Divide or Swarm

This exercise helps to structure the sketching sessions to come. The team decides whether the problems they are solving in the target user journey have more than one critical area to explore during the Sprint. If so, team members will choose which areas they’d like to dedicate their time to solving. If there is just one critical area to explore, everyone on the team will be tackling the same section of the user journey.


  • Estimated time needed: 30 minutes
  • Team: Facilitator, Note-taker, Stakeholders

Why should we do this exercise?

If you have a very broad problem with a lot of scope or potential solutions this is a good exercise to help structure the Sketching Sessions to come, ensuring all areas are explored in a balanced way. This helps the Sketching Sessions to be far more effective.


This is an optional exercise that can be done before we start the true sketching process. There are two approaches to sketching that work well within the Design Sprint. One is for everyone to divide up and take ownership of a specific part of the problem and the other is for everyone to work together, swarming on the same problem.

To decide on which approach to take, start by reviewing the Problem Statement especially looking at how narrow or broad your problem statement is.

Your team should Divide if your problem statement impacts multiple customers and/or steps within the Product Map. To approach each of these customers and steps with a Swarm approach would take too long, so Dividing up allows for multiple customers and steps to be worked on at the same time. This does means you will have fewer ideas per step but you will save a lot of time and ensure that no aspect of the problem is unexplored or forgotten.

If the team is Dividing, then the facilitator should give each member of the Sprint Team an area of the Map to focus on, based on the Sprint Target. They should not wait for volunteers.

If the Problem Statement has a very narrow focus (only one customer type or few steps in the journey), then the team should Swarm on the problem. Everyone on the Design Sprint Team will focus on and come up with ideas and potential solution sketches for the same area.

Swarming means you will have lots of ideas on the same subject to work from, including some likely duplicates.


Continuously look back over the problem statement and read over it throughout the exercise. It can be a helpful reminder of what you should be focusing on.