What I learned about facilitation from Jake Knapp

Jake Knapp drinking coffee while guiding us through his updated Design Sprint

The past 2 days I attended a Design Sprint training led by Jake Knapp of Design Sprint fame himself (!). And he did something that surprised me…

Ok let me first fangirl for a sec and say yes: it was amazing to learn straight from the creator of the Design Sprint, hear the story behind how this framework that took the design + software world by storm came to be, and get an early look at the improvements he’s making.

Yes: it was inspiring to watch a top-tier facilitator in his element, keeping the energy up during a 6 hour virtual session with fun sound effects, tunes, and dance breaks.

But what surprised me was the FLEXIBILITY with which Jake approached the system that he himself had created. I’m familiar with a bunch of workshop-type frameworks, and a limitation of all of them is that, well, frameworks are by nature an oversimplification of the real world. And if you try to follow them too rigidly, they break as soon as they meet real-world scenarios.

This was a room full of other facilitators, and we’ve all seen some shit. We quite literally bombarded Jake with unique and specific edge cases for workshops. And never once did he say “oh well I’d never do that” or “well the design sprint doesn’t work that way” or “well you should actually do it this way”.

Most of the time, he had his own example or story of a similar situation. Every time, he accepted the scenario as reality and then walked through what he would do to make it work.

Overall it was refreshing and inspiring, and I can’t wait to put these newfound learnings to good use!