Corporate Innovation – Using Design Sprint to go from Idea to Prototype in 5 Days

It was my first day on my new job as business developer at Telenor, and I was having lunch with my new colleagues. They all seemed great, – and enthusiastic about our innovation mission.  At the time I was reading ‘The Sprint Book’ by Jake Knapp, and I really wanted to try it out. However, since I literally just started my new job I thought to myself that I should wait a couple of months. By then I’d know the company better, and I could try to pitch having a sprint. The thing is, when I’m into something, it rarely stays within my head.. So, on my first day, at lunch,  we were chatting along when I could here myself say – “Oh, I’ve been reading this book..” It all happened in slow-motion, like the feeling you have when you’re about to fall. “… it’s about how you can go from an idea to a user tested prototype, in a week!” In parallel, inside my head I was telling my self no, no, stop it – you were supposed to wait!!  “They make it seem so easy, you just put some people in a room for a week and magic happens.”  While my inner critic let out a deeply disappointed *sight* and shaking it’s head, the reply blew it away:  “Oh, that’s sounds interesting! We should do this! I just have to check my calendar“.

That’s a pretty amazing respons to get – and I got it on my first day! It showed me that, although large corporations can be set in their way, at Telenor people are open to change, and to try out new stuff.

In mid-June, three weeks after I started, we had our first sprint week! In a short time we had a team of 7 people. They came from marketing, customer, IT, product managers, management and service design. Readying on the fly, using the book as a handy guide I could facilitated the process although I’d never run a sprint like that before. It was fun, scary, inspiring and productive. There were some tense moments, like when I forced Norwegians to not have lunch until 1 pm. Never. Ever. try to do this.  Most of all, there was creative, cooperation, laughter and fun. And at the end we had 4 (!) prototypes that we had tested on 5 customers. Fun and productive, how about that!

Sprint week at Telenor
One happy team! Erik, Nils-Petter, Rune, myself Linda, Katrine and Frode – a mix of marketing, innovation, product, customer, tech (not present in picture), UX, service design, and management.

In July I facilitated our second sprint, and over the year we’ve had a sprint for every new service or major change. The decision maker from the first sprint has also facilitated and run a sprint. The book is now making it’s way around Telenor.

The book is pretty much a cookbook step-by-step on how to do a sprint.


Clear challenge: For this kind of sprint, you should have a clear challenge. The first one we ran was to kickstart a project moving from Service Design’s “Understand and Define” to “Design and Build”. The second was to pivot after the first prototype wasn’t technical viable.

Team: Find people representing different perspective, and make sure to include a decision maker. They need to block out time in their calendar, and you as a facilitator need to be very clear on this. No meetings, and they are not allowed to use their phone or computer besides in breaks. We decided to start sprint days at 10, giving people time for a meeting and some emails if needed. We worked 10-17, and then 9-15 on Friday. As a first-time facilitator I did spend 30 minutes before each session, and 1-2 hours after. The second time I’d say I spent an hour extra each day to prepare and summarize.

Research: You should do research on your users, on the market, and technology. The project I’m managing has an impressive amount of customer insight and knowledge – not only statistics, but qualitative data gathered from observations, visits, focus groups, workshops, and interviews. In addition, we did a survey to help us decide on a target for the sprint.

Experts: On Monday you’ll want to talk to experts, and you need to book up front. This can be people from your company, users, or outside people. In addition to your team being cross-functional, your experts should also have different perspectives.

User-testing: To be sure you get users for your test on Friday it might be tempting to recruit them upfront. But, you don’t know which group you are testing on before Monday. What you can do is to prepare everything, so you can start recruiting the moment you’ve decided on a user-group.

Get supplies: In the US, I’d use Amazon. In Norway I spent a couple of hours getting everything I needed. You will find it all on Tanum, Karl Johan. I’d recommend opting for ticker not thinner if you’re wondering what kind of pens to buy. For time management, the TimeTimer app is perfect. Be strict on time, and follow all the rules the first time.


gv sprint experience how to corporate


Monday: Understand, map

On Monday you’ll agree on a long-term goal, and then what could prevent you from reaching it. Instead of writing down obstacles you’ll phrase it as questions. Ex: Teenagers don’t like using X instead of Y. –> How can we make teens like to do X instead of Y? This turns a problem into an opportunity.

Then you’ll map out the users and key players, and the steps they’ll take while using your product to reach the goal. Next, you’ll talk to the experts, and refer to the goal, questions and map. Change it when necessary. You take notes on post-its, and you phrase it as “How might we..”.

Fun fact: We used 1200 post its on the first sprint! Learning: Take less notes 😉

At the end of the day, you’ll vote on the most important How might we, and you’ll decide on what user and step you want to focus on. The key is to chose the most critical user and step. The sprints I ran had the same user group, but the critical user was different. The critical user isn’t necessarily the most obvious user. Refer to marketing theory, with buyers, users, decision makers, influencers and gatekeepers.

Tuesday – Demo and sketching

Today your focus move from problem to solution. You’ll do demos of other products – not only competitors, but everything that can inspire the team. You’ll gather ideas and inspiration as a group, before starting to sketch. Everyone will sketch on their own. This gives you a wider range of solutions and ideas. The sketches are sketches, so no need to panic if you can’t draw.

sketching design sprint gv
One of the sketches

We decided to share our ideas after each round, – but that didn’t influence the outcome much. People seemed confident in their idea and solution. For many of us, our work day consists of meetings, planning, writing reports, and managing. Working hands on, sketching solutions is a welcoming break. It feels good to be creative, thinking up new solutions and design.

Wednesday – Vote, decide and create storyboard

On Wednesday everyone votes on the sketches. It’s a silent review, and the sketches don’t have creators name on them. Voting is by stickers, and you can add up to three stickers on parts you like. The votes create a heat map of good ideas. The decision maker makes the final call on what sketches should be prototyped. Next you’ll draw a storyboard showing the steps your user goes through when using the prototype. You’ll move over the winning sketches, and also other ideas that fit, and has a high score. The storyboard shows your prototype, and the next day you’ll build it.

voting on sketches sprint
Start of day 3 – voting on sketches. Me and Jonas, developer (Blurred due to confidentiality.)

Thursday – Build a prototype

The prototype can be to mimic an app, a website, a technical guide, or a campaign. The book also tells the story on how to prototype a robot. The key is to fake it. It should be nothing but an illusion. In general, you’ll use Keynote or even Powerpoint to build your prototype. We built two app prototypes, and showed them in Marvel. The users can then test it on a phone, and see what happens when they perform tasks. On the first sprint we didn’t follow the book at the beginning of the day – resulting in a bit of chaos. The book will tell you to assign people different roles and tasks, and this is for a reason. It will help unify the look, and reduce the amount of work. For the second sprint I had an UX expert with me, and allowed her to use her normal UX tool – since that was faster for her than using ex. Keynote. We still used Marvel to show the prototype. In addition to apps, we also did a concept test. We created a Facebook ad, and a landing page using LaunchRock. Then we promoted the ad to our critical user group, and could track comments, clicks and landing page conversion rate. This gave us more data, and showed intent to buy.

Friday – User testing

User testing is so fun and interesting! On the first sprint we had two competing designs, one traditional and one experimental. The first user really liked the experimental version, and we were all ‘woow, it works?!’ The second user hated it. The third was confused, and couldn’t even see where to begin testing. All in all, only one of the users like the idea – and the rest hated it.

user testing sprint week
User testing our first prototype.

The moral is: Test your stuff. We were three people that really liked it – a decision maker, a PM and one from marketing. Imagine if we had run with it, trusting our expertise. We would end up building something 4/5 people would hate. This supports the general rule of testing on 5 people. It is also very useful that everyone in the team sees how users react. It’s easier to accept that your idea is bad if you can see that yes, people don’t like it / get it, then if someone just tells you. It can also help you defend a risky solution.



The books doesn’t say much about the post-sprint. In my experience, there are lots of benefits of following this sprint format. After the week, you’ll have:

  • One or more prototypes
  • Validation/invalidation of ideas and assumptions
  • Shared insight and knowledge
  • Lots of ideas
  • Lots of sketches
  • Team building, across silos and hierarchy levels
  • Shared vision and goal
  • Support from management

The sprint works great for a cross-functional team. If you have an introverted engineer, a soft-spoken designer, a red-bull-chugging-programmer, and an enthusiastic marketing manager – they all get their voices heard. Working together all day also makes it easier to get to know people.

Sketching design sprint corporate
Developers without computers – busy sketching.

In my experience it’s also a great way to work cross-management levels. Everyone has to follow the same rules, everyone gets to voice their opinion – no matter how senior or junior you are. It helps unify us around a shared goal and solution. If you bring on a decision maker, you’ve also made sure that the prototype has higher-level support.


And the best part? With the Sprint design book, anyone can do this. Read the book, then go to to get checklists that helps you navigate.


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