Kelly Dawson Head of Insights and Innovation

Sustainability Sprint

Part 2: Breaking down the challenge and helping you think and act fast

Sustainability is perhaps one of the greatest challenges of our time and with big, bold, ambitions being set by global corporations, the next decade will need to see some of the most radical innovation to reach 2030 goals.

Sustainability is a vast, complex space, which has recently witnessed FMCG businesses targeting quick wins, mainly focussed towards plastic packaging. However, the challenge is far greater and there is growing recognition that we not only need to address the waste problem that has washed up on out shores, but we also need to tackle the bigger challenge of carbon reduction.

How can innovation enable a positive planet?

We have structured a Design Sprint programme at KD to enable focus on specific sustainability innovation challenges across a two-week period, to progress from insight, through to tangible design concepts. A challenge as big as sustainability needs breaking down into focus areas to get started. As the saying goes, ‘To eat an elephant, take one bite at a time.’

With targets and ambitions focussed towards 2030, which is just 2-3 projects away, identifying NPD directions to pursue with confidence and pace is necessary.

flow chart with understand and immerse - inspire and ideate - design and prototype - evaluate and learn - what's next? pause/proceed/pivot

What is a Design Sprint?

A Design Sprint is an ideal way to break out of standard processes. It can create a fresh perspective, and act as a catalyst to get a team aligned on resolving problems and creating new innovative solutions. The 5 day Design Sprint was created by Jake Knapp, ex Design Partner at Google Ventures. It was created to help teams focus on fast tracking the resolution and testing of a UX challenge.

Venn diagram of desirability, feasibility, and viability

This approach is an ideal way to break down a sizeable challenge, that can often feel overwhelming. Our Design Sprint allows for a fast turnaround with a greater level of immersion, providing a two-week paced turnaround on specific focus areas, allowing critical knowledge gaps to be addressed and breakthrough innovation to be delivered.

The KD Sustainability  Sprint

The two-week programme is broken down into a set of stages that add structure and clarity in the mission we’re trying to tackle, in this instance, sustainability.

Understand & Immerse

Starting with familiarisation and immersion into the sprint space, our task is to learn about the problem we are trying to solve. This objective of this stage is primarily to deep dive into the category, the challenge, and where relevant, the competition.

We explore through the lens of People, Place, Planet:

People – who is the target market and what are their needs or attitudes?

Place – what is the context and location in focus, and how does geographic location impact sustainability?

Planet – what are the KPI’s, measures of success and targets that we are looking to aim towards?

Inspire & Ideate

Our task here is to seek inspirational people, places and activities to gain insight and knowledge. This is an opportunity for us all to step into consumers’ shoes and gain empathy. This stage brings in inspiration from experts, early adopter consumers, or adjacent categories that might provide fresh insight and stimulus.

For example, we might engage with extremely committed consumers or experts, where doing the right thing for the planet is an essential part of life – providing clues for tomorrow’s mainstream consumer.

The intention is to identify and define new opportunities that are brand relevant and translate into tangible ideas. This stage is rounded off by using the measures of success to decide on which ideas to progress with, based on the measures of success.

Design & Prototype

This task defines and designs concepts based on early ideas and brings them to life through user stories or prototypes. The goal isn’t to create a fully developed product ready to launch. The intention is to demonstrate a clear idea that people can respond to and engage with, maximising learning about the idea.

Building and constructing concepts that are fit for exploring with consumers could be a blend of both physical and/ or digital mock-ups and prototypes to convey the new proposition.

Evaluate & Learn

This task is designed to connect with consumers, stakeholders and technical experts to evaluate and assess the concepts and learn from the feedback. This stage is intended to share the thinking and concepts with experts or consumers who can think critically and constructively about them and feedback opinions on their strengths and weaknesses. The intention is about learning, rather than validating in order to inform and guide what to do next.

example of micro workspace for sustainability sprint

What’s next – Proceed, Pause, or Pivot?

At the end of the sprint, we need to focus on what the team believe is next, based on the learnings and whether we are meeting the measures for success?

Do we continue and proceed into another sprint stage to refine and build the concepts?

Do we pause and refocus energy and effort in a new area?

Do we pivot and explore new ideas with new inspiration?

Why run an innovation sprint?

The intensity and focus of a sprint will move a project along faster. The notion of learn early, learn often will propel the project team to focus on manageable areas, rather than try to build a fully-fledged concept in one sprint. Sprints can be explored through the lens of desirability, feasibility and viability to surface and identify lead routes.

Bringing together a mixed set of skills to solve the complex challenges will aid progress, with success being rooted in partnership and collaboration. The power of different perspectives will enrich ideas to learn early and learn together.

So, is a sprint for you? If you have a complex challenge and aren’t sure how to start, then yes. To quote Simon Sinek, ‘Dream big. Start Small. But most of all, start’.

A sprint is by no means for everybody, or even a shortcut to simply getting things done quicker. It will, however, act as a catalyst to focus and create momentum one step at a time.

If you’ve got a sustainability challenge, talk to us about how we can help run one with you and your team. And if you’re wondering if these can be run remotely, they  absolutely can. Whilst a certain amount of interpersonal dynamism is missing without a co-located team, with willing attitudes and the use of online collaboration tools, successful sprints are entirely achievable as KD and our clients have been proving for over the last 8 months.

Stay tuned as we release the final chapter to our bi-weekly sustainability series and read our first part here.

Find out more?

Get in touch with Kelly Dawson, our Head of Insight & Innovation.