I recently sat down with Amanda Cooper, Senior Partner at LightBox Collaborative, about what’s been exciting her lately.

“Strategy Sprints,” she said without hesitation.

“Wow, that sounds like the opposite of exciting,” I thought (and maybe said aloud). Who among us working in communications can’t recall a painful experience with strategic planning? Wanting to know more, I pressed on.

When Amanda said it was a way to nix the endless meetings and “analysis paralysis” that can plague traditional strategic planning, my interest was piqued. And when she said that the process is actually FUN? Well, tell me more! 

In a nutshell, she explained, strategy sprints compress months of planning into a single structured, hands-on session that helps your team make effective decisions and set goals.

It’s not so much strategic planning as it is strategic doing.

See below for my Q & A with her to find out more:

When is a good time to have a strategy sprint?

A strategy sprint is good for when you have a few clear communications strategy questions that need answers, and you don’t have the time and/or budget to do a lengthy, in-depth process.

Let’s say you’re preparing for a visual rebrand, and you want some clarity on your brand position and personality, a sprint can be a great way to do that. If you are naming or renaming your org or project, and you want to generate a lot of criteria and ideas quickly, a sprint can work really well. For example, during our sprint with Melville Charitable Trust for a new initiative, we came up with a name (Housing Narrative Lab) and tagline right during the sprint. It’s always satisfying to see tangible results so quickly. Or if you are planning a discrete campaign, a GAME plan sprint can get you moving.

What is a LightBox Strategy Sprint?

LightBox and your organization will come together in a two-hour session to work together as a team to tackle some of your most pressing issues. Our game-based facilitation engages groups in accelerated strategy dialog—and the fun format belies the deep questions we help teams tackle on a regular basis.

During this phase, it’s our role to be fresh—and then be quiet. This is where we engineer the a-ha moments that lead to meaningful progress. Most often, these powerful moments happen in real-time during conversations in the strategy meetings we lead. As we guide your team through a series of questions, we will be capturing the real-time notes and decisions made on which your team can decide how to build from there.

Interested in finding out more? Please get in touch.

What excites you about strategy sprints?

We find that so much of the good work we do with clients happens in real-time collaborations – and sprints capitalize on and capture those moments. Yes, when a client has the time and budget for a deliverable, we are able to take those ideas and refine them which also has real value. But for clients who don’t have those opportunities, I am thrilled about how much we can offer them in terms of new ideas and concrete recommendations in a well-designed, well-facilitated session.

We also have fun! One exercise I almost always use to get us started is I ask the team to describe their organization to me as if it were a superhero, complete with supernatural origin story, superpowers, a nemesis, and their role in The Avengers. This exercise works really well to get ideas flowing, help folks access fresh language, and foreground some different types of expertise on the team (because the superhero experts on the team may or may not be people with senior titles).

“We did strategy sprints with LightBox to develop our brand and visual identities for Housing Narrative Lab. Our experiences were collaborative, creative, and fun. The sprints ensured we all understood what a brand is (and isn’t) and helped us define what our projects communicate, do and value. Answering those questions gave us far greater clarity about our work and, in turn, made it much easier to develop our visual identity. By using a range of games and creative brainstorming exercises we did a lot of meaningful work with LightBox in a short time, and we are thrilled with the results.”

– Sarah Armour-Jones, Director of Communications and Media Strategy, Melville Charitable Trust

Can an accelerated session like this sometimes work even better than a longer process?

One thing I have learned working with organizations over the years is that people don’t realize how resistant they are to change! Sometimes a longer process can just give folks more time to ruminate and debate. If people can commit to making decisions together in real-time then they can save themselves many meetings and headaches.

People tend to think that more time leads to better decisions, but there really isn’t a lot of evidence for that. Sometimes our gut decisions are our best, or at least good enough, and create time and opportunities to pursue other priorities.

. . .

LightBox Senior Partner Amanda Cooper (pictured right) loves a good sprint. LightBox Collaborator Deborah Goldberg (pictured left) is all about the a-ha moment.