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Lightning Sprint: Healthcare Challenge to Design Solution in Two Hours

Take a group of eight non-designers. Give them a complex healthcare design challenge. Guide them through the design process. Produce solutions and pick one for prototyping. Do it all in just two hours.

That’s the task we set for ourselves to create the “Healthy Aging Challenge” design workshop for the 2017 Health Technology Forum Innovation Conference. This article describes why we took on this challenge and how we did it successfully. If you prefer to watch, jump to the video at the bottom.

To build a design workshop that fit our two-hour timeframe, we started with the Google Ventures Sprint (GV Sprint), a battle-tested design process (and best-selling book that’s the new hotness in Silicon Valley) that takes a design problem from challenge to prototype in five days.

We slimmed this five-day process into a two-hour workshop by cherrypicking specific elements, including defining and targeting a problem from Day 1, ideating and sketching solutions from Day 2, evaluating solutions and choosing the one for prototyping from Day 3. Then we sprinkled in some cooking show magic by providing some pre-measured ingredients. Once we had the cake batter (ideas and sketches) ready, we’d pop it in the oven (take it back to DesignMap), and through the magic of television (digital video and photoshop), ta-da, we’d have a cake (prototype), ready to eat (test).

The workshop attracted a diverse group of 22 participants, including physicians, administrators, product developers and a smattering of designers (only 4). In the end, we took these strangers, gave them a taste of the design process and the GV Sprint, and delivered a testable prototype, twice, all in about 10 hours(!). Here’s how it worked.

On your Marks: Explain the Rules; Get Set: Pick The Decider; Go: Start Sprinting, Lightning Fast

We started each workshop with a review of GV Sprint’s “rules” which are as follows:

— The Facilitator runs the schedule;
— The Decider, or “CEO for the day”, makes all the tough decisions;
— No devices, including smartphones, tablets and laptops, are allowed in the room to ensure 100 percent, interruption-free process.

After reviewing the rules, we picked the decider from a bowl of slips, all of which were blank except one that said “Decider.” While pegging the person with ultimate decision-making power was (literally) arbitrary, it allowed us to skip the social dynamics around status that can plague these kinds of workshops, especially with a group of professionals used to being in charge!

Following a brief overview on how participants would experience three days of design thinking in just two hours, we presented the design challenge: “How might we use AI to help elderly people remember to take their meds?” Then the Lightning Sprint was off.

Part 1: Mapping Complexity & Choosing the Target Problem

For the first twenty minutes, the group created a map, or diagram, of the challenge. To start, they listed the scenario’s “actors”, e.g. physicians, pharmacist, patients and more, on the left side. Then, using questions such as “How does this work?” “What obstacles exist in this process?” and “Where do we want to be six months, a year, or even five years from now?”, they defined the long-term goal and entered it on the right side.

Using “dot voting”, in which participants vote by placing sticky dots on the map, the group picked the actor and step to focus on for the remainder of the workshop. The Decider then assessed the voting, really thinking of it as “advice”, and named the target. One group picked learning and the other picked organization.

The map of our challenge showing actors, goals and the steps in between. Red dots show the target for design: patients and organization.


Part 2: Sharing Lightning Demos

After just 20 minutes, it was Tuesday(!) and time to start ideating solutions. To get inspired, the group spent a few minutes research products and services relevant to using AI to support medication adherence. To save time, we provided a “pre-baked” list of concepts to research, such as voice recognition, AI robots, prescription packaging and more, and split up them among the participants. Of course, they could choose their own concepts to research as well.

Then each participant had two minutes to demo what they found and describe the relevant features and functionality. A scribe captured these points of relevancy on a white board for reference later in the workshop.

The scribe at work, jotting down notes during Lightning Demos


Part 3: Sketching Solutions

Now, one hour later, each workshop was ready to start ideating and sketching solutions. The Sprint approach to ideating is unique. Instead of a brainstorming session, each participant worked on their own list of ideas, picked their favorite and then started sketching them using a process called Crazy 8’s.

Using a piece of paper and folded it into eighths, everyone took 60 seconds to sketch one iteration of their favorite idea in first frame. Then they took another 60 seconds to sketch a second variation in the second frame, and so forth, until they had four rapid sketches. (We whittled the process down to Crazy 4’s because of timing.) Several participants commented specifically that, while they thought had a solution at the start of this process, Crazy 8’s iterative sketching pushed them toward a different better, solution.

In the final step, each individual took their best idea and, using three large sticky notes with images and words, created a story board to illustrate it.

Sketching final storyboards for the Art Museum review.


Part 4: Viewing the Art Museum

Just 90 minutes into the workshop, it was Wednesday morning(!!) and time for the Art Museum, an anonymous, silent, structured system for critiquing each solution and choosing the best one. During this time, no one argued for their own story board, which are displayed without identification, or described them to the group. Instead, again using little sticky dots, participants created Heat Map of all the solutions by putting one or more dots next to ideas they though were good or terrific or perfect.

Art Museum was followed by Speed Critique by the Facilitator. We walked through each storyboard, noting questions and where dots had been placed. Afterward, participants were asked to explain any feature or function of their storyboard that had been missed.

After the Heat Mapping and Speed Critique, the Decider used three big dots to pick the three ideas that he/she wanted to prototype. The results of this final Supervote may not have represented the “best” ideas but they did comprise the ideas the Decider wanted to get in front of target customers.

Participants viewing the Art Museum and Dot Voting.


Prototyping: The Cake Goes in the Oven

The Speed Critique and the Supervote were the final steps of our two-hour workshop — they had taken us through mid-day Wednesday in the normal GV Sprint process. When the second workshop was finished, it was the end of the first day of the Conference. The next morning, two design teams back at DesignMap’s offices created the prototypes from the solutions chosen by the Deciders. Then later that afternoon, I presented the prototypes to everyone who attended the workshop.


The first prototype, called MedTube, is an educational tool uses AI to link a patient’s medications to free educational videos about the medication and related topics, such as diet and exercise, that impact the patient’s condition. All videos are collected into a personalized channel and then tracked for effectiveness based on patient outcome. The most effective videos are paid and promoted. Much of the MedTube idea came from a participant who was neither a tech professional nor a designer, underscoring how the Lightning Sprint process can enable anyone, no matter their connection to design, to ideate great solutions to design problems.

Prototype pf MedTube video links to content about and related to Glucotrol.

MedTube video about diet and diabetes.


As with the first prototype, three sketches (or storyboards) went into creating H.I.M., an organizational tool to support medication adherence. The first was a smart pill dispenser that glows or alarms for people with hearing or visual impairments will know when to take their meds. The second was an idea focused on convenience, such as an automatic reminder by the door to remind a patient to take their medications as they walk out. All of these were incorporated into an interface delivered via smart glass in form of a bathroom mirror capable of face and voice recognition.

H.I.M. AI-powered mirror uses facial recognition to display an individual’s medication reminders.

What We Learned

Think about this for a minute: in just two hours, we took a group of strangers who weren’t designers or even technology people, guided them through a three-day process in a fraction of that time, and then, in just a few hours the next day, put together a presentation-worthy prototype to screen in front of 400 conference attendees.

First of all, this was nuts. Really. We almost didn’t make it in the end — the conference wifi was slow and we had to download two presentations (with different aspect ratios AND video) and blend them into an intro on GV Sprints and our Lightning Sprint process. I very nearly had to give my presentation on the workshops, right before Vinod Khosla’s closing keynote, with little more than a few intro slides.

Thankfully, that didn’t happen. We baked two cakes and learned a few things in the process. First, it’s ok—and even fun—to be crazy aspirational. Second, no stunt looks as dangerous to the people watching it as it does to the people doing it. Third, naming a Decider at the start adds a decided magic to the process. Being frank about who will make the final call, even in the workplace, enables groups to skip all the social dynamics of decision making.

And finally, if going from challenge to prototype in five days sounds daunting, try doing it in a day and a half and suddenly a full work week will sound like luxury.


Audrey Crane

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