07. Dec 2021
How Danish SMEs Sprinted their Way to Growth
We have helped more than 100 Danish SMEs develop new digital solutions using design sprints. For some, the sprint became a life-saver during the coronavirus pandemic
The Danish economy and Danish SMEs are among those which have best weathered the coronavirus pandemic so far. But we are facing an uncertain 2022, and the world is once more holding its breath, as COVID infection rates continue to rise. Now is the time to learn from the earliest phases of the pandemic and identify concrete solutions which can help Denmark’s many SMEs through the next phase.
There is one thing we know for certain: The ways in which we produce, transport, and consume are going to change. Digitization is no longer just a matter of competitiveness – it is an indispensable tool for anybody who wants to steer their business or enterprise through an unpredictable future.
Over the last three years, DDC – Danish Design Center has worked with several leading design agencies in the Sprint:Digital project to help more than 100 Danish SMEs future-proof their businesses by developing new digital services or products. The process is known as a design sprint and involves mapping out, developing, and testing a brand-new digital solution over the course of just five days. The magic formula behind this ultra-compact program is design methods that shorten the distance between thought and action, ensure effective collaboration, and maintain focus on the user throughout the entire process.
A remarkable outcome
The effect has been significant: a quarter of participating businesses report that the process has already yielded concrete results in the form of increased turnover, more customers, exports, or job creation, while 66% expect to attain these results in the future. Moreover, 75% expect that the sprint will increase their growth potential going forward. A remarkable outcome after a five-day development process that for many SMEs would have taken months to implement independently. Subsequently, 96% of the companies confirm that they could not have attained the same level of value creation without support. As one company owner puts it in his evaluation:
“Design thinking and sprints are effective methods. I wish that I had been introduced to them sooner in my life as a self-employed entrepreneur. Without a doubt, they can accelerate development processes as the product concerned becomes fully defined.”
The effect was amplified during the 2020 coronavirus lockdowns. Overnight, SMEs were confronted with a surreal reality in which physical encounters between people were prohibited or considerably restricted in scope and scale. Hair salons had no customers, local restaurants were forced to close their doors, and bookings were canceled at hotels all over the country. Sadly, many businesses were forced to close permanently because of the lockdowns. But others found new ways to ensure the survival of their businesses.
When we opened registration for a number of special corona sprints in the spring of 2020, all spots were booked within one week. One of the participants was Jyllandsakvariet, and for them, the sprint helped to save their peak season in the summer of 2020. But design sprints can also be used to gain a long-term competitive edge. This was the case for sustainable furniture startup TAKT that was able to build a digital platform to recover used items of furniture for recycling. TAKT shows how digitization can be a decisive driving force in the green transition, generating more sustainable growth.
An effective time machine
As sprint founder Jake Knapp succinctly puts it, a design sprint is an effective time machine for developing and testing future products in a very short span of time. Many Danish SMEs have already benefited from this and no doubt many more will be able to benefit from such a machine in the future.
It has been a great pleasure to work with so many innovative and bold Danish SMEs and designers, and to experience the strong willpower and creativity that can emerge in people when they are given the capacity and the platform to create something new.
It is entrepreneurs like you who ultimately ensure future growth in Denmark, and we look forward to helping even more of you on your continued journey to growth.
Can’t get enough of design and innovation? We hear you. And we have you covered.
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