A handful of the company’s employees--including both its COO and the person who handles inquiries from the website--sit scattered on cushions and couches around Knapp at Google Ventures’ San Francisco headquarters. They scribble silently on printer paper as he calls off 40-second intervals from his clock. “We can get good stuff out of ugly drawings,” he reminds them. Knapp, who joined Google Ventures’ design team last March, first started running what he calls “design sprints” when he worked at Google proper. After leading projects that became Hangouts for Google+ and Priority Inbox during his 20% time, and inspired by design exercises from agencies such as Ideo and the Institute of Design at Stanford, he asked to run workshops for projects across the company. Google being Google, he got the job. And when he joined Google Ventures, he brought the sprints with him.
Google Ventures’ design team works as a resource for its 150 or so portfolio companies--doling out advice during office hours, weighing in on design hires, and teaching companies that may not employ a single designer a framework for thinking about design. But the team has only five members. Sprints help squeeze a maximum amount of design education into a necessarily short amount of time.