A creative sprint is an approach to problem-solving where guided, structured workshops are developed to allow a team to come together to solve a challenge over a short time period. Creative sprints can be used by B2B, B2B, G2G, G2C, B2G, B2C and anything else in between. They are sometimes referred to as ‘a supercharged brainstorm’.
Sounds simple, right? Well, in principle, yes, it is. You certainly don’t need to be a rocket scientist to run a creative sprint or participate in one. There is absolutely nothing to stop you from running one within your company tomorrow. Well, not actually tomorrow, you need time to prepare. And this is ultimately what the success of a creative sprint, or brainstorm, comes down to. Preparation.
IS A CREATIVE SPRINT THE SAME AS BRAINSTORMING?
In a word, no. A brainstorm would typically be a part of a creative sprint, but not as you might know it. For instance, have you ever been asked into a ‘quick brainstorm’ to find yourself in a room full of people desperately trying to come up with something… anything… because ‘the client/boss wants a creative idea for…’. People will be staring around the room, out the window, at each other or their stress-doodled notebooks hoping the divine hand of creative inspiration reveals a solution. Sometimes a great idea happens. Sometimes it doesn’t.
I’m sure you don’t need us to tell you that this is not a great example of a brainstorm. Yet, this scenario happens a lot, and, unfortunately, it’s scenarios like this that give brainstorms a bad name. There is nothing more deflating and time-wasting than a badly run brainstorm.
SO WHAT HAPPENS IN A CREATIVE SPRINT?
The steps of a creative sprint vary, but most often, a creative sprint will typically include ten stages across a week.
- Set the goal
- Map the scenario
- Speak to the experts or stakeholders
- Define the problem
- Sketch ideas
- Decide best ideas
- Draft/storyboard a solution
- Prototype and test the solution
- Review, learn, adapt
- Agree, adopt and implement
HOW DO YOU RUN A CREATIVE SPRINT?
We’ve run hundreds of workshops, creative sessions, pitches, creative sprints, brand immersion sessions, ideation scrums, blue sky meetings, and leadership retreats. There are three things that will always remain true when running just about any kind of session that requires creative thinking or problem-solving.
- You can’t produce exceptional work if you don’t know your audience
- You can’t run any kind of ideation session without preparation
- You can’t solve a creative problem unless you know what actual problem you are solving
WHY YOU NEED TO KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
I once sat down with the brand team for a large automotive company. It was a discovery session, the objective of which was to understand the brand inside out so that we could work on coming up with the marketing and communications. When asked, who is your target audience?, the Head of Brand confidently responded, ‘everybody’.
In another meeting with another client, I asked the client team to write down the target audience on post-its and then share them with the room. From eight different people in the room, we got six completely different target audiences.
Both these examples demonstrate that brands often get so caught up in the ‘marketing’, the ‘campaigns’, and the ‘action’, that they forget to check in and make sure the audience they all have in mind is the right one for their brand. For instance, I don’t know many two-year-olds looking to purchase cars. The target audience should ideally be the centre point of your business, and they should be realistic. For instance, if you want ‘everyone’ to know your brand, you better be ready to write a lot of blank cheques.
Hubspot recently found that 42% of companies don’t listen to their audiences. If you don’t know your audience, or you don’t understand your audience, you won’t be able to communicate effectively with them. The majority of what you will say will be irrelevant, in which case learning how to run a creative sprint is the least of your worries for now.
WHY YOU NEED TO PREPARE FOR YOUR CREATIVE SPRINT
The worst ideation sessions I have sat in are the ones where the facilitator has arrived with little to no preparation. I once sat in a brainstorming session for a well-known coffee brand. The facilitator wasn’t clear on the target audience or really the purpose of the brainstorm, other than to ‘generate some awareness for the brand’. After thirty painful minutes, I made my excuses and left. By not preparing for your ideation session, you are not setting yourself, or your team, up for success.
If you want to effectively run a creative sprint, ideation session, or brainstorm, you need to prepare effectively. This means providing context, identifying the challenge, outlining the target audience, sharing relevant macro/micro data and insights, and anything else that may be important.
WHY YOUR CREATIVE SPRINT NEEDS TO IDENTIFY THE (REAL) PROBLEM
Zig Zaglar is famous for saying, ‘the first step to solving a problem is to recognise that it does exist’. There are two parts to recognising that a problem exists.
- Identifying the problem
- Understanding the ‘true’ cause of that problem
Japanese inventor Sakichi Toyoda (of Toyota fame) is credited with coming up with the Five Whys technique. The thinking behind this is that too often, we look at a problem, ask why it happened and end up with a symptom of a problem, not the root cause.
Many, many, many solutions have been created for problems that don’t exist, wasting millions in the process. Consider this example.
Problem: A student keeps falling asleep in class.
Why does the student keep falling asleep in class?
Answer – he’s tired.
Solution: school initiates programmes to reduce sleepiness, more fresh air, energy snacks, and nap pods.
Why is he tired?
Answer – because he is not getting enough sleep.
Solution: school brings in guest speakers on how to sleep better and runs sleep workshops.
Why isn’t he getting enough sleep?
Answer – because he stays awake too late at night.
Solution: school bans homework to stop students from working too hard and falling asleep late at night.
Why is he staying awake so late at night?
Answer – because he stays up too late on his phone.
Now we have the real problem, the student is being distracted by their phone in bed at night. Now we can go ahead and come up with solutions to that problem. They might include apps which turn off the phone at a certain time, workshops for parents about screen time, and so on.
In this example, this hypothetical school has invested a lot of time, energy, and money solving issues that don’t exist. The same can be true of creative sprint or other ideation sessions in your company. Don’t spend a week solving a problem that doesn’t exist, if you are leading/facilitating, arrive prepared.
If you are looking for help driving creativity, ideas, and workshops, the team at Bright Company would be happy to help. We’ve run workshops for hundreds of brands that have helped companies achieve their goals – whether to drive awareness of their brand, change perceptions, drive leads, sell tickets, reach niche audiences, and much more in between. We also do a whole lot more besides creative sprints and workshops, so if you’ve got a strategy you don’t know how to implement, or a project brief you need help with, or a challenge you aren’t sure how to solve, then contact us. We’d love to hear from you.