If you could save the world by cycling, would you?
If you would then this case study is for you.
This is the story of Kora - a startup that's building a world that rewards sustainability. We had the privilege of helping their core team define, prototype and test their underlying business statements - their values, mission and vision. All designed to support Kora in creating a unified social media messaging strategy.
All in a 4-day design sprint.
A Kora is a loyalty point that you earn for being sustainable. Kora's app helps its users save the world by rewarding sustainable action - biking, walking, recycling, buying organic and local produce and more. Community members are awarded Koras for actions that help improve the ecology, and by extension - the economy.
Kora’s founder is an old friend of Idea Partners - an Israeli investment banker turned Visionary Entrepreneur, Gilad Regev. In this Design Sprint, he was also the main decision-maker.
Meeting over dinner, Gilad told us about Kora’s strategic goals along with the obstacles. With the app soon launching in the App Store, he said, the team needs to amplify its social media presence. That meant getting more followers, engaging existing followers and improving Kora’s overall branding and messaging strategy.
By the time dessert arrived, we’d gotten to the underlying problem. The team had trouble engaging people for their mission, because, well, they hadn’t defined their mission.
Or their vision.
Or their core values.
They were adapting the messaging strategy based on social media user reactions, rather than building a digital community around Kora’s core values, mission and vision.
(skip this part if you already know)
A Design Sprint is basically a sequence of goal-oriented exercises aimed at finding, prototyping and testing a solution. A design sprint challenges existing assumptions and poses tough questions - who are we creating this product for? What problem is it solving? Who are our core audience?
An effective sprint has representatives from all over the company - from sales and marketing, to product development and finances. Because every department has their own core competencies and therefore - unique insights into the problem and solution.
A design sprint doesn't reinvent the wheel. It provides a structure for bringing out that, which is already present, just often dormant - great ideas.
The method was coined by Googler Jake Knapp. Obsessed with making each process as efficient and goal-oriented as possible, Jake developed the Design Sprint method while working for Google Ventures.
So that’s what we did. Our first session took place in person, just as the global Covid-19 pandemic was starting to kick off. We did the three remaining sessions digitally, using Google Hangouts and Miro app.
Kora had a diverse team; Gilad - the founder, Jonathan the Strategist, Eldars the Head of Product and Jamie the social media manager. The team come from Britain, Israel, Canada, Russia, and Latvia, each representing a different culture. During the sprint, they united behind a single goal - achieving their sprint objective.
Kora’s core team: 4 people
Design Sprint facilitators: 2 people
Total sessions: 4 (~4hrs per session)
Tools used: Hangouts, Miro app (a digital collaborative board), laptops and the good old pen and paper.
We started the sprint by outlining, discussing and agreeing on the company’s core values. As part of the exercise, each team member answered six questions, such as: how would your community describe you? How would you describe your customer? What do you sound like to others?
The team then voted. The answers that received the most votes made it to the final (and confidential) values list. The final set of values was a surprise to most of the team – and then they slapped their foreheads and said, “But of course.”
To arrive at Kora’s mission statement, the team did the “5 Questions” exercise: Who are we? What do we do? For whom do we do it? Why do we do it? How do we do it?
The questions look simple and easy to answer, yet it's harder than teams assume. The trick is to avoid getting distracted and keep everyone focused. After ample [timed and less timed] discussions, Kora's team arrived at a mission statement. The final mission statement (below) is the revised version the team agreed upon on the 2nd sprint day.
By Day 2, Kora’s team had outlined their core values and mission statement.
They now needed a vision.
Just like with the mission, each team member first defined their personal vision statement. The team then voted for their favourites, blended some versions together, cut things out (which is always painful) and agreed on a collective vision statement.
Since it’s impossible for someone to know everything about a company, product or vision, Jake Knapp suggests asking experts. So we did. Over Zoom, we asked Mark and Dan, both longtime friends of Jonathan, for their take on Kora's mission and vision statements.
Both Mark and Dan were supportive, yet able to look at the team’s progress from a distance. Their advice helped dissolve some of the team's assumptions and generated excellent discussions about how the team perceived Kora vs. how it looked "from the outside."
And their feedback? Essential for discussing, adapting and finally cementing Kora’s mission and vision statements.
Once we had Kora’s core messaging, it was time to turn concepts into action!
On day 3, we chose three exercises to switch the sprint focus from the messaging (the what) to Kora’s target audience (the who) and the product/ the app (the how): the Value Proposition Canva, strategic roadmap and journey map. \
Value Proposition Canvas
We chose the Value Proposition Canvas exercise to help Kora understand how to position their product so that it matches their customers values and needs. On the right side, the team described their customer - their jobs, problems and joys. On the left, Kora listed all the ways in which their product helps their customers do their jobs, solves their problems and brings them more joy.
Strategic Roadmap (timeline)
The strategic roadmap exercise helped the team establish product milestones for the next 6 months. After voting on the most important milestones, such as app launch, in-app feature development and strategic partnerships, we ordered them on a timeline.
During the roadmap exercise, we witnessed a glorious shift: Kora’s team realized that their main strategic roadmap had two separate flows - a tech and a marketing flow.
Tasks that were relevant to app development for July, for example, were juxtaposed with vital marketing tasks. This was the point at which the team drew clear lines between the two departments and arranged two separate daily calls - one for the dev team and another for strategic marketing.
The Journey map exercise is essentially a Strategic Roadmap with a twist. The twist being 5 questions designed to challenge the team’s individual and collective assumptions. The questions we asked were:
The main design sprint objective was to help Kora create a social media messaging framework. Now that the team had laid a solid foundation - Kora's vision, mission and vision, we could help with building a messaging framework around those concepts.
For Kora’s team to implement the sprint results, we first worked on creating individual messaging priorities - which messages were important for each team member. The team then voted and we arranged the messaging priorities into three KPI-based roadmaps: Strategic, Tactical, and General.
The last of these was to be used as Kora’s main messaging roadmap, setting the stage for the main social media messaging milestones within the framework.
Final delivery: Messaging roadmap
Each exercise Kora’s team performed during the sprint was designed to lead them towards the final deliverable - a social media messaging framework. The framework itself is nothing extraordinary - it’s a basic monthly Google Sheets calendar spreadsheet with extra input fields.
At the same time, it is quite extraordinary, because you get to see how all of this heavy lifting is translated into clear action points on a schedule. The entire content structure is decided by the team: social media channels, milestones for messaging, special events, and monthly priorities.
All this information was provided by Kora’s team during the sprint process. Our task was to help make sense of it, and put it together in a unified messaging framework. Our role was, after all, that of sprint facilitators. It was paramount that the team does all the heavy lifting.
The results were nearly instantaneous - the mission and vision statements started to appear in all of Koras communication briefs and documents. All statements the team adopted were the results of multiple discussions, reiterations and adjustments. They rang true because they were tested time and time again.
A few weeks later, Kora defined their brand slogan, a public expression of all the thinking they put into the design sprint: We Can Save the World.
The job of a design sprint is to provide teams with a framework for expressing, creating and testing their ideas.
We often fall into a trap of believing that our ideas are not good enough. And that’s simply not true. Our ideas are great. Our ideas are worthy. We are worthy. Worthy of being listened to and heard. And that is, in our view, is the real underlying long term goal of design sprints: to lay the foundations for a work culture of mutual respect, beyond the material objectives of any given brainstorm.
We started the sprint with the mere objective of creating a messaging framework. What the team produced, however, was something we didn't even know we needed - a solid foundation for a brand strategy.
Working with Kora’s team was a genuine delight. We pride ourselves for choosing our clients and we could not have chosen a better company for reflecting our design sprint process. We would heartily like to thank Gilad, Eldars Jamie and Jonathan for being our ideal clients. Thank you ; )