How to Decide in a Design Sprint?

What an awesome feeling to sit on a huge pile of ideas, right? Well, here comes the bad news. It is impossible to build and test all of them. So, we are left with a tough decision: which ideas will we pursue?

1 – Bundle ideas

A start that makes it easier to filter the rough diamonds out of the overall pile is to first bundle ideas. Think of it as a game of mix and match, where we work towards the creation of concepts that better hit the mark by putting the best parts of multiple ideas together.

When bundeling ideas, it will soon become apparent that ideas start to resemble each other. This is a good thing. Try to see the patterns between the ideas and what makes them a hit or miss. Keep the best parts and ditch the ones that are not working out. Make a selection of roughly 10 concepts that present the best out of the generated ideas.

Take a look at the steps on how to bundle ideas:

  1. Bring together all ideas on a table or against a wall (use post-its).
  2. Cluster similar ideas into groups.
  3. Identify the best elements of each cluster.
  4. Combine the best elements of each cluster.
  5. Rearrange the ideas based on identified themes and patterns.
  6. Envision how the best elements and ideas might live in a system.
  7. Check if the results answer the ‘How Might We…?’ questions.

2 – Six thinking hats

How do you tend to approach new ideas? Are you optimistic? Then chances are that you will overlook the pitfalls of an idea. Do you like to avoid risk? Then chances are you will not allow new opportunities to arise.

In this case, a “thinking hat” is a metaphor for a certain way of thinking. By wearing a different hat we exchange our habitual thinking style with a different one. The new perspective we adopt encourage us to combat one-sided thinking.

There are six different hats to wear. Wear each hat once or assign each hat to one of the designers in your team when discussing ideas. The hats are explained as following:

  • White Hat – Focus on the facts. What information is available and still needed?
  • Blue Hat – Focus on the process. Wants summaries, conclusions, and decisions.
  • Yellow Hat – Focus on the positive side. In search of opportunities and benefits.
  • Red Hat – Focus on feelings. Listen to feelings, gut instincts, and intuition.
  • Green Hat – Focus on creativity. What could other solutions look like?
  • Black Hat – Focus on difficulties. The devil’s advocate.

3 – Top five

Now that a small selection of concepts is left, it is time to choose the winner. This simple exercise gives you a break from the complex patterns and deep thinking and just asks, what are the five ideas that appeal to you the most right now?

Making a selection of the five ideas does not just help the team focus, it can also help hidden themes, ideas, and opportunities to surface. This is how to make a top five selection:

  1. Ask all team members to write down their top five ideas.
  2. Ask all team members to share their selection.
  3. Cluster similar ideas.
  4. Repeat step 1, 2, and 3 until the best idea is selected. It is possible to experiment with the amount of time which people have to choose an idea. This can range from a minute to, for example, a week.
  5. Do not get rid of the other top ideas. In fact, keep them visible so they can act as a reminder of the chosen priorities.


Olivier Wouters

Olivier grew up in a design office. The designers and architects there showed him how to use design to innovate. In 2016 he graduated as MSc Information Studies: Human Centered Multimedia at the University of Amsterdam. He since specialised in Design Thinking and Meaning-Driven Innovation.