I’m back with a recap of Day 2 at SPRINTCON and boy do I have some news for you! Here are the highlights:
Former Head of Experience at Google X
He was employee #4 at Google X (correct me if I heard you wrong Tom). His talk: Getting to Effective Session Outcomes covered many fascinating topics especially Prototyping. The main take away was shared in a theoretical dice game he would ask his superiors to play… here is a paraphrased version of what he said:
You have to think of developing a product as a million dollar investment. When you add up the cost of design, development and product it’s basically 1 million dollars for each product. Imagine we were to play a game where you role a dice and if I you get a six I give you a million dollars and if you get anything else you give me a million dollars. Not a great game right. That’s where prototyping is so valuable, with prototyping we can effectively increase the amount of times we are allowed to roll the dice. If we change the game around and now you have 100 chances to roll a six you can dramatically increase your chances of winning. That’s what we do with prototyping.
Tom went on to describe how Project Loon, Google’s quest to bring internet to every corner of the globe, required roughly 100 prototypes before they got it right. He also squashed the myth that prototyping is expensive, time-consuming and resource dependent by noting that Project Loon only cost 5 full-time employees time and $70,000 in materials. Amazing what you can achieve when you have the right corporate mindset.
The Conversation Factory
His mini-workshop on Abstraction Laddering (I had no idea what it meant) was actually fascinating. As defined here,
abstraction laddering provides a framework to not only ask questions, but develop the right questions. The ladder allows us to move both up and down, framing problems as needed. By moving up we can expand our scope, and by moving down we can develop concrete solutions. –Autodesk
While Abstraction Laddering was an effective tool used for problem framing it also had an unexpected byproduct. The exercise began with Daniel asking us to come up with 4 problems the group wanted to solve, i.e. “How might we fix awkward group introductions?”. Once the problems were agreed upon he asked 4 leaders to go to a whiteboard and he instructed the group to follow a leader to the issue they wanted to work on. Once everyone was settled he called out a subtle observation about the popularity of one group over another. He called it, “voting with your feet”. What he observed was that people gravitated toward certain problems that were important to them and that this could be an effective tool to help an organization prioritize issues. I thought this was a brilliant oberservation and something I hope to intergrate into my own facilitation.
Claire Shapiro from Board of Innovation’s talk about Cross-cultural Innovation featured several contributors who have run cross-cultural design sprints around the world. Tomomi Sasaki from Japan shared here experience with running Design Sprints in her culture. What I learned was the while Design Sprints are an effective tool for sharing ideas, getting unbiased results, and allow for effective decision making, some cultural norms may get in the way of the process. She shares some tips on how to combat that in countries like Japan. She describes uncertainty avoidance,
which deals with a society’s tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity…It indicates to what extent a culture programs its members to feel either uncomfortable or comfortable in unstructured situations.
Japan ranks one of the highest in the world in this category. While Design Sprints certainly provide some structure, they also are a framework that requires people to be ok with the unknown. As a way to combat this, she shows her students how to do a something and gets them started on task rather than explaining how it works. This activity prevents them from asking too many questions or being worried about the results.
She also described how in Japan people are too polite to say no to things which leads to everyone’s ideas being accepted and free of criticism. A way to combat this was to encourage role-playing where she instructs her participants to play the role of a highly critical supervisor. This becomes a game that also yields real results.
That’s it for Day 2. More to come on Day 3.