determined the most high-value prototype is a technology proof-of-concept with very little design. This is often the case where we're pushing the limits of what's possible using newer technologies like augmented/virtual reality. In this scenario, we might staff more engineers to support the Technology lead in developing the final prototype.

Conversely, it may be that we need to fully realize an application’s user interface to test it holistically for viability in the market. In this scenario, we will add additional UX and visual designers to support the Design Lead in designing the navigation and flows to populate a clickable prototype in InVision or Axure.

Finally, it's important to note that we're all about rightsizing. In some cases, the Create stage can be accomplished in a week of focused work to deliver a lean prototype that validates our big idea. This is often the right approach when innovating in a well-defined structure, like augmenting an existing app with a brand-new feature.

Test

Once we've developed our prototype, it's time to get it in front of some real users so we can see how well it solves the problems we identified in our early workshops. In preparation, while the team was working to develop the prototype, the Product Manager and Design Lead were busy recruiting test users and defining the key questions to ask.

As with all aspects of the RISE, the test stage is flexible in size and scope and will be shaped to get the most value in the smallest possible timeframe. In some cases, this could mean we use a platform like Userlytics or UserTesting.com to recruit a large cohort of users and run through dozens of scripts for a couple of weeks. In others, we might only need to recruit a handful of users for a single day and have them walk through one or two simple flows. Regardless of the breadth and duration, the testing is designed to provide us with enough empirical evidence that our idea is sound and worth further development.

User testing is almost always eye-opening. Things we thought would be simple for users prove perplexing, and things that might have caused apprehension are adopted without hesitation. Our goal is to gather as much qualitative and quantitative data as possible to have a straightforward story around what needs to be improved and how this is done. Recording each user testing session, to be observed by everyone from the RISE team, is critical to gain a collective understanding of what the path forward should be.

What's Next?

At the end of a RISE, our clients are armed with all the information they need to either move forward and invest in fully developing their digital product or decide that their concept requires further refinement or even a completely different direction. The RISE team hands off the finished prototype, technical documentation, design artifacts and test results, encompassing a complete game plan to move into a build stage.

We believe innovation comes in all shapes and sizes, so every aspect of the RISE is designed to be flexible. We believe there is no better way to wrangle ambiguity and deliver solutions that positively impact the world than to work through the process of understanding the problem space, exploring the possibilities, deciding on a direction, creating a prototype and testing with real users.

In future posts, we’ll take a deeper dive into specific stages of the RISE and even unpack some of the tips, tools, and tricks we use in our workshops.

To learn more about our Digital Product offerings, get in touch with Rightpoint today.