Teams, Sprints, Prototyping, and Better Meetings with Douglas Ferguson — DT101 E59
Play • 44 min

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, and creating meetings that matter.


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 in to learn more 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 changin 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 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



Other Design Thinking 101 Episodes You Might Like



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




Thank you for listening to the show and looking at the show notes. Send your questions, suggestions, and guest ideas to Dawan and the Fluid Hive team. Cheers ~ Dawan


Fluid Hive’s Ask Like a Designer — Monthly articles with design ideas, methods, frameworks, templates, and a question-fueled approach to design-driven innovation. Discover new ways to learn, lead and apply design-driven innovation.


Free Download — Design Driven Innovation: Avoid Innovation Traps with These 9 Steps


Innovation Smart Start Webinar — Take your innovation projects from frantic to focused!

Why are elections so hard to design well?
The fundamental design feature of a democratic society is a citizen's right to vote. But ensuring that every person is able to vote is not as easy as it seems. Everything from how you design a paper ballot, build an electronic terminal, process a mail-in ballot, engineer a public space for private voting, and so on, brings hundreds of complicated design decisions. We look at how design choices are sometimes at odds with political ones. In this episode: Wireframe producer Dominic Girard and host Khoi Vinh learn why designing for elections is a never-ending challenge. After the 2000 US Presidential Election, voter Andre Fladell sued after a flaw in the design of his ballot caused him to vote for the wrong candidate. Drew Davies of Oxide Design loves trying to bring order to ballot chaos, and has been trying to help the civic design process for nearly twenty years. Designer Whitney Quesenbery at the Center for Civic Design has been leading the charge in all things election design - and continues to support election officials on everything from signage, to electronic machines to mail-in ballots. Meanwhile, Los Angeles County redesigned their voting systems this year. Called the Voter Solutions for All People, it's an ambitious project that updates the county's ballot machines to something modern, electronic, secure and, most importantly, user friendly. Kate Ludicrum and Jon Fox talk about how they helped it come together in time for the California Primary. Read the PDF transcript of this episode Wireframe reveals the stories behind user experience design and how it helps technology fit into our lives. It’s a podcast for UX/UI designers, graphic designers, and the design-curious. Hosted by Khoi Vinh, one of Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business. Learn more about designing with Adobe XD at
30 min
Design Better Podcast
Design Better Podcast
InVisionApp, Inc
John Cleese: A cheerful guide to creativity
The Ministry of Silly Walks. The Cheese Shop. French Taunting. If you haven’t seen any of these Monty Python sketches before, do us a favor and go watch one or two of them. You’ll discover—or re-discover—why our guest for this episode is a creative comic legend. John Cleese starred in and co-wrote the award-winning series Fawlty Towers, was nominated for an Academy Award for the screenplay of A Fish Called Wanda, and even has a species of lemur named after him (Cleese’s wooly lemur, Avahi cleesei). He’s also an expert on the creative process, and so if you’re looking for a new framework to level-up your own workflow, his book Creativity: A Short and Cheerful Guide is a great resource. We talk with John about his new book, and also about creative collaboration in the midst of friction, how to be comfortable with ambiguity, and creating boundaries of space and time to get in a creative mode. We also get to ask him a question that’s been bugging us ever since we first watched Monty Python and The Holy Grail. After everything that happened in 2020, we can all use a little more laughter in our lives. We hope our interview with John sparks some joy, and leaves you with some new creative tools. Thanks for listening. Takeaways: * How John’s childhood influences the way he approaches creativity * Why John uses writing to explore ideas * What “closed mode” and “open mode” are (and how they relate to convergent and divergent modes of thinking). Bio John Cleese is an English actor, comedian, writer, and film producer. He achieved success at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and as a scriptwriter and performer on The Frost Report. In the late 1960s, he co-founded Monty Python, the comedy troupe responsible for the sketch show Monty Python's Flying Circus and the four Monty Python films, And Now for Something Completely Different, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Life of Brian, and The Meaning of Life. In the mid-1970s, Cleese and his first wife, Connie Booth, co-wrote and starred in the British sitcom Fawlty Towers. Later, he co-starred with Kevin Kline, Jamie Lee Curtis, and former Python colleague Michael Palin in A Fish Called Wanda and Fierce Creatures. He also starred in Clockwise, and has appeared in many other films, including two James Bond films, two Harry Potter films, and the last three Shrek films. He is also the author of Creativity: A Short and Cheerful Guide.
34 min
UI Narrative: UI/UX Design and Product Strategy
UI Narrative: UI/UX Design and Product Strategy
Tolu Ajayi
Balancing Being a Parent While Making a Career Pivot | Terri Rodriguez-Hong
Episode 35 Show Notes: Becoming a parent is most likely the most challenging job you'll ever have. Terri Rodriguez-Hong shares her story of getting into UX Design and encourages parents looking to make the career pivot. Mentions: Contact Out (Chrome plug-in) Online communities UX Her - Woman of Color product design group Where are the black designers - Slack group Black By Design All Black Creatives Hire Black Designer Hangout Designer’s Guild Terri’s LinkedIn Terri’s Twitter Terri’s Website Podcast Info: Transcripts available on episode web page. Listen on Apple Podcasts, Soundcloud, Stitcher, and Spotify. RSS feed: Don’t forget to subscribe and leave a review if you like what you hear. Announcements: Join the UI Narrative Email Club to be the first to hear about weekly blog posts and exclusive podcast recaps. You can sign up at Want to improve your UI design? Learn more at Let’s Connect: Have a question for me? Email me at Let’s connect! #uinarrative Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn @uinarrative Twitter @uinarrativeco
48 min
Design Details
Design Details
Brian Lovin, Marshall Bock
381: Scope Creep
This week, we dive into scope creep: how to deal with it, how to avoid it, and how to build its inevitability into our workflow. In The Sidebar, Marshall shares some Smart Office tips for working at home.Latest VIP Patrons: * Kyle Conrad * Julia Chuanyan Wu * Eli Horne * Kjartan Kennedy * First Name Last Name * Tri Nguyen * Avni Levy * Keli * Natalie Krick * peng zheng * May ChenThe Sidebar: The Sidebar is an exclusive weekly segment for our Patreon supporters. You can subscribe starting at $1 per month for access to full episodes going forward! Sign up at In this week's Sidebar, Marshall outlines a smart home setup for people who are working at home with a significant other.Main Topic: Jessica Perelman asks: _How do you deal with random and out of scope ideas from stakeholders?_Cool Things: * Brian shared: * And Then There Were None, a wonderfully delightful mystery from Agatha Christie. If you read this, follow it immediately with the 2015 miniseries by the same name. * WandVision is kicking off Phase 4 of the MCU. The first few episodes are...weird, but good. Give ‘em a watch if you like Marvel. * Marshall shared: * If you were into Marshall’s past recommendation, Robert Parker, you might also enjoy Kavinsky * Night Candy by Mattie Maguire – 80’s elevator music?Design Details on the Web: * 📻 We are @designdetailsfm * 🎙 Brian is @brian_lovin * 🎙 Marshall is @marshallbock * 📬 Don't have Twitter? Email us at * 🙌 Support us on Patreon - your support literally makes this show possible. Thank you ❤️ * ❓ Got a question? Ask it on our Listener Questions Hub, and we'll do our best to answer it on the show :) * ⭐️ Enjoying the show? Leave us a review on iTunes Ten little soldier boys...
24 min
UI Breakfast: UI/UX Design and Product Strategy
UI Breakfast: UI/UX Design and Product Strategy
Jane Portman
Episode 203: Designing for Financial Services with Rob Gifford
Designing for financial apps hides many UX challenges. Is it all about fancy dashboards? How do you balance simplicity and information density?. Our guest today is Rob Gifford, Managing Director of Experience Design at Mad*Pow. He shares his story in the profession, and provides resources, examples, research, and inspiration for anyone looking to delve into financial product design. _Podcast feed:_ subscribe to in your favorite podcast app, and follow us on iTunes, Stitcher, or Google Play Music.Show Notes * Mad*Pow — Rob’s company * Episode 162: Designing for Behavior Change with Amy Bucher * Episode 140: Sustainable UX with James Christie * A Brief Introduction to the COM-B Model of Behaviour and the PRIM Theory of Motivation — an article by Robert West and Susan Michie * BJ Fogg — the Stanford University behavior design researcher known for the Fogg Behavior Model * Episode 131: Design Sprint with Jonathan Courtney * The Paradox of Choice — a book by Barry Schwartz * Self-determination theory — a Wikipedia article * Lemonade insurance, Betterment, Credit Karma, Mint — examples of user-friendly financial apps * Engaged — a book by Amy Bucher, recommended by Rob as a great introduction to behavioral design * Design for Behavior Change — a book by Steven Wendel * Madpow’s upcoming events * Madpow’s case studies * — Rob’s personal website * Follow Rob on LinkedIn and TwitterToday’s Sponsor This episode is brought to you by Userlist — a lifecycle messaging tool for SaaS companies. It’s perfect for sending smart onboarding campaigns, or any other behavior-based communication. We have everything you need to get started quickly and painlessly: developer-friendly API, campaign templates, and hands-on support from the founders. Try Userlist free at _Interested in sponsoring an episode?_ Learn more here.Leave a Review Reviews are hugely important because they help new people discover this podcast. If you enjoyed listening to this episode, please leave a review on iTunes. Here’s how.
34 min
Global Product Management Talk
Global Product Management Talk
TEI 319: Product Innovation Management
Global Product Management Talk is pleased to bring you the next episode of... The Everyday Innovator with host Chad McAllister, PhD. The podcast is all about helping people involved in innovation and managing products become more successful, grow their careers, and STANDOUT from their peers. About the Episode:  As we move into 2021, the name of this podcast is changing to better reflect our objective here—product managers becoming product masters. That new name is Product Masters Now.  You don’t need to do anything to keep listening, but I want you to know the name change is coming in a few weeks, and it will show in your podcast player not as The Everyday Innovator but as Product Masters Now.  This is the final episode in the series on a product management body of knowledge. Every-other-week starting in episode 307, we have explored the Product Development and Management Association’s (PDMA) guide to the body of knowledge for product managers and innovators. PDMA is the longest running professional association for product managers, existing since 1976. We end the series by discussing product innovation management, which is the knowledge area for maximizing the return from product innovation through application of sound management practices throughout the product life cycle.  Our guest is Jerry Fix, a global Product Management professional who has successfully launched numerous products. He has significant experience managing global organizations to develop and support products and guide the commercialization of products and technologies.
32 min
More episodes
Clear search
Close search
Google apps
Main menu