Facilitating remote design sprints

Facilitating remote design sprints

The world is becoming increasingly distributed.  Learning to collaborate has gone from being a competitive skillset to becoming table-stakes for almost every role in the company.

Check out Jay’s article to learn more.

Stories, tools, resources for facilitators and innovation teams hoping to begin running remote design sprints. Plus, a new option to…

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The Burlap Chair

The Burlap Chair

Burlap is one of the cheapest textiles available.  The material is rugged and tough and can endure a lot of wear.  Infused with resin, the material becomes rigid and strong as it is moulded into the perfect contour. See the development history here.

Cherry wood is shaped to continue the design lines, giving it elegance and grace.  As a side chair, the design holds it’s own, but is not attention-starved among other interior decorations. The chair can also be broken down or shipped flat, but does not look like it is assembled from 2-dimensional panels.
This chair represents the Hwyl style.  An upward movement that motivates and inspires, but is grounded and sustainable in its roots.

A Primer on Design

A Primer on Design

de·sign (dəˈzīn) – noun

a plan for the look, function, or workings of a building, garment, or other object before it is built or made.

There are really just two types of ‘design’

One one hand is nature and other is man-made.







The greater designer is nature.  Designs in nature are complex, timeless, perfect, and intrinsically beautiful.  For example, a tree is always aesthetic in it’s own right.  Since I am not a biologist, I can’t explain the types of design that drive nature.  But I do know that nature (and specifically food sources) has been a mainstay of inspiration for artists and designers ever since the cave-painters first captured their art in places like Pettakere Cave.

The other type of design is manmade.  Man-made design is relatively temporary, simple, and almost always humanity-centric. However, the one element that manmade design has on nature is novelty.  And since we spend most of our time surrounded by manufactured products, we have a constant need for new designs.

Under manmade designs, there are several specialized fields that one might consider.

The 4 General [Manmade] Design Tropes

Media, Graphic, and User Interface Design

Visual designs help us to interpret the world around us.  Where a message is being communicated one-way, we get advertising, media, type-faces, and other tropes that help us articulate tropes of emotions through shapes, simples, and words.  Where the communication is two-way (between the designer and the viewer), we have user interfaces like applications, web pages, kiosks, and the like.

Fashion Design

Our natural state is not very resilient on it’s own out of doors, so we invented clothing a long time ago to help us survive in different climates and weather conditions.  Since textiles are ubiquitous, we’ve used design to help differentiate our personal identity from one context to the next.  Fashion and accessories is the union of our personal identity with the environment we are in.

Product Design

Products are tools that extend or body’s capabilities.  For example, automotive design and shoe design helps us to walk further in a sense.  Everything that is manufactured can be considered a product.  As you look around your room, it becomes easy to tell where design has played an active or passive role in a product’s production.

Architectural and Interior Design

In certain cases, we have gotten to the point where we can design the space around us and simulate our own version of nature. Buildings and spaces specialize to serve specific purposes, whether they be for our private retreat, business operation, or point of social interaction.

Growing Diversity

I do not assume that the categories above are comprehensive, but are a good start to understanding types of manmade design.  The kicker is that as designers continue to specialize and explore the frontier of “novelty” the resulting complexity of our design ironically mirrors the complexity of nature.  After all, we are a product of nature’s design as well.

Browsing tricks for observing trends and patterns

Browsing tricks for observing trends and patterns

Ideas are inspired by circumstance.  A great argument for your idea is often to identify how it is part of something much bigger.

Surfing the internet is often perceived as only skimming the surface on given topics.  As you put together your ideas, more thorough research will likely be necessary than simply googling key terms.  Nevertheless, simple searches allow you to cover a very broad array of topics allowing you to spot common trends and patterns.

Try these methods:

Here are some simple tools and tricks to turn a keyword searches into a trend spotting activities:

  • Add names of  competitors to your key search terms.  Though this is a shot in the dark, you may stumble upon some buried press release or blog post explaining how they might be developing your idea.
  • Search for key terms in the patent or trademark indexes.  These sites will start to show you how companies are approaching the intellectual property around your ideas.
  • Set up a google alerts or RSS feeds for blogs or industry watchers like SmartBriefLinkedIn, or even a sub-reddit on your topic of interest.
  • If you don’t have money to afford a big Mckenzie report, consider adding their name (or another research firm of your preference) to your search.  You may be surprised how many times parts of those reports are reposted across the internet.
  • Set up Yahoo Pipes to aggregate feeds and filter them by topics.   Kind of kludged, but it works.
  • Look at tech transfer offices from Universities.  They are hungry to commercialize solutions invented by their professors, but haven’t quite figured out the go-to-market strategy yet.  Though they are typically solutions in search of a problem, you can see how they are trying to position things.
  • Check out a crowd-funding platform like Kickstarter or Indiegogo to see what people are thinking about.

How do you know if it’s a trend?

As you browse through these types of resources, you will notice trends by the following three hallmarks- stakeholders, solutions, and business cases.  You will know something is becoming a trend when those three come into alignment.  It may seem obvious, but each moves at a different pace and are driven by separate forces.

For example, stakeholders are dependent on organizational structure, budget, political alliances, etc…  Solutions are driven by technology, industry competition, and investment.  Business cases are driven by the customer.

You can confidently say that an idea is part of a larger trend when you see activities that show these three things are coming into alignment at a given moment in time.

Tying back to your idea 

When you identify a trend, it  becomes part of your persuasive argument.  As you communicate the idea to your prospective sponsors, you need to show how them that your idea is a way for them to capitalize on the surrounding trends.

Understanding Organizational Stuctures

Understanding Organizational  Stuctures

The organization around you is one of the most important factors that influence how your idea evolves. Here are some common organizational environments and how ideas may flow in them.

  • Startups – Founders and early employees wear many hats.
  • Midsize companies – Lean and agile functional groups can collect around ideas, but may lack some business processes to effectively manage resources.
  • Large companies – Cross-matrix organization of functional contributors that can work ‘like clockwork’ to crank out ideas.  Structure is less flexible to new ideas, but can turn old ideas into cash cows.
  • ‘Skunk work’ companies – called out separately because the profit and loss statement is in the hands of project managers.  Like cross-matrix environments, there are functional contributors, but the cohesive factor is around a new business idea, not an existing business.