Battle of the Buzzwords: Agile Sprint vs Innovation Sprint

By
Jess Ji
October 15, 2019
10 minute read

Both contain the word ‘Sprint’, both are used in product and service development and both are considered buzzwords of the decade. “How is Agile Sprint different or related to Innovation Sprint?” It’s a common question we get a lot, and the answer is not as complicated as it may seem.

Enter the 2000’s - where the business world shifted from industrial-age inspired processes, like waterfall, to game-changing, iterative development approaches, such as Agile, Scrum, Kanban. These iterative development frameworks were made up of ‘Sprints’, which are rapid, measurable cycles of build, test, ship. This is where Agile Sprint was born. The purpose of doing an Agile Sprint is to deliver a shippable product within the span of a few weeks. It’s more about finishing, rather than starting.

Agile Sprints can be iterated and repeated as many rounds needed, but the end result is always a shippable product.

Enter the 2010’s - Introducing Google’s ‘Design Sprint’ created by Jake Knapp, author of the book ‘Sprint!’. Design Sprints, or Innovation Sprints, swept high-profile companies, like Google, Slack and Lego, off of their feet, improving their approach in developing new product and service. An Innovation Sprint acts as a safety net for companies to test their ideas quickly without having to build a complete product. It saves time, money and resources. The sprint itself takes only 4-5 days and has a very structured, clear process that guarantees efficiency and tangible results.

The Difference between Agile Sprint and Innovation Sprint 

The difference lies in the question of what stage of the development process are you at. Do you have an idea already? Are you looking to build and deliver as fast as possible? Or are you looking to validate ideas to solve a problem first?

Innovation Sprints focus on testing the idea to users early. This lowers the financial risk and effort in building something that customers might not be interested in. The least you could gain from an Innovation Sprint is the validation that this idea does not work, and move on to try something else. Whereas, the purpose of an Agile Sprint is to ideate and build. There is less time to actually refine your idea, but there is flexibility and the resource ability to refine on the actual product. You will end up with a completed product, but your product’s success may not measure up to expectations, therefore requiring more agile sprints. 

Innovation Sprints should be used for when you are faced with a big challenge that requires a diverse group of people from different teams to come together. They are fantastic for brainstorming and ideation, which proves to be less risky compared to Agile methods, since little time is spent in this stage.

The Ultimate Duo - The Innovation Agile Sprint 

Combining an Innovation Sprint and an Agile Sprint can create the ultimate duo for your product and service development. The purpose of an Innovation Sprint is to quickly test your potential ideas and to use feedback from your prototype to find quick direction. Therefore, you can think of it as a pre-Agile Sprint stage. After your idea has already been validated, you can implement Agile Sprints to complete the product as soon as possible. Using the Innovation Agile Sprint is dependent on your time and resources, but when implemented successfully, it can become the next game-changer for your company. 

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