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Key Learnings from Designing a Remote Multi Sprint Event

This is a reflection on learnings on designing the Digital Health and Wellbeing Sprint Event, a Remote Design Sprint. I should say sprints, since we actually run simultaneously 8 sprints with teams that were working with 6 different startup companies in the health and wellbeing sector.

The sprint teams were students of three universities of applied sciences in the Helsinki region (Laurea, Metropolia and Haaga-Helia). We were a team of 5 facilitators, a project manager and three teachers from the universities, and 40 students in 8 sprint teams. As we are in times of corona, the sprint which was originally supposed to be a face-to-face event was moved online.

A group photo of the design sprint participants
Group photo with sprint community

We used the Google Sprint methodology created by Jake Knapp – though we made some adjustments to timing, extending the sprint to seven days from the original five, added some inspirational speakers and a final pitching event for the sprint teams to present their solutions to the companies. The new Remote Design Sprint Guide was a very useful resource for us when designing. The online tools we used were Zoom for sound and video connection and Mural as virtual whiteboard tool. We also used a Mural template for remote design sprints (which doesn’t seem exist on Mural anymore).

Every day we congregated in Zoom, where the teams would get instructions about methods for the day and then work in their challenge in breakout rooms, on their team Mural boards. The teams had no facilitators, but worked in a self-organizing manner, and had help from the facilitator team whose members would pop in periodically to ask if everything was going smoothly. Some days the teams had more independent time and no support from facilitators.

A team’s Mural board with tasks for the sprint
Example of a sprint team Mural board with tasks

Main learnings from Digital Health and Wellbeing Sprint

Formulate the Right Challenge

Sprint as a methodology is different from some other human centric design methods, since it doesn’t allow much time for exploring and scoping down a problem. Also, the sprint is not an ideation method producing loads of out-of-the-box ideas, instead the beauty and efficacy of the sprint lies in the fact that within five days of working together you will have a functioning prototype of your solution, tested on real users.

This means that the challenge or problem for the sprint needs to be formulated properly. A too broad challenge won’t bring sensible results and will be frustrating for the team working on it. Some of the challenges we worked with were somewhat too broad, though I’m very grateful to my facilitator colleague Cecylia Kundera who did a lot of work in trying to make the best out of the challenges. The challenge needs to be formulated in a way that allows the group to start thinking about solutions right away – for example having a set target group or not having several different questions in the challenge.

A Sense of Community Doesn’t Just Happen Online

A sense of community doesn’t just appear in an online event in the same way as in a face to face event. There are ways of how a sense of community can be enhanced during the event. We had a Mural board that people would fill in with a few details and pictures about themselves before the design sprint. During the sprint we had a morning and evening one word check-in in the chat, which was a great way to gauge the feelings of the sprint teams. As expected, there was much excitement in the beginning and somewhat a slump in the middle

a warm-up exercise Mural to be filled before the sprint
The warm up Mural with presentations of people
An example of warm-up task

Team Collaboration is Key

In innovation events were strangers collaborate, it is very important to allow for enough time to discuss expectations and what kind of skills everyone brings to the team, in order to make the collaboration effective. The Design Sprint methodology itself doesn’t address getting to know each other in the sprint team, so that was added as part of our event. The teams had some time and questions during the first day to get to know each other. As such, the team constellations were made ahead the event with the idea of having people from diverse backgrounds in the same team.

In hindsight, we could have done more for leaving some room in schedule to discuss things like Yes,and… thinking, which is very crucial for a fast moving process like a sprint. Yes, and.. means that it is important to try to build on others’ ideas and try to be a productive team member in moving the process along.

Technology May Fail

When you are working with a complex setup like a Remote design sprint with 8 different remote teams, issues with technology can either make it or break it. If there’s a team member who has issues with internet connection or is less used to working with digital tools, the event may become not accessible for them and highly frustrating.

For as, the major tech issue occurred with Mural. There’s a readymade template in Mural specifically made for Remote Design Sprints. We used the template with a few modifications of our own, copied for all the 8 sprint teams. The unfortunate news is that the template is too big and therefore becomes extremely slow, basically rendering the whole template unusable and driving the sprint teams mad.

We solved this by making individual Murals for the different days of the sprint for all the teams, which was a lot of work during the event. In our communication with Mural they have promised some improvements which should help, but as the time for our sprint those were not yet functional. Other than the slowness of the template, Mural was a very useful tool during the event, and easy to use for the participants.

Information Needs to Flow Uninhibited

In the Remote Design Sprint Guide Jake Knapp et al. recommend using Basecamp as a tool for information exchange during the sprint. We did not use Basecamp, and for document storage for the teams we offered OneDrive folders and the students also had access to a Moodle LMS environment.

During the event it became very clear that especially for a multi-sprint event you do need a very solid structure for information sharing between all parties of the event – now the sprint teams kept forgetting about the OneDrive folders and how to access them, the facilitators were not able to upload anything to the Moodle environment, and the only way to communicate with sprint teams outside of Zoom was emails sent by the project manager, and in Zoom the communication from and to breakout rooms is not practical. It would have been very good to have a communication and file storage channel that everyone would have been able to access with questions or updates, since inevitably there will be all kinds of changes and needs to share information during a complex event.

One useful practice that we implemented was to create one breakout room in Zoom for the facilitator team. There we had privacy to discuss tech issues or any other problems the sprint teams were expressing, instead of having those discussions in the main room in Zoom.

The Decider Role is Important

The Design Sprint methodology is originally created for a team inside a company to work developing A solution. In our case, the sprint teams were external students who had relatively little time to discuss their challenges with companies, though we did our best to include the company representatives in several phases of the sprint. There are specific phases in the sprint where a Decider role is applied to make a final decision about which solution will go forward.

We noticed that the teams which were able to discuss their solution with the company during the sprint produced ideas that the companies found more useful at the end of the sprint. So, if you find yourself in similar setup with an external team sprinting for a solution, do try to engage the client in every phase where a Decider is needed, even if it may seem unnecessary.

Final thoughts

The process of facilitating this sprint was intense – and also fun! The complexity organizing it virtually is huge, and as a facilitator you have to stay constantly vigilant to make sure everyone stays on board. There’s also lots of work to be done ahead of the event. During the event one of the teachers, who was responsible for creating breakout rooms described it as feeling like working in flight control. But when you manage to pull it off it feels great – I also got the feeling the companies got some valuable solutions to their challenges from the 8 sprint teams.

I would like to thank the organizing team Cecylia Kundera, Hanna Lumenkoski, Heini Heinonen, Henriikka Tikka, Michelle Sahal Estime, Pirjo Valpas and Teemu Ruohonen, Päivi Mantere and Merja Lahdenperä for this amazing experience and all the hard work, as well as the companies and students who participated in making this happen.

About the author

Salla Kuuluvainen

Salla Kuuluvainen is a Service Designer and Facilitator working at Laurea University of Applied Sciences in Finland. She is interested in virtual co-creation and how innovation can be boosted through better collaboration. See Salla’s portfolio.

COVID-19’s effect on the accelerated use of AI in…

Day six in our Digital Wellbeing Sprint started with a digital lecture by Tuukka Vartiainen. He works as an enterprise architect in the Cloud and Cognitive -Unit of IBM. He guided us through some interesting cases in the start up scene which were made possible by the Watson Health Center.

The most interesting one was the case of a Finnish startup called All in One (AIN1 solution). The product contains a small censor that measures balance; in other words: how much you are moving when you are standing still in one leg. Balance is very important for humans and through its measurement we can learn a myriad of things. A censor can be worn in a band on your foot, around your waist, or a chest strap. The censor is useful for measuring the severity of sports accidents, like concussions, or elderly citizens capability to move around and function. Watson Health Center provided the company with the resources needed to get the project going, like connecting the firm with Suunto. The startup is currently doing well, All in One recently signed a deal with Jokerit, who use the product for concussion tests following ice hockey games. Within two years AIN1 managed to make a prototype and start selling the All In One solution.

Where are we currently in the field of AI?

According to Tuukka scientific society is now moving from mere digitalization to predictive analytics. Core AI is currently capable of machine learning, speech recognition and image analytics. In the near future biometrics and natural language generation should also be possible.

What kind of opportunities does this open for Finnish companies?

As always in the time of crisis, COVID-19 has accelerated technological advancement and paved the way for new inventions focusing our vision on the use of new and improved versions of technology. New project opportunities emerge for startups and larger companies as funding gets a kick in the international and national levels.

Tuukka introduced us the many ways in which AI technology has helped state and local governments manage individuals affected by COVID-19. The sudden increase in demand for services such as: Expanded telemedicine, contact tracing, data integrations, Virtual Call Center and Symptom- Monitoring Apps were all alleviated by the new AI-technology.

Last words on the digital sprint.

In our Digital Wellbeing Sprint we had challenges ranging from creating an app that improves workflow, creating a marketing plan for a startup, how to tackle trust issues in new AI services and how to address certain health target groups by app. The students did a good job completing the challenges with some projects proving so useful that the companies decided to adopt the projects into their work. All groups gave new ideas and certainly fresh perspectives for the companies. As one of the startup companies said, now we remember again why we started to do this in the first place!

Blog is based on a presentation by Tuukka Vartiainen and talks with start up companies in the venue.

Blog was written by Pirjo Valpas, M.Sc. / Facilitator in Design Wellbeing Sprint 2020. Pirjo is currently studying Service Design degree in Laurea University of Applied Science and has background in media.

Trends and visions in health and wellness

This blog is written based on an presentation given by Tuula Tiihonen from Sitra. She is a Senior Lead from Capacity of Renewal -unit of Sitra.

The sprint Tuesday got to a rocket start with an inspirational speech by Tuula Tiihonen from Sitra. Finns are familiar to Sitra and that they work in multiple sectors of the finnish society. In short, Sitra is working for a society with sustainable well-being for all. Sitra is also publishing content regarding megatrends and how do they affect our future and lives.

’A megatrend is a general direction of development, consisting of several phenomena, or a wide-ranging process of change’ – Mikko Dufva, Sitra (www.sitra.fi)

Tuula gave us a tour of the phenomena and megatrends in the area of health and well-being. The trend of societies getting older and at the same time fever people born to carry the costs, is creating pressure to communities and social welfare. Tuula made the notion that due to these major issues, it is important to move from sick care towards more preventive health care measures.

                         ’ Move towards preventive care is important in the future’ -Tuula Tiihonen

This move is in full speed already and a lot of good initiatives are on the market already. Also the design sprint 2020 is welcomed by Tuula to bring more innovations to this sector which is in great change as we speak.

Megatrends affecting us

Tuula introduced us to the megatrends affecting us from the point of view of health and wellbeing.

  1. Growth of life expentancy
  2. Urbanization
  3. Challenges in public sector economy
  4. Digitalization and development of logistics
  5. Genome technology
  6. Individual health and wellbeing
  7. Hyperconnective society
  8. Robotics

On top of these trends increasing the cost burden of the public sector, they also mean a lot more.  For example the need for individual health services will increase in the future and also the value of human care will be valued.

Where we are now?

The Finnish start up community is doing al ot already. Great innovations are being born regularly to the sector of health and wellbeing. A key future trend is that the patient will be more involved in the treatment and the interest that people have in their own wellbeing is seen in the innovations as well. The patient has changed over the years. More and more this will be seen in services and products that combine self monitoring with healthcare providers.

A great service of Omaolo is a good example. A service incorporating the services of healthcare professionals into one and accessible whenever from where ever. Omaolo has pioneered in the use of data to create a holistic view of a persons health and how to utilize that in treatment virtually. The data is incorporated to other data about the patient to create a view of the health and for example to predict the possibility of heart or other conditions. Already now companies, such as Oura, have peoples motivation to monitor their recovery and sleep in the center of their product.

What can be seen in the future?

In can be said that we are on the verge of a 4th industrial revolution. The characteristics are big data, AI, robotics and technologies we have not even seen. According to research institute Forrester the penetration of mobile phones is high and people want to have more digital services. A fundamental change is this new era is that people have changed and that they want to get services in a new way. Many private sector health care providers are already having for example chat services and virtual appointments.

It is important to focus more on prevention and prediction in order to save money. How can we do that? A lof of great applications of technology are already in the market and more are innovated all the time. The big questions are that how do we leverage them to the maximum and at the same time maintain the human aspect and importance of peer support. Also, the ethical questions are to be taken into consideration.

Technology has already made it possible that the data from a persons heart rate monitor is in the disposal of the treating doctor. Applications to make the lives of elderly people living at home easier to monitor are also already in the market. How to predict the future care need based on data of what is happening now? These trends also increase the need for personalized services to accommodate individual needs.

Even the first digital medicine has received an FDI approval. This opens new possibilities to track individually through a mobile application that how is a certain medication working in a patients body.

A trend in the future may also be that we have virtual medical assistants, think about an Alexa that would be able to tell you how you feel and what measures you should take to keep yourself in good health!

Think about the patient first

Having the patient in the center of solutions is a key trend in the future. Technology is evolving in a pace that we have never seen, but the human aspect has to be kept as the priority. Omaolo is a good example of how to make technology serve the patient. No robotics can ever replace the human connection.

Thank you Tuula for an extremely inspiring speech for our teams!

Writer of the blog is Hanna Lumenkoski, an MBA student in Haaga-Helia. She is a facilitator in the Digital Wellbeing Sprint 2020 and holds a position in marketing in the sector of information management solutions. She is also immensly interested in improving customer experience and success of businesses through design thinking.

Virtual and remote health care are here to stay

This blog writing is the second of the writings that are published before the digital wellbeing sprint takes place. The blog reveals the thoughts of central figures in the industry regarding trends and changes taking place in health care sector.

An interview with Päivi Salo, IT and marketing director at Pohjola Hospital took place to further understand what are the digital initiatives in healthcare and also to hear about her thoughts about the future.

Päivi has made a robust career in health care since 2014. Central to her career has been working with digital initiatives and projects.

Digital healthcare of today

My heart beats for digital health, she states. The world has changed after the outbreak of COVID-19, and the pace of digital health development will continue to speed up. Service providers in both public and private sector have provided virtual and remote health services for many years, but due to the upbreak of the pandemic, the demand for these services has advanced a lot. Since the demand has grown, also the use areas of remote and virtual health services has broadened. Now a wide range of health issues can be seen to virtually and remotely. It is not any more about treating the most simplest infections for instance. 

                                                    ‘Customers today are really accepting virtual health care’ –Päivi Salo

What has changed in health care to make these digital leaps possible? To begin with, technology to support remote and virtual health care has been developed already years ago. What really has changed is that customers are also more and more accepting virtual appointments with doctors. Customers are also getting used to discussing with chatbots in connection to other services, this is also making the adoptation of chatbots easier in healthcare. It has to be remembered that privacy is respected in the form of legislation very highly. This is also setting the pace of digital services in healthcare.

What are the trends in health care?

What does the future for digital health care look like? Päivi says that she sees a couple of things happening already in the international arena

  1. Artificial intelligence generating data to support health care professionals in clinical diagnostics and decision support. This enables the care providers to focus more on the patient. This is the area where most of the development is happening and new use cases are appearing frequently.
  2. Digital leap in remote and virtual health care services has already been taken and it is becoming mainstream in various areas of healthcare. There’s no turning back even after the pandemics. These leaps happen quite suddenly though. 3 years ago, we were not ready to use chat bots, now we love them. In health care as well in the future.
  3. Digital health applications give customers access to their own data. By getting access to all the information of your own health, patients are empowered to take care of their own health, which will bring better outcome of the care.

’Digital leaps happen very suddenly’

Päivi has a good view of the international arena. I asked her that how is Finland doing in the comparison. Top of the game, she says. Päivi is a part of HIMSS Future 50 community of leaders, and therefore has a solid understanding of international innovations and development in the health care sector.

Meaning of design in Pohjola Hospital

We also discussed the meaning of design for health care. Päivi states that being customer centric is in their DNA. Pohjola Hospital is rather a young organization and their culture is very patient-oriented. All development and process improvements start with the customer need and so do digital health initiatives as well. Service designers are utilized in these projects as to bring a holistic view about the problem that needs to be solved.  She reminds as well that in the middle of all development efforts, it is important to have a view of the bigger picture and make sure that you are not solving the symptom, but tackling the root causes.

Tips for the sprint

As a tip for a succesful sprint Päivi mentiones that the customers and health care professionals must be kept at the center. Always keep in mind that digital health solutions are used only if they add value to the users. So designing added value to the customer is the key to success. An above all, have fun and celebrate also the small wins on the way!

Päivi Salo.

Writer of the blog is Hanna Lumenkoski, an MBA student in Haaga-Helia. She is a facilitator in the Digital Wellbeing Sprint 2020 and holds a position in marketing in the sector of information management solutions. She is also immensly interested in improving customer experience and success of businesses through design thinking.


This blog marks the start of a series of Design Wellbeing Sprint blogs that introduce trends in the wellbeing start up field as well as companies that operate in that field. Later we will also give you insights of the Design Wellbeing Sprint which takes place May 22-29, 2020. First in line is Lauri Kuronen from Health Capital Helsinki.

Tell us a little about yourself and the company which you represent.

Hi, my name is Lauri Kuronen. I work as a Business Advisor in Health Capital Helsinki. We’re a publicly funded project and our goal is to build the greatest health capital: we boost collaboration within the Greater Helsinki health ecosystem, enable innovation-driven companies to grow and attract foreign companies to establish their businesses.

Before Health Capital Helsinki, I worked 8 years in MedTech and Health sectors in different positions in several SMEs providing new digital solutions. My heart beats for the start-ups and entrepreneurship. I work closely with start-ups and try to help them to grow bigger and better. I’ll try to open doors for them in our network and for example matchmake them with the right investors in Finland or abroad. I’m also an operative team member in Health Incubator Helsinki, a unique three-year incubator program for research-based health sector teams and start-ups.

What are the main technology trends in wellbeing field currently? In your opinion, what is the most significant of the trends? Why?

I want to highlight two trends that are rising at the moment. These two trends are often combined when developing new innovations. First is the digital health solutions where the healthcare transformation is usually done with a novel software solution. For example, many care processes can be renewed and done with application where the care pathway is digitalized and standardized. The user interface simplifies and intensifies the information flow between hospital, healthcare professionals and the patient.

Second is the usage of the healthcare data from biobanks, clinical data and genetic information. The data collected from different sources can be used to create algorithms that can identify risk patients with different illnesses and predict for example epidemics. The solutions and approaches will make treatments increasingly more cost-efficient, successful and affordable to patients.

What kind of opportunities these trends open to Finnish companies in that field? Do you have an example in mind?

Healthcare as a sector is quite old-fashioned and taking new solutions into the use will need time, validation and clinical evidence. The most successful companies collaborate and co-create their solutions together with healthcare professionals where the development is done from a need perspective.

One great example is Buddy Healthcare, a Helsinki based digital health company. Their solution is mobile care coordination and patient engagement platform which solves the most significant problems hospitals, clinics and patients are facing in surgeries: patient adherence to treatment, late cancellations and no-shows, administrative work and care quality. They platform is used from pre-hospital to post-hospital phase by patients, hospital and healthcare professionals where all the needed information and communications is done through the platform. Their latest version is used to track Covid-19 patient symptoms when the patient is at homecare.

Could you please give our DWS student participants three points for the development process in the design week.

Always start the development process from the need perspective, in the end this creates the most value. Unfortunately, the development process starts often from the solution point-of-view where during the process the customer needs won’t be taken into consideration. There are several ways of collecting customer information and how understanding of customers can be built through this. My experiences are that the sooner you involve the end-user to the development process, the easier it is to get the best insight and knowledge and, in the end, a happy customer.

Don’t assume, ask for a help! It’s very risky but so human to make assumptions for example of the customer’s need or market entry-strategy. There have been entrepreneurs forever and many have succeeded or failed with their business. Usually people are very keen on sharing the information and learnings to others, you just have to ask them. I’ve learned that opening your mouth and asking from the more experienced people would have saved me from many mistakes concerning how to run a company or starting a new product development project.

Be agile and be ready for pivoting. When developing a new solution or running a start-up company will be different compared to more stable business. Usually in some phase the development process won’t proceed as planned, this can be due to some technical difficulties or changed market environment. So, don’t be afraid to change plans and try something new if the old doesn’t work. Try to think the situations as a continues learning experience through The OODA loop cycle (observe–orient–decide–act).

And lastly, always stay positive and enjoy the ride! If there are not any new development projects or start-ups, the world won’t progress.

Lauri Kuronen will give a speech concerning further digital wellbeing technology/future trends in the Digital Wellbeing Sprints opening day May 22th, 2020.

Interview was done by Pirjo Valpas, M.Sc. / Facilitator in Design Wellbeing Sprint 2020. Pirjo is currently studying Service Design degree in Laurea University of Applied Science and has background in media.

”One of the best courses during my studies!”

Tiina Huhtanen is a nursing student from Metropolia University of Applied Sciences. She participated in the Digital Wellbeing Sprint in 2019 and told us about her experiences about it. According to her, the course was intensive and educational, and students learned a lot during a short time.

“I met people from different fields and made contacts. It was one of the best courses during my studies! I remember the encouraging atmosphere and excellent team spirit”, Huhtanen says.

According to her, the days were intensive but interesting, and time flied.

”The best thing about the course was to change information and skills multidisciplinary with students from other fields. Also, the possibility to solve real problems in cooperation with people from real companies was amazing. All the time I had the feeling that we have a common goal. We also had a great team spirit that helped us reach that goal.”

Tiina says that Digital Wellbeing Sprint is an excellent course for students from all fields. Different digital solutions will be present in all fields if not now, then in the future. She encourages all to participate in the course if possible.

“In addition, the course was a good chance to brush up my English-speaking skills – easily and without pressure. Warm recommendation for all the students!”, Huhtanen says.

What are the possible Futures of Digital Wellbeing?

On Friday the 10th of May our participant teams will be faced with interesting questions that take them further away from today. The theme of the day is ”Futures of Digital Wellbeing”. 

We are used to talking about the unforeseen future. Can there be many futures? Mikko Dufva from Sitra will shed light to the question, why it’s important to consider different options of the future. You can use iconvert.media.

”When thinking about the future, one should ask loads of different questions, such as ´What is desirable and for whom´, ´What can we do´ and ´What is uncertain´ ”, he says. 

What seems odd for today, will be normal for tomorrow’s people. 

We have our eyes on the variety of opportunities that the future has to offer. However, we cannot forget the other side of the coin either. Visioning a better future means making choices. 

”When interpreting weak signals and challenging assumptions about digital wellbeing services for the future we might come across questions like what is a human and who decides in the future and how.” This is important for your Web Site.

How the future is already being planned

In addition to Mikko Dufva’s presentation the day will also include speakers that tell us about current and future digital solutions that are being used or planned in the field of health and wellbeing as we speak.

The program of the day takes place in Terkko Health Hub. Terkko is a startup community, a co-working area and an event space focused on health and life sciences. It’s a place for all health enthusiasts to build amazing businesses and projects together. Located in the heart of Helsinki’s medical campus, it is the junction to the university hospital HUS, the Faculty of Medicine of Helsinki University and HiLIFE, the Helsinki Institute of Life Science.

Writer: Satu Ryynänen, DWS Tutor