Teams, Sprints, Prototyping, and Better Meetings with Douglas Ferguson — DT101 E59

Douglas Ferguson is the founder of Voltage Control, a workshop agency on a mission to rid the world of horrible meetings. We talk about teams, design sprints, prototyping, facilitation, creating meetings that matter, and more. Voltage Control is a facilitation agency that helps teams work better together with custom-designed meetings and workshops, both in-person and virtual.

Portrait of Douglas Ferguson

Show Summary

As a coder during the 90s tech bubble, Douglas discovered that he loved working as part cross-functional teams often found in startup companies, and wearing different hats as needed during a project. When the Agile Manifesto came out in early 2001, Douglas realized that a lot of its principles were things he and his teams had already been doing. He began combining Agile and Lean methodologies to find ways teams can work together better.

Douglas’ company, Voltage Control, focuses on helping teams learn how to better collaborate. During our conversation, we talk about the hallmarks of a well-functioning team, Douglas’ work with organizations using design sprints and prototyping, and how Douglas’ new book, Magical Meetings, is helping us all be able to have better, more meaningful and productive meetings.

Listen to learn about:

  • The traits of a well-functioning team
  • How prototyping can help an organization
  • The ins and outs of design sprints
  • The two questions to ask when designing the test for a prototype
  • Douglas’ new book, Magical Meetings
  • How to have better meetings, no matter what industry you’re in
  • Adapting to the new virtual meeting space

Our Guest’s Bio

Douglas is an entrepreneur and human-centered technologist with over 20 years of experience. He is president of Voltage Control, an Austin-based workshop agency that specializes in Design Sprints and innovation workshops. Prior to Voltage Control, Douglas held CTO positions at numerous Austin startups, where he led product and engineering teams using agile, lean, and human-centered design principles. While CTO at Twyla, Douglas worked directly with Google Ventures running Design Sprints and now brings this experience and process to companies everywhere.


Show Highlights

[01:36] Douglas talks about how he got into design and his focus on teams and teamwork.
[03:57] Launching Voltage Control to help teams work better together.
[04:30] How a well-functioning team evolves.
[05:05] The importance of trust between team members.
[05:36] Douglas connects the Gallup’s Q12 survey to team trust.
[08:06] How Douglas introduces teams to prototyping.
[08:51] Creating a vision document of how the team might use prototyping.
[09:23] Why Douglas needs to understand the shared values of a team.
[11:01] Two tactics Douglas uses to help teams come to a shared understanding.
[14:30] Douglas defines prototyping.
[14:43] Douglas shares one of his favorite examples of prototyping: the five pound weight.
[17:16] Prototypes help teams separate the problem space from the solution space.
[18:50] How Douglas facilitates team prototyping.
[19:41] The two components of a design sprint.
[20:10] The importance of the question “What is the test we need to run?” when designing a prototype.
[20:30] The Riskiest Assumption Test (RAT).
[22:00] The two questions Douglas asks after deciding on the prototype test.
[22:57] Setting expectations for a design sprint and avoiding the “design sprint slump.”
[23:44] A design sprint is only the beginning of the work.
[24:30] Why it’s important for an organization’s leadership to understand what design sprints can and can’t do.
[25:00] Prototyping is intended to give insights and understanding of the problem space to provide direction for the work to come.
[26:55] Leadership must understand there is more work to do after the design sprint.
[28:49] Design sprints as design research.
[29:46] Douglas talks about “branding” the design sprint.
[31:11] How Douglas is gathering facilitation techniques and tools from different industries and applying them to help us all improve our meetings.
[33:22] Douglas’ new book, Magical Meetings.
[34:03] How meeting participants can help the meeting facilitator.
[35:10] Magical Meetings offers action steps and principles anyone can use to improve their meetings.
[36:11] Douglas offers his thoughts on remote work and virtual meetings, and COVID-19 is changing his work.
[37:53] Advice for those holding virtual workshops and meetings.
[38:45] Intentionally designing virtual experiences.
[40:35] Two virtual tools Douglas recommends for those creating online experiences.
[42:21] Where to find out more about Douglas and his work.



Douglas on Twitter
Douglas on LinkedIn
Douglas on The Future Shapers
Douglas’ posts on Medium
What is design thinking?
Bringing Design Thinking into Technology
Voltage Control
Beyond the Prototype
Inside Innovation – Inside Outside podcast with Douglas
Beyond the Prototype – Techblog Writer UK podcast episode with Douglas
Gallup’s Q12 Survey
Loom screencasting tool
Session Lab workshop planning tool


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Stakeholder-Centered Design, Design Thinking in Large Organizations, and Critique for Design Teams with Jean-Louis Racine — DT01 E3

Teaching Yourself Design Thinking + Innovating in Government with Amy J. Wilson — DT101 E19

Designing Your Team + Teams in Design Education + Coaching Design Teams with Mary Sherwin and David Sherwin — DT101 E49

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