For five years, LETO have been bringing a little sunshine to their clients’ workdays. Their team helps clients, both large and small – from Startups to corporates – to optimise their digital products tying in with their business objectives. To do so, they’ve adopted the Google Ventures design sprint process into the problem solving solutions they offer, resulting in an effective way to insource innovation.
“Adopting the sprint process resulted in a great way for us to insource innovation.”
LETO was initially a product development agency which predominantly helped Startups, as the co-founders, Alex and Oleg, were heavily involved in that network. As time has gone on, bigger corporates have become a main bulk of the work, turning LETO into startup-as-a-service company. Their design team consists of Joe, Head of Design, Karolina , Designer, and Pawel, Creative Technologist. Pawel and Joe take the lead on initial client meetings, attending briefs and running sprints with Karolina working on projects past the sprint stage.
Eager to hear more about their work and the launch of their Design Sprint Meetups, we met Joe and Pawel on a cold Tuesday afternoon in London at their East London office.
“The premise for LETO is that we help these larger, corporate companies put their finger on the pulse when to comes to what’s new and what’s current. It can sometimes be hard for them to stay abreadth when they have so much legacy and process in place.”
What LETO do for their clients is offer them the nimble insight and agility that a smaller team can bring. “They hire us to do Design Sprints and Creative Sprints, we go in-house and target ideation and business concepts with figureheads from the relevant teams across the business.” Often the companies they visit have crafted a loose brief and have no concrete structure of how to achieve their goals. So, the week long sprint process can sometimes mean developing a business concept that achieves that goal rather than a design solution.
They follow the typical format:
- Day 1 – Understand: Introductions and ensuring that both teams are levelled up. Digging deep to understand what’s the problem and to ensure that that problem is really a problem. This step ensures the business and their needs are understood by both parties.
- Day 2 – Diverge: Getting broad with concepts and ideas in a brainstorming session. Strictly no censorship – all ideas welcome.
- Day 3 – Converge: Pick a strong idea from Day 2 and do some sketching to start envisioning how the solution might look.
- Day 4 – Prototyping: Start designing within Sketch and pull the designs into Marvel to prototype.
- Day 5 – Testing: Test the prototype built on Day 4 with their existing and/or potential users.
“One of our larger clients, Admiral, noticed a growing competition in the learner driver space. Admiral found they have the legacy but how can they tap into that market and appeal to a younger generation. On Day 4 of the sprint we sketched together a simpler website, building 4 or 5 screens in Sketch and then prototyping in Marvel. On Day 5 we went to driving schools to get opinions from young learner drivers, Admiral’s target audience. The prototype we built sold our pitch and they hired us for the project. As of two weeks ago their ROI is at 1500%.”
“Marvel moves so swiftly – combining all a designers needs and providing the essential plugins like the speedy Sketch plugin which makes it seamless to switch between the two. It’s super easy for a client to give you feedback as well, which is awesome.”
For the last two years, LETO have been implementing this process with each of their clients, finding the speed and direction refreshing and rewarding. Now this is a relatively new phenomenon, GV spent five years building and refining the process and wrote an entire book on it, so as expected there are many lessons to learn. Which is why they launched their event Design Sprint Meetups, as a safe place for designers to come together, learn from others and share their own experiences.
“You learn from your own mistakes, but there is a shortcut from learning from other peoples.”
“We’re treating the event like an MVP and learning as we go. It’s held in our office, so there is a finite number of people who can attend, keeping the event small. There was a time one of our speakers had been discussing a project that hadn’t gone so well and explained to us afterwards that had it been a larger audience they might not have felt comfortable sharing.”
“We have a no photos policy and if a speaker says, ‘Don’t tweet this’, it’s done. These rules mean people can really share the bad stuff, you know, the scary stories. Which is incredibly beneficial! Hearing only the good things is not only unhelpful but demoralising when you find yourself struggling.”
“Hearing only the good things is not only unhelpful but demoralising when you find yourself struggling.”
With two years in the game, Pawel and Joe have their stories to share with strong opinions on the benefits and frustrations of sprints. In Joe’s opinion, the speed of the process is a clear advantage here. “The two things I love most about sprints are trade offs and constraints, considering you only have a week and you have to move fast which can be hard for new adopters.”
So, what are the key lessons they’ve learned?
Assign a facilitator
It’s all good and well having a technical and creative mind to run these sprints but the most essential role that complements that is the facilitator. The time constraints are strict in sprints and there are goals set to be achieved for each of the five days. Keeping to these restraints can be more difficult when introducing unfamiliar people to the process, Joe and Pawel say most of the time they are working with Marketing teams. So, education is something they have to pay a lot of attention to, whilst also learning to manage the abundance of personalities likely to be present.
“Having a facilitator keeps the sprint moving in the direction it’s supposed to.”
Read the room
Following on from the last lesson and managing personalities of people who have heavily invested time into this project, it’s essential to read a room. For this to be a productive session, you want to make sure you’re not stepping on any toes and are working together for a unanimous understood goal. The opportunity to build relationships and drive understanding from both the client side and agency side should fall on the first day.
“Reading a room will not only help you do your job, but also create a more positive and comfortable environment.”
It’s key to identify personalities in the room and be responsive, if someone is very shy, encourage them. If someone is rambling, learn to manage this. Reading a room will not only help you do your job, but also create a more positive, comfortable environment which welcomes each person and ultimately brings out the best from each individual.
It’s the little things
Throughout the sprint, pay attention to detail. Recognising every little bit be of help in the ongoing process but may also become a transferable lesson. LETO keep an ongoing document of the things they learned from each session, what went well and what could be improved.
It’s usually the little things that we miss and often cause more trouble than they’re worth.even just things like charging your devices before a session!
“It’s usually the little things that we miss and often cause more trouble than they’re worth.”
LETO hold their Design Sprint Meetups monthly and are a very welcoming bunch, to hear more from designers and product people who have experiences to share, ask questions and generally have a good chat you can find info on their website.