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Design Sprint @ Galp – Nurturing a culture of innovation and cross-functional collaboration

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Design Sprint @ Galp – Nurturing a culture of innovation and cross-functional collaboration

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João Costa Ribeiro 4 minutes Share

The Design Sprint is an innovation method developed within Google Ventures (Google’s venture capital branch) that allows any team to go from a challenge to a working and tested prototype with customers in just five days or less.    

Companies all around the world are adopting this method (Google, Lego, Netflix, Tetra Pak) to help de-risk projects at an early phase, by allowing teams to “fast-forward into the future”, and quickly validate how new ideas and solutions would be received by customers before investing a lot of time and money building them.

Galp (5k+ employees; 15B$+ in annual revenue) is a multinational energy company with origins tracing back to 1848.

As Galp’s innovation team, one of our major mandates is to nurture a culture of innovation and cross-functional collaboration around the company by accelerating the adoption of innovation methodologies and new ways of working.

The Design Sprint is one of those methodologies, and in this article, we will share a bit on its origin, its underlying principles, and why we chose to spread its adoption across the company!

The Design Sprint Origin

Tell me if you’ve been through this before: you have a great idea for solving a challenge that you want to take forward within your company. You start sharing your idea with colleagues, people start to get excited about it, and your leadership greenlights you to start working on it. You manage to put together a small team, and excitement is running high. You have a few meetings, and emails and some PowerPoint presentations are created and shared around. However, little by little, the excitement starts to wear off. It becomes harder to get people to meet, the feedback on the emails and presentations shared comes late or not at all, and you start to lose interest in the project. Sounds familiar?

It was what Jake Knapp, product designer and creator of the Design Sprint, experienced while working at Microsoft and Google (even though these are two of the most innovative companies on earth). 

More specifically at Google, Jake realized that although the company offered its employees the possibility to work 20% of their time in their projects (the famous Google 20% rule), this same pattern tended to repeat itself: a lot of initial excitement lost in time through a myriad of meetings and unstructured talks and interactions. 

In 2007 Jake was in the Gmail team and had an idea – what if we could make video calls within the web browser without installing anything? He started to explore this within his 20% time but this time he decided he’d try a different approach to time management. Instead of spending bits and pieces of time here and there, running through unstructured meetings and presentations, the little team he managed to put together would pool their 20%-time allowance into a full one-week block of time and lock their calendars with one single purpose in mind: to create a prototype of their idea that could be shared with others.

It turned out to be the best approach ever. With no distractions and a clear goal, Jake and his team put together a rough prototype of this video calling application, shared it with others in the Gmail team, and started to get momentum on it. This prototype quickly grew and would eventually shape into what we know today as Google Meet.

From corporates to startups – The Design Sprint recipe is born

After Jake’s experience that week, he became very interested in how this “magic” could be replicated. This interest turned into a new 20% project within google and in 2012 into a full-time job within Google Ventures: Google’s venture capital branch!

Here Jake and the Google Ventures team were able to optimize this “magic work week” structure by running it with hundreds of startups and ideas within the Google Ventures portfolio (which included companies like Nest, Slack, etc.). For six years they matured this approach, and in 2016, Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky, and Braden Kowitz finally published the book Sprint with their final “recipe”:

  • Day 1 - the team understands the problem and sets the direction for the sprint;
  • Day 2 - the team produces a set of possible solutions;
  • Day 3 - the team decides the solutions, and prepares a storyboard to guide prototyping;
  • Day 4 - the team works together to build a realistic prototype;
  • Day 5 - the team tests the prototype with five customers.

Across all days, the Design Sprint shared four key principles:

  • No distractions – while running the sprint we focus only on the sprint (no emails, no multi-tasking, etc.);
  • Moving forward over being right – we value progress over perfection. We want to finish the sprint so that we can test our prototype with actual customers. The sprint has clear decision processes and an identified decider to make sure progress never stalls.
  • Time-boxing obsession – tightly connected with the previous principle, every exercise in the sprint is timeboxed.
  • Working alone-together – there are moments for working alone in silence and for sharing with the group. This makes the sprint an inclusive method where everyone gets an equal chance to develop and share their ideas.

Why did we choose to spread the adoption of this methodology within Galp? 

The big idea with the Design Sprint is to build and test a prototype in just five days or less. We take a small team, clear our schedule for the sprint days, and rapidly progress from problem to tested solution following a series of proven steps and exercises.

While the Design Sprint is a great methodology to fast-forward into the future - and see how a certain solution would be received by our customers before we invest a lot of time and money into building it -, its magic comes from its ability to quickly bring together and align cross-functional teams through inclusive collaboration models that create excitement, engagement, and clarity.

The energy sector is changing significantly, and Galp has set ambitious decarbonization objectives. We want to reach Net Zero Emissions (scopes 1, 2, and 3) by 2050, so we need to embrace the energy transition, and we must do it fast! 

Leveraging internal expertise across different areas of our company as collaborating with external entities that are focused on specific problems and solutions will be the key. Startups, academia, scale-ups, R&D institutes, etc., hold valuable expertise acquired through scientific research and experimentation that is needed to achieve this ambitious goal. 

We believe we can only “put together all the pieces of the puzzle” if we work together to leverage each party’s capabilities! 

It is why we have already trained over 60 people in the Design Sprint methodology across all areas of Galp (commercial; legal; HR; procurement; renewables; P&O, etc.) and have recently launched our Galp Open Innovation Platform: Upcoming Energies!

The design sprint will be one of the pieces of this puzzle, acting as an innovation igniter that will help newly formed teams tap into the energy and optimism that comes from knowing we are working on something meaningful and exciting! 

To learn more about this topic and our open innovation program, please visit  http://upcomingenergies.pt

We are very much looking forward to hearing from you! Let’s regenerate the future together!

João Costa Ribeiro

Innovation Lead at Galp

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