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Skill Sprints


Harvard Business Review 




Leverage Harvard Business Review’s editorial strength and topic expertise to create a scalable, digital product for professionals truly centered on learning.

Within that broad definition, identify a promising direction and pilot it in market.


Using 1-2.5 week sprints, we worked with Harvard Business Review to navigate the messy process of innovation. The focus of each sprint responded to the learnings from the previous sprint, so the team could pivot and test the product concept almost immediately. 

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Observing professionals compare different courses is a quick, simple way to understand the relative influence of several variables on whether potential customers are interested, e.g. framing by topic (e.g. feedback) vs problem (too busy) vs. outcome (promotion), degree of specificity, application to life vs work, etc.


What did we learn? 

  • People gauged relevance by topic, not by theme or goal 

  • There is a lot of brand trust to curate topics for customers, but not to promise outcomes (e.g. promotion)

  • Seeing immediate practical application is the biggest driver of interest


Based on the interest in practical tips from the catalog test, the team used an interactive prototype to gauge whether the information would feel novel and deep enough. Would slowing down the content change how much attention users gave to the content and improve their recall? 


What did we learn? 

  • Testers saw it as a feel-good replacement to scrolling through social media on their commute. 

  • Practical tips didn’t seem deep or advanced unless they gave specific information about likely challenges and helped learners overcome them. 

  • While feedback was generally positive, the value to users was mediocre. Time to pivot!

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People claimed to want practice, but would they actually sign up for a program that only assigned them practices? And would they actually do them?  There was only one way to find out: enroll users into an actual practice-based program. 


In 3 weeks, I enrolled and prototyped a 4-day series of practices, in collaboration with the content team. To emulate push notifications, we text messaged ~500 users through the experience.


What did we learn? 

  • There is a lot of demand for practice. Interest was so high, we added a second cohort so we could iterate on the learning experience. 

  • Designing practices to be meaningful but easy to integrate into most users’ workdays is an art. HBR would need to skill up. 

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Convinced of the value of a practice-first experience, I created a landing page and concept UI screens to show stakeholders a new vision for a truly innovative learning product for professionals.

As a bonus, we posted the different versions of the page publicly (and to user research platforms) to hone the messaging and to get a cohort of excited beta testers ready for the next phase of the project. 


The landing page and screen mockups had to: 

  • Concisely communicate the value of the program and commitment needed (time and effort of program, call to action)

  • Explain the unusual mixed-mode format (web and SMS)

  • Invoke the HBR brand personality



The team went on to pilot in-market with a topic expert to help leaders manage workplace anxiety during the pandemic.  The program was oversubscribed, with an enrollment of 2,300 users. 


With iteration and validation as the goal, the team continued to learn about feasibility and logistics. Frequency of text is a critical variable; removing the respondents who indicated “too many texts” doubled the NPS score from 19.1 to 40.6.

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