How A Startup Can Help You Innovate


What if you adapted the methods of a corporation, compressing brainstorming, prototyping, and testing into a process called a design sprint? You would discover hidden cadres of innovation. Moreover, magically deploy energetic means to execute in ways achieving trust and competitive advantage.

At OnDeck, a 200-employee company that raised $59 million from Google Ventures and other investors, the process starts by listing challenges in the form of questions. “How might we communicate trust and credibility?” reads one Post-it note. Sprint participants use red dots to vote on the problems they deem most important, then diagram potential solutions. There are a few rules: Drawings are supposed to be self-explanatory and anonymous. They’re allowed to be ugly, as long as they have catchy titles. (Sample: The Loan Ranger.) As OnDeck employees sketch, Knapp holds forth on the superior quality of Paper Mate’s felt-tipped pens. At the end of the day, the Google Ventures designers snap smartphone photos to capture the work on the wall.

The goal isn’t to perfect a product in a week but to arrive at a rough solution for further refinement, and to teach startups some design principles in the process. “With Gmail, we knew the problem was that people needed to organize mail better,” Kowitz says. “At startups, you don’t always know what the problem is. So the value isn’t in getting it exactly right, but in getting feedback along the way.”

Adapted from Google’s Design Boot Camp for Startups

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Jim Woods is president of The Jim Woods Group. A management consulting firm. Go here to see his work He advises and speaks to organizations large and small on how to increase top line growth in times of uncertainty and complexity. Some of his speaking and consulting clients include: U.S. Army, MITRE Corporation, Pitney Bowes, Whirlpool, and 3M. See more at his website

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