Mastering the Design Sprint

Last month, I made the decision to invest in myself and go “back to school” online through AJ&Smart’s Design Sprint Masterclass. My hope was to learn how to facilitate the newest version of the Google Ventures design sprint, the Design Sprint 2.0.

AJ&Smart (AJS) makes what appears to be some fairly lofty claims for its Design Sprint Masterclass including:

  • Ability to confidently facilitate a design sprint after taking the course
  • Course can be completed in 2 weekends, without stress
  • Access to the actual tools and templates they use with real clients
  • Dee (lead instructor in the class) “is known to be called the Beyonce of the Design Sprint”

I couldn’t help but feel a bit skeptical about these claims but figured that even if they were only 80% accurate, that the course would still be well-worth my time investment.

What’s The Verdict?

I just completed the course and it has been an incredible learning experience!

Everything about the course from the quality of teaching, to the learner community, to the downloadable tools, was top notch. After spending the past month learning through Masterclass, I am confident that I can facilitate a Design Sprint 2.0, AND teach it to others.

The course was as advertised… and so much more. I loved every moment of it and was genuinely sad when it was over (the course tracks your progress and I started feeling sad around the “60% complete” mark as I began anticipating the end of the course). The good news is that learning through Masterclass doesn’t stop after you complete the course and receive your certificate (more on that below).

I feel I just learned an incredibly valuable skill to add to my toolkit as an innovator, business leader, and design thinking practitioner. I’m confident that even if one never facilitates or participates in a design sprint, that the methods and tools taught in the course are invaluable.

There’s so much I want to share about my course experience that it’s difficult for me to know where to start. Below are some of my high-level thoughts and takeaways from the course.

How Is The Design Sprint 2.0 Different From The Original Google Ventures Version?

AJ&Smart’s updated version of the design sprint is one day shorter than the original 5 day version. This is based on experience they’ve had conducting the 5 day version and areas they found they could condense without negatively impacting the quality of the final output. A few of the noteworthy changes:

  • Expert Interviews: Much shorter in Design Sprint 2.0 vs. 1.0.
  • Long Term Goals: Some of the discussion around the goal has been cut out in 2.0 version.
  • Making the Map: Significantly reduced time making the map. I love this change; definitely makes sense for a sprint.
  • User Test Flow: Newly added component in the Design Sprint 2.0. Super helpful for making the storyboarding process easier.

Design Sprint 2.0 AJS

New Design Sprint 2.0 Process (1-day shorter than the original 5 day version!)

What Is It Like Taking Design Sprint Masterclass?

The Design Sprint Masterclass course is self-paced, 100% online, and on a learning platform called Teachable.

The first thing I noticed as I initially logged-on into the course, was the collection of downloadable tools and templates for the course.

Design Sprint Masterclass Dashboard

Design Sprint Masterclass Learner Dashboard

The inner “hoarder” in me immediately took over as I wasted no time clicking on all the resources and downloading them. The presentation materials (e.g. facilitator slide deck and lightening decision jam) are available in PowerPoint and Keynote, which is awesome if you want to modify them for your own organization.

AJ&Smart Downloadable Resources

Print-outs of some of the downloadable resources (Design Sprint Masterclass students also get free access to a separate short AJS course/tool called Lightning Decision Jam)

After downloading the resources, I scanned through all the lessons to get a sense of what was to come. There is well over 4+ hours of lesson content in the course, a figure that’s growing as AJS continues to add content (they’ve just added some additional lesson modules featuring the legendary Jake Knapp, author of ‘Sprint’).

In addition to teaching the actual Design Sprint 2.0 process, the course also provides lessons on what to do before/after a sprint, how to run an iteration sprint, how to sell design sprints (internally or to other organizations), and advanced facilitation skills. My learning journey began with the “Before the Sprint” lesson series, where I was greeted by a familiar face and a new one.

Masterclass features Jonathan Courtney, Co-Founder of AJ&Smart and Dee Scarano, Head of Design Sprint Training at AJS.

I’ve seen Jonathan plenty of times through the significant quantity of awesome content that he shares on the AJ&Smart YouTube channel. I was a bit less familiar with Dee and wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Spoiler alert: Dee is a phenomenal design sprint educator!

In classic AJS video style, Jonathan and Dee are hilarious, engaging, and very well-versed in design sprints. The lesson content is incredibly rich as both instructors share not only “the what” and “the how” for leading design sprints, but also a lot of “the why”, leveraging a wealth of knowledge that comes from having run a ton of sprints.

Additionally, the videos are surprisingly binge-able (yes, I just described a series of training videos as binge-able). I spent quite a bit of time binge-watching videos from my phone on the Teachable mobile app (another cool component of the course).

Teachable App Design Sprint Masterclass  Dee and Jonathan on Teachable App

How Long Does It Take To Complete The Class?

It’s definitely possible to complete the course in one weekend and have a great working foundation of the Design Sprint 2.0. As mentioned above, the 4+ hours of videos are very easy and enjoyable to get through. There are also no assignments to complete.

I chose to take my time with the course, dedicating roughly 15 solid weekend hours the past month learning and practicing the content. There was so much great info packed in the lessons that I found myself re-watching videos and taking copious notes.

As luck would have it, I actually found myself applying quite a bit of what I was learning through the course, into my work as I happened to be leading an HCD innovation sprint (non-Google Ventures style) while taking Masterclass. The opportunity to immediately apply Design Sprint 2.0 tools to my innovation sprint, accelerated my learning by reinforcing what I learned from the course. It also gave me conviction that the design sprint methodology is highly valuable for design thinking practitioners like myself who don’t regularly conduct GV style sprints.

What I Liked Most About Design Sprint Masterclass

  • It Was As Advertised. Simply put, I received exactly what I had hoped to receive from the course: the knowledge, confidence, and tools to lead a GV style design sprint. It was also a ton of fun!
  • Incredible Content Quality & Instruction. Dee, Jonathan, and now Jake Knapp (new videos from Jake have just been added) did a fantastic job teaching not only how to lead a design sprint, but also the “whys” and the “hacks” based on what they’ve learned from the many sprints they’ve conducted. There is also significant value in being able to re-watch these lectures over and over again.
  • Highly Engaged Facebook Learner Community. Design Sprint Masterclass has a rapidly growing and highly engaged private learner community page on Facebook. In this community, there is VERY high interaction between Masterclass students, alum, and the AJS team. A lot of my learning has actually come after completing the course, as this learner community is constantly discussing how best to utilize what we learned and actively shares best practices/stories with one another.
  • Downloadable Tools & Templates. Absolutely loved all the downloadable resources that AJS shares as part of this course. Super helpful!
  • The App. I loved watching the lectures from my phone and being able to reference specific lessons quickly when needed. In the innovation sprint I just facilitated, I decided to quickly incorporate the lightning demos, 3 step concept, and user test flow techniques into my sprint and it was very handy having the lessons readily available.

Design Sprint Masterclass Teachable App

A common view for me – watching Masterclass videos from my phone while taking notes in my notebook. Looks like there are 6 newly added Jake Knapp videos that I need to watch!

My Hopes For Masterclass In The Future

  • Continued Rich and Productive Discussion on the Facebook Learner Page. The Masterclass community is filled with wonderful design sprinters who are incredibly supportive of one another. This community has become one of my new online “tribes”. My hope is that the quality of this community remains intact as it inevitably grows larger.
  • Addition of a Learner Workbook. There is so much incredible content in the videos that you’ll be tempted to write down just everything they say. I took copious notes in my personal notebook and thus wished there was a learner workbook included with some of the key teaching points already printed inside (to help save time and effort in taking notes).
  • Awesome New Content Continues to Get Added. I’m definitely being greedy here as I’ve already received all that I wanted from the course (and more). But as a Masterclass student, you have lifetime access to the course including all it’s updates, and AJS is already adding new content like the Jake Knapp videos. I certainly wasn’t expecting new content to be added so quickly considering they just launched the course in April but now that they have, I’m hungry for more because it’s all great stuff!

Jake Knapp and Jonathan Courtney Masterclass

More Jake Knapp videos via Design Sprint Masterclass please 🙂

Quick Tips If You Take The Class

  • Try to have a specific design sprint problem in mind as you watch the course lessons. Since the class doesn’t have homework or a project, I found having a potential sprint challenge in mind helpful as I envisioned how to apply the tools.
  • Be active on the Masterclass Facebook community. The community ranges from people in large organizations like myself, to solo practitioners looking to learn how to sell sprints. This range of folks has yielded some very rich discussion on design sprints in general. The AJ&Smart team is also very active in answering students questions and providing additional perspectives.
  • Take detailed and easy to reference notes while taking the class. They will come in very handy once you choose to lead a sprint. As I’ve applied some of the tools at work, I frequently have found myself referring back to my notebook for a quick refresher.
  • Physically do the sprint exercises while you learn them. As I watched the course lessons, I practiced applying the techniques by using them on a specific design sprint problem I had in mind. I found this super useful in developing mental and muscle memory of the process.

Design-Sprint-Masterclass-Exercises.gif

Try to use individual components of the design sprint process in your daily work; there’s no need to wait for a full sprint to actually begin practicing and leveraging the tools.

Bottom Line

AJ&Smart absolutely knocked it out of the park with Design Sprint Masterclass and I’m a huge fan. I’d strongly recommend this course to anyone looking to gain high confidence in facilitating design sprints, and to design thinking practitioners looking to add a proven and powerful “design doing” process to their toolkit.

Since taking the course, I’ve already introduced components of the Design Sprint 2.0 to my workplace and have begun teaching these techniques to my team. Completing the course and receiving a certificate has also armed me with credibility to further apply the approach within my organization.

Design Sprint Masterclass is so much more than an online design sprint class. It’s community, it’s ongoing learning, and it’s incredibly rewarding. It’s been an unexpected yet wonderful step in my journey as a design thinker and one that I’m confident has opened many new doors of possibility for me!

Interested in learning more about design sprints? Take a look at my ultimate guide to design sprint training, tools, and resources!

  1. […] 8/12 Update: I took the course and loved it! Click here for my review of the course. […]

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