Struggling is good

How we ended up mentoring Google’s #DesignSprintVenice

Sergio Panagia

Partner, Technical Director

This is a short post about change, trying to tell more about the spirit that led us to improve several times the way we work — evolving from a crappy-software agency to running Design Sprints as Google’s mentors in The Grand Tour of Italy. And more precisely how struggling along the way is a necessary pain when trying to build something meaningful.

The amazing people at Google’s #DesignSprintVenice on Friday 19 May, 2017. Google Italy · · Moze · Assist Digital · Travel Appeal · Clairy · Endu · Accenture Digital· Jointly — All pictures courtesy of Tommaso Nervegna.

Circa 2013. We were designing good-looking visual design websites, getting our hands dirty trying to build the products right (and on time) for our clients.

We were rookies and lacked real organisational skills. Struggling with deadlines, unhappy clients and teammates led us to spend several nights studying books on Scrum and Kanban.

During 2014 and 2015 we became more organised as a product development team. Dealing with innovative projects means working under conditions of uncertainty, and traditional agreements made of upfront terms were colliding with the reality of our job.

Struggling with these limitations led us to study in order to find a better way to define the scope of a project, and how to think about unnecessary features. Jeff Patton and “Story Mapping” has been the greatest inspiration in this leap forward. In the meantime we were studying how to improve the flawed client-vendor relationship by applying agile contracts thanks to the influence of Jacopo Romei.

These two impulses were the first steps in defining a product to be built in a truly iterative way — by selling “sprints” of work instead of relying on the existing fixed budget / fixed scope false promises.

In 2016 we were able to define a scope, designing and building a beautiful digital product. But we were still struggling: several of our products weren’t hitting problem-market fit — with the sad consequence of nobody actually using the result of months and months of efforts spent in design and development.

The willingness to help our clients even further led us once again to look out for inspiration: that is how we got to know Design Thinking and then Design Sprints — first by learning from Thoughtbot, then from Knapp and GV.

Thanks to the ever-evolving push towards progress, we were able to gain the required insights to stop or pivot a startup idea before its product development begins. We are now applying Design Sprints—or its variations—as the first step to most of our projects.

Running more than 15 Design Sprints during the last 6 months allowed us to get in touch with Google and to become part of their team of mentors to promote the Design Sprint methodology in Italy and to help startups with Product and UX Design.

Last Friday we were in Venice for Google’s #DesignSprintVenice, where we had the chance to meet amazing professionals, sharing our knowledge on how a Design Sprint can be a powerful tool for a startup.

All pictures courtesy of Tommaso Nervegna.

Looking to resolve struggles has led us here—and we’re so happy and thankful to get in touch and work with other people trying to make progress in their customers’ lives by continuously change and improve the way they work.

It’s always changing

What now? We’re now refining the way our product studio creates design experiments, by integrating the team efforts in the existing Build-Measure-Learn feedback loop of a startup. We have been getting better at user research and the Jobs-to-be-done framework by reading books, joining events and workshops (we’ll be in Brighton next July to learn from Intercom).

But the one and only pattern in all of these exceptional happenings is the push of each individual to move from a struggle to an improvement—the type of progress towards which we all humans tend to go by design.

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