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Sprinting in Boulder: Reflections from Google's SprintCon19

Written by 
Stefan Viragh
October 10, 2019

From an event hosted by a colossal tech provider came a rather intimate deep dive into the world of design sprints. The 3rd annual Google Design Sprint Conference, also known as SprintCon19, was an immersive 3-day event held on Google's very new Boulder, Colorado campus. With the intention to minimize the crowd of yawners, the organizers tailored this event to be relevant and hyper-interactive for all.

image (26)
Our Head of Services, Mark Tippin, introduces the Remote Sprinting with MURAL + Friends deep dive session.

When I'm not standing on the right side of group pictures (as you'll soon notice), I am exploring new paths in the consulting world; primarily, ones that lead to an intersection of MURAL and consultant. The world of consulting is constantly changing -- both in terms of problem statements the clients think they have and the solutions the consultants approach those statements with. If MURAL continues to find itself in the toolkits of consultants, I need to be constantly listening for more ways to support and strengthen the entire consultant-client journey. Considering SprintCon19 was to be filled with famed (and soon-to-be famed) MURALers, what other reason did I need to jet to Boulder?

The focus of the 3rd Google SprintCon was to galvanize passionate design sprinters from around the world to embrace new mindsets and strengthen relationships. The organizers at Google wanted to keep participants constantly engaged, so they encouraged everyone to dive deep into a specific challenge twice-daily that was relevant to their specific practice as a facilitator.

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The MURAL crew proudly posing with our deep dive's share-out poster.

Often, it's easy to brush aside any time to focus on your goals or intentions for an event, meeting, workshop, etc. We find ourselves moving at a rapid enough pace, and it's easy to forget why.

"What are your intentions for this sprint conference?"

They asked us this when kicking things off the 1st day. Following a very social game of BINGO as an icebreaker, and some self-debate on what was most important for me, I wrote 3 primary intentions down on my hand:

  • Connect with our existing partners to see how we can strengthen our relationship further
  • Support my MURAL colleagues with anything they might need
  • Learn something new in every session

Previously, I mentioned there are problems the consultant's client THINK they have (it's very easy to make an assumption about what you think the root of a problem is). However, after attending "Framing The Right Problem", hosted by one of our notable partners, Design Sprint Academy, the problem you've identified is likely too broad and general. When is comes to design sprints, DSA asks every client "what is your biggest challenge?". In order to get us to think more deeply about the "How might we..." statement, John and Dana Vetan walked us through the 4 primary steps in the problem framing process:

  1. Justify the business need
  2. Contextualize the problem
  3. Understand the customer
  4. Find the opportunity and commit

Though problem framing is just the beginning of the design sprint process, it's a crucial step that will diminish the value of the outcome if not done right.

As a facilitator guides participants through the rest of the sprinting journey, they have a choice to collaborate in digital or analog space. Since there are multiple phases to the design sprint process, the facilitator could opt to mix in both or just stick to one. This is where MURAL becomes an instrumental tool for facilitators -- facilitators that desire to be more efficient (ie. reducing travel, avoid transcribing, etc.), engage participants across multiple timezones, or simply stretch the minds of those that seek a more forward way of working (in-person or fully remote).

The pinnacle of my SprintCon19 experience was when MURAL took the spotlight in an afternoon workshop (completely unbiased opinion, of course 🤪). Colleagues Mark Tippin and Hailey Temple, took the stage with some MURAL Superheroes (who also go by the name of Ross Chapman, Robert Skrobe, and Jay Melone). Using the topic of "Remote Sprinting", Mark and Hailey tee'd up our superheroes to each facilitate a table of curious and inspired participants through a mini-sprint on the topic of the table's choosing.

Over the course of the 90 minutes, since I wasn't anchored to a group, I floated around to see how people were responding to the breakout group exercise. Folks were really leaning into it: some were excited about all the stickies they could add so quickly to the canvas, some were simply being active listeners, and still others were trying to help co-facilitate. One participant leaned away from her laptop to tell me, "This is the perfect tool to foster virtual collaboration, or even digitize the outcome of my analog facilitation!"

I couldn't agree more. 🙂

Ross Chapman and his sprint group
Ross Chapman of Etch Sprints leads a breakout group on Digital Noting & Voting in the foreground.

Though the 3 days of mini design sprinting was rather exhausting, I was able to reflect back on my intentions (connect with existing consultants, meet new consultants to tell them about MURAL, and never miss a moment to support my colleagues) and felt downright satisfied and accomplished.

Google's intention to have the event be so intimate made my colleagues and I feel as if everyone attending was an extension of our family, whether we actually knew them or not. Speaking of family, below you'll see our 3 superheroes with 2 of my colleagues and me (again, on the far right).

Very excited to see how much closer this family becomes over the next year. Until we all meet again next year for SprintCon20, this is Stefan, signing off.

MURAL and friends

About the author

About the authors

Stefan Viragh

Stefan helps manage the MURAL Consultant Network, with a strong focus on the consultant experience and consultant-client journey.