Design Sprint Workshop

Group of people workshopping ideas.

Photo by Leon on Unsplash


This is a great workshop if you're looking to bring a group of people together to define problems, prioritise ideas and take action on solutions without discussion.

I going to take you through it step-by-step.

It's flexible and you can use it for almost anything. If you need to bring a group of 3 people together or 300 people. You can run this workshop and have them come up with solutions that have outcomes.

The ideal size for a workshop group is 3-8 people. But it's possible to include way more provided you break down larger sessions into small groups of 7-8.

This workshop takes between 1-1.5 hours to run.

You'll need

For face to face workshops:

  • Post-it notes (3 colours)
  • Sticky Dots (2 colours)
  • Chunky Sharpie markers for every person.
  • Time Timer - Google has a built in timer in the search results for this phrase.
  • A good focus music playlist.

Or if your team is working remotely, Miro is a great online platform that can replace all these things! Sign up for an account.

Choose a Facilitator

It doesn't need to be a professional facilitator, it just needs to be someone in the group who takes responsibility to explain the exercises, and keep time.

1: What's pushing us forward?

Draw a sailboat on a whiteboard, big piece of paper, or on your Miro board. You ned to make sure it has a sail and an anchor. Heck throw in some water for good measure.


The sail is where we put things that are pushing us forward, and the anchor helps to represent those challenges that are holding us back. Very visual I know.

  • The facilitator is going to ask everyone to get ready with their post-its (pick a colour) and sharpies.
  • Set a timer for 4 minutes, for the group to work in silence writing the things that are pushing this team forwards.
  • Each good thing should be written on a separate post-it note.
  • At the end of the 4 minutes, each person in turns walks up to the sailboat and sticks their post-its above the water and read each one out loud.

By starting with the positives it makes it easier for people to come up with the corresponding negatives. If you start the session by making everyone think about the challenges and problems, it can create a negative atmosphere.

2: Gather Challenges

  1. Set a timer for 4 minutes.
  2. Get everyone to start coming up with challenges and problems.
  3. Each challenges or problem should be written on one post-it.
  4. Play some music to help with concentration.
  5. At the end of the 4 minutes, everybody walks up to the sailboat and sticks their post-its below the water.

3: Prioritise Problems

  1. The facilitator gives everyone in the group 3 sticky dots and asks them to subjectively vote for the problems they think are the biggest.
  2. If you see a duplicate during this, stick them over each other to stack them up.
  3. You can vote for you own problems, and you can vote multiple times for the same problem.
  4. and the most important rule is: Do Not Discuss!
  5. Set a timer for 3 minutes.
  6. Play some music to help with concentration.

The facilitator then takes all of the challenge post-its and arranges them by number of votes from top to bottom like a pyramid or tree.

4: Reframe Problems as Challenges

The facilitator should take the problem from the top - or top left it there's a tie - and reframe the problem as a challenge.

To do this we write a "how might we". A how might we (HMW) is a way to help reframe problems as standardised challenges. They're broad and better for helping to create solutions.

The facilitator will get a new post-it, in a new colour, and write HWM in the top corner so we know it's a how might we.


Problem: "The office is too loud"

HMW: "Accommodate people who need quiet in the office?"

So it's not specific and leads us into creating better solutions.

  1. Set a timer for 3 minutes.
  2. Reframe the problems as challenges ??? All of them???

5: Ideating without discussion

  1. Give the team a block of different colour post-its.
  2. Ask them to write down as many solutions to the "how might we" as they can - one per post-it.
  3. The solutions need to be self explanatory as you won't get chance to present them to the group.
  4. Set a timer for 5 minutes.
  5. Play some music to help with concentration.
  6. At the end of the 5 minutes, get all the solutions up on the wall.

6: Voting and Prioritising

  1. Each person gets 6 dots this time - with the same voting rules.
  2. Same thing with duplicates too - just stick them over each other.
  3. Set a timer for 4 minutes.

Like before the facilitator then takes all of the solution post-its and arranges them by number of votes from top to bottom.

7: Choose what to execute

We want to get a general idea of where the solution belongs on an effort/impact scale. So we ask the group about the effort and impact of each solution and place them wherever there seems to be a general consensus, a bit like Play your cards right.

Effort/Impact Scale.

  1. Draw an effort/impact scale.
  2. Set a timer for 10 minutes.
  3. Start with the top priority solution, and at the centre of the effort/impact scale.

The first solution acts like an anchor and makes subsequent placements a little easier.

At the end of the time, we take the solution from the top left corner of the effort/impact scale to make actionable.

8: Make the solution actionable

Take the chosen solution and make it practical. We want to do something with the solution and not just let it fade into the ether.

We're going to create actionable steps to make sure the experiment happens. and we're going to make someone take responsibility for taking these steps too.


  1. Buy 3 pairs of headphones.
  2. Give the headphones to 3 designers.
  3. Create a calendar event to check-in with designers after 1 week of use.

If after reviewing our solution we find it's not effective - we take our second solution and work our way through them until we solve the problem.

And in the case of experimentation, we compare the results from our qualitative and quantitative testing as we try each solution.