Sprint is written by Jake Knapp with help from John Zeratsky and Braden Kowitz. These three have all been a big part of Google Ventures. Together, they have put together a guide for “solving big problems and testing new ideas in just five days”. You'll find useful start-up examples including those from Slack and Blue Bottle Coffee. Knapp, Zeratsky and Kowitz have put together a must-read checklist at the back of the book that will assist anyone on this problem-solving, idea-testing journey!
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Who is this summary for?
This book is the perfect read for any budding entrepreneurs who have plenty of ideas they want to test. Together, Knapp, Zeratsky and Kowitz have put together a guide for “solving big problems and testing new ideas in just five days”. The authors have put together a must-read checklist at the back of the book that will assist anyone on this problem-solving, idea-testing journey!
About the authors
Sprint is written by Jake Knapp with help from John Zeratsky and Braden Kowitz. These three have all been a big part of Google Ventures. Knapp specifically was with Google for over 10 years and was a big part of developing Gmail and Google Hangouts. At Google Ventures, Knapp developed the Design Sprint Process. Teams all around the world including Slack and Nest have implemented his plans successfully.
In this summary
This summary will take you through the 5-day process that Knapp outlines in his book. Before we dive into a day by day explanation we’ll cover a few essentials such as deciding on your team, the tools you’ll need and that space that you want to work in. First, on Monday the focus is mapping out the problem you want to solve and selecting your main focus. Tuesday is dedicated to sketching out solutions. Wednesday is the day that decisions need to be made and your idea is transformed into a hypothesis. You’ll create a prototype on Thursday and Friday is about testing your prototype with real people!
Knapp explains that before you even consider beginning a sprint, you need to ensure that you have the perfect challenge and the right team to carry this out. You need to establish a block of 5 days that you can complete your sprint in and pick a large space you can work in. A sprint can be used to solve anything, as Knapp says himself, no problem is ever too big for a sprint.
Knapp explains that you do not want to more than seven people in your sprint team. Too many people add confusion and slow the sprint down. The idea is a sprint, not a marathon so keep your numbers low. Knapp also emphasises the importance of having a diverse range of people, don’t have more than one or two people with the same specialty or role otherwise, there may be conflict.
Knapp explains that although it may seem counter-productive, it’s a good idea to have a few people on your team that don’t agree with you all of the time. They will have the ability to open your mind up to things you haven’t considered and see options from a different point of view. And even if their ideas are still wrong, it will be useful to reinforce the right ideas.
The decider is probably the first person you recruit, their role is critical in the sprint process. A decider has all of the authority to make all of the decisions. Consider them the official decision-maker. Knapp explains that a decider needs to have a thorough understanding of the problem you are trying to solve and needs to be opinionated and well educated. They need to be involved from beginning to end of the sprint so must commit to a whole week. They need to be dedicated and determined to find the right solution.
A facilitator has the tricky role of keeping the sprint moving forwards and managing everyone involved. They need to manage the team, time, conversations and the process as a whole. Knapp explains that a good facilitator is someone who is confident when talking in front of the group and leading discussions, they need to be able to summarise whats been said and relay information to the team. It’s important that they understand when something needs to be put to bed and the team needs to move on. Knapp emphasises the importance of a facilitator being unbiased and therefore the facilitator cannot be the same person as the decider.
Extra for experts
Knapp explains that you should invite in ‘experts’ on top of your team members on Monday. Experts can be used for interviews and information. They do not need to be available for the entire sprint and are only necessary for the Monday.
Knapp explains that a typical sprint day is slightly shorter than a working day. He recommends starting at 10 am with a firm finish at 5 pm. This also includes an hour break for lunch. Don’t skip the break, it’s important to replenish your energy and refresh the mind half way through the day. Knapp emphasises the idea that working more hours isn’t going to result in a better outcome. It’s much better to work productively for fewer hours and you’ll get more done. The process is designed to be fast and the schedule should not be ignored.
One working week
Knapp explains that all you need is one working week to complete your sprint. If you can commit to five days, Monday to Friday you’ll get all the work done. As we mentioned earlier, the hours are 10am-5pm but Knapp recommends starting Friday at 9 am, you might need that extra hour on the last day.
”Five days provide enough urgency to sharpen focus and cut out useless debate, but enough breathing room to build and test a prototype without working to exhaustion.”
It’s absolutely critical that the sprint room is distraction free, every team member needs to be one-hundred-percent committed and focused on the task at hand. This means that no cell phones and laptops should be allowed in the sprint room. These can be left outside to avoid any temptation. The exception, of course, is when they are used only for sprint purposes. Be strict with this rule as it will save you time
Knapp has a couple of tools that he considers essential for the sprint process. First up, two large whiteboards, or more. If you can’t get your hands on whiteboards, get large sheets of paper. The bigger the better as you need space to work with. Ensure that you have plenty of pens, coloured markers, and post-it notes. Another essential tool is healthy snacks and plenty of water. You don’t want to have to be leaving regularly to fill up at the water cooler or grabbing an apple.
DAY ONE – MONDAY
Monday’s structured discussions create a path for the sprint week. In the morning, you’ll start at the end and agree to a long-term goal. Next, you’ll make a map of the challenge. In the afternoon, you’ll ask the experts at your company to share what they know. Finally, you’ll pick a target: an ambitious but manageable piece of the problem that you can solve in one week.
Start with the goal
The first task for the morning of your sprint week is to set a long-term goal. You can’t begin a sprint without knowing where you intend to be at the end. Knapp recommends asking why your focusing on the project and where you want this to take you in six months, a year and five years from now. Knapp explains that you need to consider the principles and aspirations of the team as a whole, how do they tie in with the long-term goal. Be as specific as you need to be.
As soon as you’ve committed to your long-term goal as a team, write it down as big as you can at the top of one of your whiteboards and don’t remove it for the entire week. Revisit the goal regularly throughout the sprint to ensure that you are working in the right direction.
Questions to ask
Like any big project, there are always things to consider. Knapp recommends the team discusses the following points:
- What are the questions you want to be answered in the sprint?
- How do you plan to meet the long-term goal? How will you know it has been reached?
- If you somehow knew that in the future your project had failed, why do you think that might be? What are the potential hurdles you need to overcome to ensure success?
The goal-setting session on Monday morning will shortly be followed by a mapping session. In order to map out your project, follow these key steps:
- On the left-hand-side, write down all actors involved. These are the people that are crucial to the project, most commonly the customers/
- Use the right-hand-side to write out the ending, the long-term-goal.
- Use a variety of words and arrows in between to visually explain what is needed to get the actors to the ending.
- Ensure that the map is simple, straightforward and easy to understand
- Make sure that the whole team is involved in the mapping process and everyone understands each point.
This brings you to what Knapp describes as your first milestone. The long-term goal has been established, you’ve answered some tough questions and now you have a map. Knapp explains that this is when a basic outline of the sprint should be beginning to materialise for you. You should be able to visualise the process now.
Knapp has set aside the remaining time on Monday to be dedicated to the experts you have chosen to bring in. Use this time to interview them and gather as much information on the problem you have defined. This process should introduce new insights and new ideas, you will likely find yourselves updating the map and even your long-term goal as you discover more about the problem. Knapp emphasises the importance of the team taking notes as the interviews are completed, you don’t want to forget critical information and you want to add more information to your map;
”Your job on Monday afternoon will be to assemble one cohesive picture from everyone’s pooled knowledge and expertise.”
Taking notes might seem like a simple task but Knapp outlines the best way to do so. He recommends that every team member has their own set of post-it-notes. Using the notes, everyone should write the letters HMW in the top corner. When something interesting is brought up, a team member can convert this into a question and write it on a note. Use a new note for every new point/question. Once the information is collected, arrange all of the post-it-notes on a wall and organise these into different categories. Then, everyone can vote on the notes using coloured dots, the notes with the most dots will be a top priority and should be answered first. Knapp believes that this process will help the decision-making process significantly.
Who’s the target?
The last thing you need to do on Monday is to decide who the target of your sprint is. Knapp explains that the target should be considered the most important customer. Who is this person and what do they want? Consider their experience with the project and define the critical points that you need to get right. Ensure that the decider is on board to make the final decision and define the target.
DAY TWO – TUESDAY
Knapp explains that Tuesday is all about developing solutions. Begin with an analysis of all ideas that have been bought up, aim to combine these where appropriate and make improvements where possible. Following this process, every team member will do a sketch. Tuesday is all about critical thinking.
- Get every team member to produce a list of products/services that can be considered a solution to your problem. Have each list ready for a review.
- Each team member will take a turn defining their product/service and explaining how it will solve the defined problem. For this step, use a timer set to 3 minutes for each pitch to avoid going over time.
- As each person takes their turn, ensure that notes are being taken on the whiteboard to look back at later.
Dedicate Tuesday afternoon to defining the solutions. However, Knapp believes that brainstorming, shouting, talking over one another, and making judgments can be detrimental to the process. For this reason, this step is an entirely individual task. The aim is to enable the freedom for radical ideas to be introduced without fear of judgment. Each team member will have an individual sketching pad and will use this to jot down all of their ideas, given this freedom, these loose ideas will quickly be converted into possible solutions.
The four-step sketch
- Knapp recommends you take a look at all of the notes taken over the last day and establish a list of what you consider to be the most important points.
- Write down all ideas, no matter how rough. Use a large piece of paper and feel free to doodle, draw diagrams, figures or anything that you might find useful. Don’t be shy.
- Knapp’s Crazy eights is an exercise that should be used on Tuesday. The idea is that each team member picks their best idea and takes eight minutes to sketch out eight different iterations of their idea/product. This concept is designed to push everyone past the obvious solutions and consider different options.
- The solution sketch is the final step. This is where everyone jots down their very best idea in great detail. This should be an outline of how the problem will be solved and why it will work. The team will then get together and judge each sketch. Ensure that the solution sketch is the easiest to read and understand. You want the message to be clear and straightforward.
DAY THREE – WEDNESDAY
Knapp explains that the results from Monday and Tuesday’s work should be a whole pile of solutions to your defined problem. However, as great as that is, it’s now the time to weed through these and make some decisions about what to prototype. As Knapp points out, you simply cannot prototype and test all of your options. So Wednesday morning needs to be dedicated to assessing each solution and deciding whether or not they are viable and will help you reach your long-term goal.
Knapp recommends that you go through the evaluation process all at once. First, examine all solutions at once, then go through the critique and finally make the decisions. Don’t seperate these out. By the end of Wednesday morning, you need to have decided which solutions you will be moving forward to the prototype session. You need to be as efficient as possible.
Knapp outlines a five-step decision-making process.
- Called the art museum, stick all of the solution sketches from Tuesday to a wall.
- Next, the ‘heat map’. Knapp explains that everyone should assess the solutions in silence and individually. Whenever anything stands out as particularly interesting, add a sticky dot.
- For the speed critique step, the team should speedily discuss the best part of each solution. Write down key points on sticky notes. (We’ll discuss this step in more detail below).
- Next the vote. Everyone can select their favourite solution and vote for it using a sticky dot.
- The decider always has the final decision, if there’s a top two or three, it’s up to the decider to commit to one solution to push forward with.
The speed critique
- Everyone to focus on one solution sketch
- Set a three-minute timer
- The facilitator can explain what the sketch is.
- The facilitator then identifies any sections of the idea that have sticky dots, suggesting that they are ‘stand-out ideas’.
- The team can then assess and come up with any other stand-out parts of the sketch.
- The scribe’s role is to note down any thoughts and ideas about the sketch on sticky notes and add them to the sketch.
- Go over any quick questions.
- Whoever came up with the idea is to add no input during this process until completed. The creator can add anything extra that they consider important once this process is completed.
- Repeat with remaining solution sketches.
A rumble vs. an all-in-one
Knapp explains that in some situations, there will be multiple winning solutions. When this happens, everyone needs to decide whether to move forward with a rumble or alternatively to try and combine the solutions into one and create a prototype.
If you move forward with a rumble, rather than just offering your customers two prototypes and naming them A or B, get creative and come up with clear distinct fake brands and names. This will allow the customers to understand the difference and be able to clearly explain which one they prefer.
You will dedicate Wednesday afternoon to creating a storyboard. You’ll need to take the top solution sketch(s) and piece them together into a chronological storyboard. The goal of a storyboard is to create a visualisation of your final prototype. The team will be able to identify any issues before the building commences.
Knapp recommends building your storyboard with a grid system. As you can imagine, you’ll start with a bunch of squares. Use the very first square to outline exactly how a customer will discover your company, will it be online, in the app store, facebook etc. Consider how you’ll reach your target audience. The idea is to use each new square to introduce a new stage of the company process and you’ll end up with something looking a bit like a comic. Knapp emphasises the importance of having the whole team together for this step and setting aside all of Wednesday afternoon for it. This step is the harder and one of the most important.
DAY FOUR – THURSDAY
”On Thursday, you’ll adopt a “fake it” philosophy to turn that storyboard into a realistic prototype. Instead of taking weeks, months, or, heck, even years building that solution, you’re going to fake it. In one day, you’ll make a prototype that appears real.”
How to prototype
Knapp explains that in order to build a sensible prototype you’ll have to adjust your mindset a little. Instead of focusing on getting this prototype perfect, you will instead focus on creating something that is ‘just enough’. Prototypes cannot be about long-term quality, instead, prototypes should be temporary simulations. This mindset shift can be difficult for some but is essential when prototyping.
Remember the following points when building your prototype:
- ANYTHING can be made into a prototype
- Prototypes should be disposable, they are not designed to be everlasting.
- Don’t build more than you need, do the bare minimum that will allow you to learn enough.
- It’s important that the prototype seems as real as possible.
Knapp explains that the goal is to provide potential customers with a realistic prototype on Friday so you can gauge their natural and honest reactions. It’s important that your prototype is realistic but doesn’t take too long to build, you only have one day to do this.
Knapp explains that there are different ways to approach your prototype depending on what you are building. It’s important that you use the appropriate tools. If your designing something to be displayed on a screen, consider tools such as keynote and apps like square space. However, if you’re creating a service you’ll need to enlist people to act the part and have a script written. If designing a physical space, work with something that already exists. Objects are best prototyped through 3D printing or on programs such as photoshop. There’s also an option to modify an object that already exists.
When beginning the process, the best plan of attack is to split the team up and designate jobs. Knapp believes that you need the following people:
- Makers – the designers or the engineers
- Stitcher – goal to gather all of the components provided by the makers and smith them together
- A writer/asset collector – their role is to research and use the internet to get images and information
- An Interviewer – prepped to conduct interviews with the customers on Friday.
At 3 pm on Thursday you need to do a trial run with the prototype, don’t leave this too late otherwise you may not have any time to identify and fix any issues.
DAY FIVE – FRIDAY
Friday is the final day of your sprint. This is the day you’ll take your prototype to the pretend market and test your product. The idea is that you’ll interview your potential customers and get feedback on their feelings towards the prototype. Ensure that they are free to use and understand the prototype naturally to guarantee the best feedback.
”This test makes the entire sprint worthwhile: At the end of the day, you’ll know how far you have to go, and you’ll know just what to do next.”
Knapp explains that five is the number of interviews you should be aiming for. Five interviews should provide adequate feedback and enough different perspectives to show you what you need to do next. Knapp emphasises the importance of one-on-one interviews for this step, it allows you to really learn as much as possible about your customer and their relationship with your potential product. This step is crucial and one you simply cannot skip. Without the interview stage, you might move forward with a product that doesn’t suit your target market.
How to interview
Here are a couple of tips from Knapp on conducting successful interviews:
- Open with a welcoming introduction
- The aim is to understand the context of the customer so start with general questions that are open-ended.
- Explain and introduce the product prototype.
- Get the customer to engage with the prototype organically.
- Wrap up with questions surrounding the customer’s use of the prototype and their impressions.
- Ensure that you take notes throughout the process so that you can look back and identify patterns between interviewees.
The last step for your team is to re-visit the long-term goal and questions you set on Monday. See how many questions you have been able to answer over the week. You’ll be able to see that you have made clear progress in the right direction. Using all of the feedback from the interviews and the prototype the next stem should become clear. The decider has the ultimate power in deciding what comes next.
Essentially you have now completed the sprint week. You’ve tested ideas and prototypes and hopefully, come up with a solid solution. Now it’s time to take this to the next level and start creating a product for real.
- It’s important to put together the right team. No more than seven people and ensure everyone’s specialties and roles are different where possible.
- Establish the space you’ll be working in and commit to a 5-day stint.
- Gather all the required tools before you start the sprint.
- On Monday the focus is mapping out the problem you want to solve and selecting your main focus.
- Sketch out the solutions on Tuesday.
- Make decisions and transform your idea into a hypothesis on Wednesday.
- Thursday is for creating a prototype.
- Friday is about testing your prototype with real people!
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- If you want to complete a sprint, first identify the perfect challenge.
- Next, identify a team that you want to work out.
- Commit to a block of 5 days to complete the space
- Gather all of the tools you require and pick a large workspace.
- Check out the complete book on Amazon.
This summary is not intended as a replacement for the original book and all quotes are credited to the above-mentioned author and publisher.