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Amplify 18: Inside the Growth Sprint

“Most of you don’t need a better plan in order to grow your company... you need better habits.”

This is how Sean kicked off our recent Growth Sprint workshop, where - along with our friends at AJ&Smart - we hosted over 100 leaders from creative & tech businesses across Greater Manchester.


“Most of you don’t need a better plan in order to grow your company… you need better habits.”

This is how Sean kicked off our recent Growth Sprint workshop, where – along with our friends at AJ&Smart – we hosted over 100 leaders from creative & tech businesses across Greater Manchester.

“When you look at how the best from Silicon Valley and beyond have delivered rapid growth, it’s never really about being first to market with a lightning in a bottle idea. Nor is it about having more investment money to play with than your competitors.

The story of growth coming from the best companies we work with shows that rapid, sustainable growth is much more about having the discipline to repeatedly and habitually execute growth experiments, at speed. It’s the same story we see in the substantial growth tales of Airbnb, Facebook, McKinsey and others.”

The companies in the room are hopefully becoming familiar with this kind of thinking. As they’re now a third of the way through our Amplify programme.

Amplify is a business growth initiative for SMEs in the digital, creative and tech sector; designed and delivered by Form, commissioned by Business Growth Hub. The two-day ‘growth-sprint’ is a key milestone in the nine-month experience.

What is the Growth Sprint?

It’s a new concept that Form have produced in collaboration with AJ&Smart – the Berlin based design-sprint agency. It mashes up ideas on business growth from Silicon Valley’s best, as told in Hacking Growth (the book by Sean Ellis), together with exercises from the Google Design Sprint process.

The focus

The aim of the two days is to ensure these business leaders leave the spectacular setting of Gorton Monastery not just with prioritised ideas and a clear plan… but also the ability to repeat this process over and over to build better growth habits in their businesses.

The format

Jonathan Courtney – CEO at AJ&Smart, – starts to lead participants through this Growth Sprint. It begins by asking participants to think about three key growth “levers” or “lenses”…

  • Acquisition (i.e. how do you help prospects find you in the first place?)
  • Activation (i.e. what do you do to engage your prospects and convert them into clients?)
  • Retention (i.e. how do you keep your customers coming back for more?)

Each of the companies then goes deep into exploring one of these levers through the exercises that follow, including:

Shaping “How might we’s?”

What are we doing well? What is holding us back?

Those brainstorming sessions are common enough, but they often run into the ground after the initial dump of ideas. You need a structure that turns brainstorming and reflection into something useful.

The Growth Sprint forces prioritisation of those challenges the teams identify. We then flip them into a “How might we…” This involves literally rewriting the challenge in to a question such as “How might we… help customers learn more about our product?”.

This idea – borrowed from Design Thinking – makes it easier for participants to start down the road of developing options rather than getting lost in the problem.

Map & Target

Next the teams create high-level maps of their customer journey, placing the “How might we’s” on the map to identify the area that believe best to zoom into for the exercises to follow.

Lighting demos

Then everyone gets the chance to do individual research and playback rapid-fire presentations of inspiration they’ve drawn from elsewhere on how others have addressed those same challenges.

Creating growth experiments

The culmination of all this is the creation of growth experiments. Individuals have time to work alone in silence (so those with the loudest voice and/or the first idea don’t automatically win the day, as happens in so many workshop formats).

Delegates use templates to write and sketch out what they think ought to be done, tested and learned from in the next 6 weeks to help spur growth.

Throughout the two days there are opportunities for leaders to reflect on their experiences and provide live feedback on the event, all beamed through to the screen, prompting interaction between facilitators and the floor.

We also have a Q&A on growth with Jonathan Courtney alongside Sarah McKenna and Tony Foggett, who are both acting as “Board Advisors” on the programme – a mentor-type figure, linked to each of the businesses, who has experience of scaling a company in the sector… so there’s lots of insight to share.

Want to know more about the exercises?

James Lewis, COO at Digital Bridge has done a helpful write up of the exercises from a participant’s perspective here.

Jonathan Courtney at AJ&Smart has created a 26 min video tutorial now on YouTube if you wanted to have a go at running your own Growth Sprint.

The final outcome

Judging by the feedback, the Growth Sprint is aptly named; race-like both in its format and reward. Following an intense and challenging two days with the Form team, participants cross the finish line feeling like they have momentum from this initial burst of energy to keep the ideas AND the execution flowing.

Here’s what a few folk have said…

Ben Wilkins, MD of Regital:

“Being all together at the Growth Sprint has aligned the voices in our agency, made things clearer, and added discipline. Even those who I thought would be the most cynical about it – the less process-driven guys – have also got on board.

 “Now, we’re thinking: ‘let’s go back and get everyone working in this way’. What we’ve learned can really help to re-energise our product and change things for us.”


Jaime Gee, MD of Jam:

“What’s stood out most for me is that simple processes can be valuable. It’s the aspect of breaking things down into tactics that makes a huge difference.

“The whole sprint has really given us a pathway to growth – which is exactly what I wanted to achieve from these two days.”


Richard Jeffery, Director of Business Growth Hub

“I’ve been absolutely blown away by what I’ve seen here today.  

“There’s an incredible amount of innovation and energy in this room. That’s exactly the effect we were looking for when we partnered with Form to put on the programme.”

It doesn’t end here. The Board Advisors will keep beavering away with their companies. The monthly growth challenges we create and send out as videos to all participants will keep building on the insight already shared. And the Forward Look event in June will be an exciting wrap up on the real-world results that have been achieved.

If you’re interested in tapping into the growth ideas that emerge, be sure to stay connected with Form on Twitter and Instagram to see #Amplify18 unfolding further…

For more on growth hacking, product strategy and design sprints then connecting to AJ&Smart is a must. Follow their Instagram and subscribe to YouTube channel here.

How about getting involved?

Applications for Amplify 2019-20 will open in Spring. If you want to register interest, then email Katie.