Inês Silva | October 15, 2019

Summer Camp - Growing ideas with Design Sprints

Summer is over and so is our Summer Camp internship program. Ângela recently graduated in Digital Media Design, and Pedro, currently doing a master's in software engineering, joined our team in July and stayed with us for nine weeks. It was such a ride. The first week started with some 1-1's to get to know each other, a meeting to align steps for the first weeks, and a team lunch to break the ice. This was the very start of our Summer Camp project, and we want to share a bit of what we've accomplished.

Since the best way to learn is by putting hands-on real problems, we made sure our summer campers would get that experience. Digital healthcare it's still in its infancy and we want to be part of that technological revolution. There are many problems to solve that will improve people's lives, and building products for healthcare it's extremely challenging.

All too often, physicians are tangled in old fashioned processes, hierarchies, and piles of bureaucratic paperwork. They have less and less time to spend with their patients, which has been leading to an overall feeling of lack of empathy in the patient and doctor relationship over the years. With the help of our medical partners, we came up with an idea that could improve the way people deal with health conditions and empower their knowledge.

Product methodologies and processes were new to Summer Campers, so it was fundamental to have mentors that could guide them through this journey. They worked together, from conception to delivery, to build a first version of the product. These weeks working alongside, in a sharing and learning loop, were extremely rewarding not only for Summer Campers but also for mentors. With teaching comes the responsibility of passing our knowledge in the best way we can. This is what makes us learn and grow.

At Aurora Digital Health mentoring is part of our core values as a company. Through mentoring, we can pass down knowledge to our peers more quickly and effectively than letting them learn entirely on their own.

João Magalhães, Aurora CEO

For now, we can't disclose much about the idea itself, so this blog post is going to be about the path and the processes we chose to bring it into life. In the next few months we hope to have news, so stay tuned for more.

Unpacking Design Sprints

Bootstrapping a product is a tough challenge but a very rewarding one. When you're building something out of nothing it's easy to fall into biases and make decisions based on your own beliefs and way of thinking. Most of the time we aren't the user, and it's very important to acknowledge that early on, otherwise we'll fall into a tunnel vision.

At Aurora Digital Health, we like to leverage projects and ideas with Design Sprints, no matter how small they might seem. This framework has been widely used across teams for awhile. There are lots of resources and case studies about it, as well as an overall acknowledgment of its benefits for enterprises and business strategies, especially since it was popularized and codified by Google Ventures with the Sprint book.

The purpose of the design sprint is to get answers to a set of vital questions—not just to produce the prototype for the next version of your solution. Put another way: outcomes over outputs.

Enterprise Design Sprints, DesignBetter by InVision

One of the most valuable achievements of running a Design Sprint is the proximity and ownership it gives to the whole team. It's a safe space where all ideas matter and everyone is aligned with the big picture.

Aligning the process with the project

The Design Sprint methodology can be easily shaped and tweaked based on the constraints and needs of the project. The first step is to understand which exercises might work better and find out exactly what we are looking for with this process. We need to gather the most information possible about the project before the Sprint itself. We call this Pre-sprint Research.

In our Pre-sprint Research, we conducted four interviews. We need to act like detectives, ask 'why' too many times, and try to understand the inner motivations behind people's actions. Also, it's important to keep these conversations informal. We don't want people to feel like they are being interviewed, we want them to act as normal as possible.

Firstly, we talked with the Product Owner and asked him a few questions about the overall idea.

  • What is the main idea?
  • How the idea was validated?
  • What problem are we trying to solve?
  • Are there similar examples?
  • What unique value will this idea provide?
  • Who is the target user?
  • How they do it today?

His answers were fundamental to understand which people we were going to interview next, and which assumptions we needed to validate. Our goal was to understand the main problem they might have, their struggles, and their drive.

  • Guide me through your process/routine from the beginning to the end.
  • What do you feel during the whole process?
  • Do you feel particularly anxious at any moment?
  • How do you tackle this challenge today?
  • What do you think could be improved?

Finally, with all these precious pieces of information, we were ready to start the Design Sprint. The process has five stages, divided by five days: Understand, Diverge, Converge, Prototype, and Test.

5 days of post-its

Day 1 - Understand

In our first day of the Design Sprint, looking at our Pre-sprint Research, we extracted all the information and began to understand some of the specific problems ingrained in the system, as well as the main motivations and triggers behind them. All this lead us to a deep understanding of the problem we had on our hands. This is the most important moment of the Sprint. At the end of this day, everyone in the team was aligned with the problem we were going to try to solve.

Day 2 - Diverge

On the second day, things started to get more visual. The thoughts from the day before were bubbling in our heads. This was the time to come up with ideas, brainstorm them and mix them all up. There was no right or wrong here, everything was important to discuss. It was time to tackle the problem. How could we approach it? What boundaries were constraining us? With this in mind, we started thinking and sketching some hypothetical solutions that might solve what we had in our hands. We ended the day with a rough idea of possible different solutions

Day 3 - Converge

On day three it was time to wrap our ideas together. We analyzed our crazy sketches from the day before and asked ourselves which ideas might work best to test our hypothesis, without being biased or presumptive. After discussing and identifying conflicts, it was time to start sketching what our solution would look like. At this moment, it's particularly important to not be afraid of drawing - please don't say you can't draw, everyone can draw! - or try solutions that seem unusual. The Design Sprint is the moment to test and fail. If we can fail faster, we allow ourselves to fail better.

Design Sprint room on converge day
Design Sprint room on converge day

Day 4 - Prototype

After these 3 days of intense thoughts and ideas pushed together, we worked on what would be a final solution. What will we need to build to run an experiment? How will we conduct this experiment to get the answers we need? We gathered real content and built a prototype, a sketched version of the product very close to reality, which would allow us to test with our target users, and quickly validate it.

Day 5 - Test

On the final day of the Design Sprint, we tested what we had been working on. We needed to choose the best people to experiment with, and more important than that, we couldn't influence their choices or feedback. We ran these tests with seven different people who might fit into our target users. At this point, it was fundamental to be aware of every behavior, verbal, and non-verbal cues. We needed to stay focused on their face because micro-expressions often tell more than words. Are they uncomfortable performing this task? Do they seem confused by the hierarchy of information? Are they seeking for something they can't find?

At the end of this day, a lot of our questions were answered. We understood not only that our idea had great potential and value for people, but also that we needed to improve the way we were building it. It's important to acknowledge that we can only make a great product if people use it. Talking with them can't be an option. It's useless to build something just based on our own beliefs and thoughts, to later find out that no one has the same problem that we do. That's why this process is so valuable.

Usability testing
Usability testing

When we validate a solution early on in the process, we do not only make sure we are building something that delivers true value, but also reduce the risk of our investment. Design Sprints allows us to get rapid and strategic results without the cost and time of development resources, which most of the time is enough to validate ideas and scoop the project with clarity.

Next steps

After the Design Sprint, a lot of work was ready to be put into practice and we were excited to start building something that could help to empower people's knowledge. Ângela and Pedro were now aware of the implications and challenges they were going to face in the next few weeks, working hands-on the project. This process was fundamental to align expectations and put everyone on the same page. From here, until the Summer Camp program was over, usability improvements were made and a first version of the product came to life.

Having two people with different backgrounds and visions from us, during these nine weeks, was a very rewarding experience. Growing ideas into products is a huge challenge, but somehow running a Design Sprint makes it feel easier. People feel more empowered because of all their ideas and opinions matter. Tools and processes don't make products, people do. If we manage to create space and time for them to shine, they will.

This was our main goal during this Summer Camp internship program - to create an environment where it was safe to fail, where nothing was wrong. We hope this met their expectations and was so fulfilling for them as it was for us.

Regarding the product, our team is going to continue working on it, so you will going to hear from us soon.

The end of Summer Camp
The end of Summer Camp