In-person meetings may be on hold for many, but the need for a Design Sprint is not! Whether you’re rolling out a new product, feature, or service, a Design Sprint can be just what you need to ensure your launch is successful.

In Sprint, high-profile designers Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky outline their guide for executing an efficient Design Sprint, including an important step on Day 1 called “Ask the Expert.” The goal of this exercise is to pinpoint any potential problems early on and brainstorm innovative ways to resolve them. 

We love Ask the Expert for its ability to uncover important challenges and goals for new products!

How does Ask the Expert work?

The first day of a Design Sprint is typically devoted to uncovering the primary challenges your primary audience is facing. In the illuminating Ask the Expert exercise, we ask company experts questions about the unique challenges of their organization. These experts can include:

  • Sprint team members
  • CEOs
  • Marketing executives
  • Users 

It’s helpful to gather a team of experts that covers a wide range of problems. When gathering your experts, never underestimate the importance of the user! Users can offer valuable insights into their experience with your product. 

Once you have your interviews lined up, keep in mind that the ideal interview length is between 15 and 30 minutes. Consider your long-term goals as you conduct interviews. Your questions should address the vision of the project, customer research, effectiveness of the product, and lessons learned from previous efforts.

How can we make Ask the Expert work for us?

One way to approach the Ask the Expert exercise is to envision yourself as a journalist or reporter. Be sure to cover the who, what, when, where, how of your project. Remind your team to take plenty of notes during the interview process—as any quality journalist would! 

Remember that it’s important to tailor this exercise to meet the specific needs and culture of your company. Consider some of the common pitfalls that other sprinters have experienced, and adjust as needed. Some designers have found:

  • Timing is everything. Structure is important during this exercise. Try to map out a schedule that is realistic and generous in the amount of time it takes for each question to be answered. Though 15 to 30 minutes is ideal, adjust as needed—no expert can thoughtfully answer 20 questions in 20 minutes!
  • Taking turns is essential. Establish a recurring order in which interviewers ask their questions. This will help keep your team and guests from getting flustered or confused.
  • Make it fun. Setting this activity up in an old-fashioned panel style can be intimidating and stressful for the person being interviewed. Instead, consider creating a more intimate or laid-back interview set-up. This is often more comfortable for both the interviewers and interviewees!

The goal of Ask the Expert is to gain a sense of the state of the product and its future. Creating an open and collaborative environment is key to the success of the remainder of the sprint. 

How can we use information from the Ask the Expert exercise?

Now that you’ve asked the right questions, what do you do with the answers? An effective way to use expert answers is to convert them into “How Might We” style questions. For example, if a user explains that they’re experiencing recurring technical issues, this information can be reformulated to the team as: “How might we improve the customer’s experience with the technology?”

This helps reframe any challenges with the product as opportunities for growth. It also helps position the question within the context of long term goals. 

No matter how you decide to structure your version of Ask the Expert, remember that the goal is to improve your product before you launch it out into the world. Through compassionate, thoughtful questioning and innovative collaboration, this exercise is sure to help make your launch a success!