our top 4 tips for running a remote innovation sprint

by: Emma Ditterich

We first began working remotely when It Who Must Not Be Named started (*cough Covid-19*). It seemed like it would be a breeze to adapt to our home offices, especially since we were already used to working between multiple offices and saying, “You’re on mute” regularly.

In reality, we had some hard lessons to learn when it came to adapting face-to-face methodologies into online environments.

So, to save you the headache of trial and error, we’ve summarised our best tried and tested tips that will help you bring distributed teams and consumers together in an online innovation sprint (from further afar than might otherwise have been possible before!).



Hold up, don't you mean design sprints?

Not quite. Our innovation sprints are best for when you’re further down the innovation process and are refining your concepts, packaging or prototypes. We can also help you with the earlier innovation stages, so feel free to give us a bell if that’s what you’re after.

running design sprints online with consumers

What makes your innovation sprints so special then?

Our innovation sprints process allows you to prototype earlier and bring your product to life sooner, so we can test what works and what doesn’t work with real consumers before spending more time or money on early-stage refinements.

We’re big supporters of a ‘fail fast’ approach and use this to test products, services and even tech in an iterative way that results in successful innovation.  

Compared to innovation processes, we prioritise speed and efficient collaboration throughout the journey so we’re testing something ‘real’ and improving it in the moment, rather than working with imaginary concepts.

collaborating with teams remotely and in person

Our top tips for running a successful online innovation sprint.

Tip-top tip #1. 

Get the right tools for the job: you’ll need something to co-ordinate video conferencing for consumer groups and client and agency meets, as well as collaboration tools and easy ways to chat with your own team whilst consumer groups are running.

We like Zoom (obviously!) and Whereby for video conference calls for its one-click access that removes any sign up issues for your participants. For online collaboration, we’re partial to Mural but Google Docs is also fine in a pinch.


Tip-top tip #2: 

Keep consumers engaged: we need to get the best out of them and a standard focus group session format over 2 hours won’t cut it online. We like to keep it engaging and mix it up with tasks like online eye tracking, real time illustration or a few simple icebreakers.

Pre-session activities are also a great way to get more from consumers through online communities or quick surveys. 


Tip-top tip #3:

Prototype appropriately: if you have a product to taste or a pack to deliver, prepare in advance so it can be sent to consumers in time.

Otherwise, consider what can be shown virtually. Services might be role played or demonstrated via storyboards, products might be shown via marketing collateral and you’d be amazed how well a couple of slides can demonstrate complex tech services to your audience. 

testing a new prototype

Tip-top tip #4:

Allow time between sessions: we can run face to face innovation sprints very quickly (think 1-2 weeks) when we have everyone in the same space. Prototyping and sharing insights is also a breeze when you’re all in the same location.

Virtual innovation sprints require a little more preparation. We suggest allowing more time to co-ordinate the team, the prototypes and the consumers ready for another round. Conference call fatigue can also mean that the internal team might need some breathing time (and snacks!) after each session before it’s time to re-group once more.


Bonus tip-top tip #5:

Don’t forget to debrief: everyone remembers things differently, so it’s crucial that you regularly catch up with your team throughout the project and share your insights with each other.

Sometimes, consumer feedback can derail your original objectives or key stakeholders might get pulled onto another project. Whatever it is, scheduling quick debriefs throughout your sprint will allow you to evolve plans as needed while your project is in progress.

Make sure you dig into ‘why’ things happened and make a plan to address any issues that are holding you back. That way, your final debrief at the end of the project allows you to move forward with fresh insights, rather than regret.


Apply within: new or existing products in need of a (remote) makeover.

Innovation sprints don’t always have to be about creating a new product either. ‘Renovating’ an existing product can also work well in this format with a similar end goal: to simplify a long-winded process, encourage cross-company collaboration and use consumer insights sooner in order to deliver a successful product to market in less time.

Whatever your intention is, know that remote teams can experience these benefits too with little compromise.

If all of the above sounds like it belongs in the too-hard-basket, feel free to give us a buzz. We’d love to help you plan out your online innovation sprint any day of the week!




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about the author

Emma Ditterich

As PLAY’s senior account director, Emma has a zest for consumer and shopper research and has worked with top blue-chip companies in Asia Pacific, Europe, the US and the UK. When she’s not unearthing the next ‘big thing’, overcoming purchase barriers or building category growth drivers, you can find her enjoying the spoils of the Mornington Peninsula with her family and having her powers of negotiation tested by her toddler.

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