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  • Writer's pictureLonneke Boonzaaijer

Deep diving into the 'Validation Design Sprint'

As promised, we hereby share the in-depth program for the Validation Design Sprint, why we created it and how it works. All the way at the bottom you’ll find the time-boxed program. Hope you enjoy! And please feel free to let us know what your thoughts are.

The Validation Design Sprint

As mentioned we sometimes get requests from companies if we can facilitate a Design Sprint for them. Then when we meet up and learn more about their company, their needs and ambitions, it sometimes becomes clear that they feel the need to innovate, but are not clear on the ‘why’, behind this desire.

When digging a bit deeper, we find out that there is no clear validated problem for a validated customer segment. They just know that they want to ‘start’, but don’t know exactly ‘where’ to start and ‘why’. In this case we advise to run the Validation Design Sprint.

So what do you do exactly in a Validation Design Sprint?

So to answer this question we’ve gone back to the basics of the 5 W’s: "What, why, when, who, where". What is the problem, for who, when do they experience this, why do they experience this and where do they bump into this?

These are questions that we couldn’t answer, and is something that we will answer in the Validation Design Sprint, in order to create a super solid basis to run to the original Design Sprint format.

The program looks like this and combines elements from the Lean Startup methodology and original Design Sprint program. The deliverable at the end of the week is what we call a ‘prototype-light’ version, which is more conceptual and focussed on a single element, but can still be tested with actual customers.


Before we start the ‘VDS’ we give the team some homework, to deep dive into data and information that is available at this moment. We define a subject / area in which they would like to innovate in, but not yet narrow down as to what the challenge specifically is, because, yes obviously, we don’t know yet :)

Day 1 – Getting to know the data and the industry

On the first day every individual gets some time to share the information that they have dug up, they share the insights, (in)validations that we have seen in the market and general research that is already out there.

Problem Framing

Afterwards we have a ‘problem framing’ session, in which we describe various ‘problem definitions’ that need to include the problem, for who, why, when and where. Everybody gets some time to write down their interpretations of these problem definitions and we then discuss afterwards and vote with ‘dot voting’ on the most interesting problem definitions. We then have a selection of various ‘problem definitions’ (still based on assumptions and partially the available data / info).

Individual research based on dot voted ‘problem definitions’

After the dot voting round, we have a few ‘winning’ problem definitions, but that still require more in depth research. We then split up the team, according to the winning problem definitions and spend time researching online about the available information that is out there. So narrowing it down already a bit more.

‘Lightning Problem Demo’s’

At the end of the day each ‘problem definition- team’ gets 15 minutes to present the research they have found on their problem. We then again dot vote afterwards on the most promising ‘problems’ (or in other words opportunities where we can add value).

Getting ready to ‘Get out of the Building’

Then last but not least, at the end of the day, we’ll prepare questions that we want to answer in the ‘Getting out of the Building’ day, on day 2. (A well-known approach from the Lean Startup Methodology). If possible, we already schedule interview candidates during this day or even prior. Or we go out on the streets on day 2, where we ‘assume’ that our target group will be.

Day 2 – Getting out of the Building!

This is always a bit scary and uncomfortable for everybody involved, but as a former Lean Startup coach I’ve learned that this is so important to really get to know your customer, what they want and learn how they think. This day is all about talking to people. Not presenting our potential solutions, ideas or defined problems, but objective questioning and listening, in order to learn more about their needs and wants. This combines the online research from day 1 and connects the dots with actual consumer insights, by interviews, on day 2.

Day 3 – Canvassing & Mapping

On day 3 we have now a good understanding of our scope, problem, and the customer segment that are experiencing this problem. We kick off the day with discussing the findings from day 1 and 2 and make conclusions based on our findings.

We then create an ‘Empathy Canvas’. This canvas states all the emotions the customer feels or experiences with regard to the problem.

You can find the explanation on how to use the Empathy Canvas here:

We then continue by defining our customer segment by filling in the Value Proposition Canvas. This canvas maps the pains, gains and needs of the defined customer, and mirrors this with pain relievers, gain creators and focuses on the unique value proposition that we can offer as a company for this specific potential customer. You can find an explanation how to use the Value Proposition Canvas here:

Afterwards we continue with mapping the Business Model Canvas. This involves the information from the Value Proposition Canvas and Empathy Canvas. And zooms out a bit, to discover to all factors that are at play. Look up how to use the Business Model Canvas here:

After these exercises we now have a very clear understanding of the problem, the customer, their emotions and gives us a very clear direction, as to where the solution will be.

We are now ready to start defining our mission. The way to do this is a 3-step process.

Defining the ‘mission’

Ask everybody to get out a sticky note stack and take off 3 notes.

On the first post-it you write a ‘1’ in the left top corner. There you write; the answer to:

“Our mission is………(state company ambition in 1 - … years)……..

Take the second sticky note and write a ‘2’ in the left top corner. Write there the answer to;

“In order to / so that…...(value that you thereby create for your customer)….

Take your third sticky note and write a ‘3’ in the left top corner. Write there the answer to:

“For….. (describe the clear customer segment, as detailed as possible)………

After that, instead of Sprint Questions, we will define ‘Validation Questions’. What are the questions and assumptions that we want to validate or invalidate at the end of the sprint? The 'prototype-light' version should be able to answer these questions.

Then after stating the 'mission', we will move on to the mapping exercise, where we will draw up the user-journey that the selected customer segment has with regard to validated problem.

As last exercise of day 3, we dot-vote on the most promising opportunities to work on in the coming day, for which we will create a ‘prototype-light’ version. It is like the ‘picking the target’ exercise in the original format.

Day 4 – Sketching, Storyboarding & Prototyping

We kick off the day with looking for inspiring examples where similar problems to ours occur and existing solutions that are out there currently.


We then move on straight away to the solution sketches. These sketches are fully focused on a direct solution for the defined problem. In contrast to the solutions sketches in the original Design Sprint format, where we create a full flow of an interface / product / service, that covers more or less the whole concept, the sketches in the VDS are much more focused on a specific feature, they are detailed and really try to answer the problem definitions with the 5 W’s.

Review & Solution Pitches

We then continue right after to a short review, everybody get’s to review all the sketches, when there are questions, you can take a sticky note, write down the question and stick it on the area of the solution sketch where the questions is about.

We then continue with the solution pitches. This normally isn’t allowed in a normal Design Sprint, to prevent people from ‘selling’ their idea. However, in this case, the amount of time we have spent on sketching and the detailed focus to the problem, requests in most cases a bit more clarification.

The solution pitches take 3 minutes per person and afterwards, each individual reads out loud the questions on the sticky notes on their own sketch, to answer them. This way we fast-forward through the solutions and make sure that all is clear. 

Time to dot-vote! This works the same way like in the original Design Sprint format, but in stead of focusing on the most promising ideas, we vote on the best ideas with which we can validate, or invalidate our assumptions and will give us more information with regard to answering the validation questions, during the test-day.

Prototype set-up

We take the best ideas and create a small flow / set-up for the prototype that we want to build. Each time we select a ‘winning’ dot-voted element, we ask ourselves; does this reflect the solution to our defined problem in our perspective and if so, why?

The prototype in a VDS is much less flashy and glamorous, it is much more practical and really has as a purpose to solve and answer the defined problem. Therefore, it is much less focused on visual design, UX, look & feel, but really offers a framework in which we try to answer our validation questions. The outcome could be a wireframe or the visual representation of just a single feature for example.

*During this process the designer will simultaneously create a digital version in real-time of our progress with regard to the flow / set-up. At the end of the day we will have a solid basis for our prototype to test with, tomorrow, with our target group. (These are in some cases non-customers, as this has been an exploration journey and means that we’re discovering new potential market segments –and customers, however, it still depends on the problem that we defined in the beginning of the week of course).

Below you will find the time-boxed program for the full 5 days.

We're super curious to hear what your thoughts are on this and of course very open to feedback, questions, remarks, comments etcetera. Feel free to use and test this yourself with your customers. And of course, you know where to find us if you want to know more!

Day 1: Research

10:00 - 10:15 Kick off & explanation of sprint program

10:15 - 10:45 Presentation about existing information, research and (in)validations so far  

10:45 - 12:15 Problem Framing - What is the problem, for who and why?

12:15 - 12:30 Deciding on topics to research & dividing tasks

12:30 - 13:30 Lunch

13:30 - 16:00 Individual Research (online / offline) on decided topics

16:00 - 17:00 Presenting research to each other + planning interview - day

17:00 Wrap up!

Day 2: Getting out of the building

09:30 - 09:45 Feedback grid + explanation program for today

09:45 - 10:00 Customer Development presentation

10:00 - 10:30 Writing the interview script

10:30 - 11:30 Interview #1 – (name) + recap

11:30 - 12:30 Interview #2 – (name) + recap

12:30 - 13:00 Lunch + Discuss findings & additional interview topics / questions

13:00 - 14:00 Interview #3 - (name) + recap

14:00 - 15:00 recap + insights in digital form

15:00 - 16:00 Interview #4 (name) + recap

16:00 - 17:00 Interview #5 + recap

17:00 - 17:30 Recap the day with overall findings

17:00 Wrap up!

Day 3: Canvassing & Mapping

10:00 - 10:15 Intro & explain program for today

10:15 - 10:45 Discuss findings of day 2 and recap conclusions

10:45 - 11:15 Defining persona / customer segment

11:15 - 12:00 Business Model Canvas

12:00 - 12:45 Value Proposition Canvas

12:45 - 13:45 Lunch

13:45 - 14:45 Empathy Map Canvas

14:45 - 15:15 Defining the mission & vision + validation questions

15:15 - 16:30 Mapping the customer journey

16:30 - 17:00 Dot voting the map on the most interesting area’s to target

17:00 Wrap up!

Day 4 – Sketching, Set-up & Prototyping

09:15 - 09:30 Intro & explain program for today

09:30 - 10:00 Searching for examples

10:00 - 11:30 Solution Sketching

11:30 - 11:45 Review & Solution pitches

11:45 - 12:00 Dot voting

12:00 - 12:15 Super vote

12:15 - 13:00 Storyboarding

13:00 - 13:30 Lunch

13:30 - 16:30 Prototype set-up+ simultaneous prototyping (with designer)

16:30 - 17:00 Prepping for test-day!

17:00 Wrap up!

Day 5: Testing

10:00 - 10:15 Intro & explain program for today

10:15 - 10:30 Prep for interview #1

10:30 - 11:00 Interview #1

11:00 - 11:15 Recap insights interview #1

11:15 - 11:30 Prep for interview #2

11:30 - 12:00 Interview #2

12:00 - 12:15 Recap insights interview #2

12:15 - 12:30 Prep for interview #3

12:30 - 13:00 Interview #3

13:00 - 13:15 Recap insights interview #3

13:15 - 14:00 Lunch

14:00 - 14:30 Interview #4

14:30 - 14:45 Recap insights interview #4

14:45 - 15:00 Prep for interview #5

15:00 - 15:30 Interview #5

15:30 - 15:45 Recap insights interview #5

15:45 - 16:00 Break

16:00 - 17:00 Analyze insights on the feedback grid

17:00 Wrap up!

We hope you enjoyed the read and are curious to hear your thoughts!

Best regards,


The Sprint Agency - -

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