How to Run a Design Sprint Workshop for Banks | Windmill

How to Run a Design Sprint Workshop for Banks

Windmill Editorial Team
  • Financial Services

A Design Sprint workshop is like a travelator. You know—one of those moving walkways you find in airports. You have a problem: the walk to the terminal is 10 minutes but the gate closes in five minutes. The solution: a moving walkway that gets you there twice as fast. 

A Design Sprint accelerates the early stages of the product development process. It saves time by getting you to your goal, faster. And it saves money by avoiding costly failures. Catch that flight! 

For a bank, where risk aversion is high and where excellence in delivery is critical to customer trust, Design Sprints hold particular value as they place empathy with the customer at the heart of the process. All too often banks trip over their own internal complexities and fail to deliver a customer-centric solution. By centering the customer from the very start, this problem can be avoided. 

The success of a Design Sprint workshop for a bank hinges on several things. First, the skill of the facilitator, who is responsible for the ultimate success of the workshop. Second, the size and composition of the workshop team will influence results. Thirdly, a space (real-world or virtual) conductive to creativity and co-operation is needed. 

If you’re thinking of running a Design Sprint workshop, here’s how to nail those three factors. 

Facilitation—not so easy 

Facil might be Spanish for “easy”, but facilitation is anything but. The facilitator is responsible for guiding the Design Sprint workshop towards a successful conclusion. The list of things a facilitator needs to get right for that to happen is long, covering a broad set of interpersonal as well as practical skills and design expertise—a rare combination. 

Building the Sprint 

Participants in the workshop need to be firing on all cylinders. That makes it crucial to plan an engaging agenda so that the team maintains focus and does not suffer from mental fatigue. Structure the day around a series of activities of varying types and durations and front-load the day with the more demanding activities. 

Before the workshop starts, it’s good practice to research the company you’re working with to reach a basic level of familiarity with the company, their products, and the challenges they face. It’s easier to build a rapport if you can show you’ve made an effort to get to know them. 

Send out an agenda prior to the workshop that contains the activities, objectives, and an explainer of design thinking principles. This prepares the participants for the workshop, sets expectations, and soothes any apprehension participants may have. 

Choose a selection workshop activities or tools are relevant to the project, touching on those that build empathy, define the problem, generate ideas, and find new approaches. When building a digital solution for banking, it’s likely that the problem is already fairly well defined, such as digitizing a manual or paper process, while building empathy with the user might get to the core of the problem more quickly. 

It’s good to strike a balance between activities that bring together the whole team, versus breakout or even individual activities. There are great many activities to choose from. The king of workshop activities is Journey Mapping, which aims to describe how a user can reach their goal by thinking about the journey in structured terms. 

The Interaction Design Foundation provides a laundry list of activities to choose from: empathy-building activities, define the problem activities, ideation activities, and sketching and prototyping activities.  

Who’s in?

The size and composition of the Design Sprint workshop team has a big influence on its ultimate success. Aim for a maximum of eight participants; any more and you will run into co-ordination issues. Someone needs to be the designated decision-maker for if or when the group is divided. Typically this will be the most senior person in the team. 

Invite a broad cross-section of your company to get a diverse range of viewpoints. Even though they do not have specific design or product skills, people from marketing, finance, sales, and technology (to name a few) will be able to contribute their unique perspective and provide insight into the practical realities that govern a product’s success. For example, someone from marketing might have a good sense if a product has innate appeal, or someone from technology might know more about the opportunities presented by technology. 

Space, man


Drab, dark, unventilated or restrictive environs will stifle the creativity of any Design Sprint workshop. An ideal workshop room has natural light, whiteboards, and wall or glass panels for putting up posters. Make sure to book the same room for each day of the workshop—moving sticky notes from one room to another is a real pain! 

Stationery is important, too. The group will need pens, sticky notes, dot stickers, markers, tape, small and large paper sheets, and scissors. Design Sprint workshops are highly visual and participants need to be able to get ideas out there unhindered. 

One advantage of in-person workshops over online is that food can be provided. Slow-release energy is suited to long spells of concentration, things like nuts (albeit carried an allergy risk that needs assessing), flapjacks, and bananas. 


Online workshops need some adaptation to be successful. A collaboration tool is indispensable; the two best known are Miro and Figma, which allow group members to work simultaneously on the same board. As well as interactive whiteboards, they allow for voice and/or video chat, making communication easy. Despite that, anticipate lower productivity and allocate more time to each activity. It takes a high level of proficiency to work as easily in Figma or Miro as on paper, despite the excellent UI of both programs. 

Closing thoughts

Running a successful Design Sprint workshop is not easy, but this guide will hopefully point you in the right direction. However, if you want the services of an experienced design team with 300+ sprints under their belt, get in touch today.

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