Innovation Sprints for Student Teams

A guest post by CDE’s Digital Fellow, Mary Tate.

In my view, teaching the Innovation Sprint method should be a standard part of the Management and Information systems curriculum, I’ll explain why.

I’ve had great success teaching the Sprint method to a team of students. My experience is that students found the Innovation Sprint method easy to learn and use, and even an inexperienced team was able to achieve very strong results. We selected a well-bounded problem that the students had a good understanding of – how to communicate the essence of an information systems major to school leavers engaged in selecting subjects. We simultaneously had three teams working on the problem, one using a traditional “waterfall” method, one using agile software development, and one using the Innovation Sprint method. All the teams were using their methods for the first time.

The sprint team clearly outperformed the others. They were able to harness and synthesize insights from a wide range of academic staff, current students, and school leavers, using journey mapping and ideation techniques. They produced a set of well-qualified and innovative strategies, in record time.

There is a caveat here – the students need to be tasked with simple and well-bounded problems. Seriously “wicked” problems need a strong and experienced team with a high level of judgement and experience.

But when I selected a well-bounded problem, I found that even undergrads using the process for the first time can be effective – and much more effective than parallel teams using more conventional methods. In particular, we found that using the ideation process involving a wide range of stakeholders in an open, democratic, and non-judgemental way, and continually returning to stakeholders to socialise emerging solutions produced very strong results. The method means that team are able to access, use and integrate expertise and knowledge far beyond what they possess themselves. This is huge!

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