Sprint Book Review

How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days

As a startup studio that works with other startups, we are lucky to get to work with passionate people that get excited about new ideas. The problem is that there are always too many ideas and it’s very difficult to pick which ones to explore and build next.

Building something is a time and energy consuming activity and using a lot of resources to building the wrong thing can have big long-term consequences.

The Google Ventures Design Sprint is a method that helps define a problem, compare ideas, prototype one of them, and get customer feedback, all in 5 days. It’s an accelerated and intensive process, but it has the potential for big payouts.

We’ve been waiting for a good book on the topic for a while, and it finally arrived!

Google Ventures partners Jake KnappJohn Zeratsky, and Braden Kowitz just released Sprint – How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days. This book is a very practical guide to sprinting with loads of tips to streamline the process and make the most out of the experience.

The sprint is a five days process and here is a brief explanation of what happens each day.

Before the Sprint

You will need to build the right team for the sprint, Jake Knapp recommends 7 or fewer people to be included and here are the kind of people you should consider include:

  • The Decider – Is usually the company leader or someone that knows the problem in depth.
  • The Finance Expert
  • The Marketing Expert
  • The Customer Expert – For example someone from customer care that has unique customer insights.
  • The Logistic Expert – For example the COO or an engineer.
  • The Trouble Maker – The person that usually has contrary opinions)
  • The Facilitator – Someone unbiased about decisions, and that keeps things on time. Usually a project manager.

Before even starting the sprint make sure everyone on the sprint team understands the problem that needs to be solved to make a purposeful start on Monday.

Make sure to have a room with big whiteboards, post-its, color stickers, a timer, caffeine,  water and healthy snacks!

Monday – Define the Problems

Start from the end. This means what questions would you like answered by the end of the sprint? What long term goal would you like to see accomplished?

Monday’s purpose is to create discussions around the sprint goal, make a map of the challenge and define the parts of the problem that will be tackled on the sprint.

Tuesday – Find Solutions

Tuesday is about finding solutions to the problem identified on Monday.

Each person on the sprint needs to write down their version of the solution on a piece of paper.

Look for solutions everywhere, even in unrelated companies or markets; you don’t need to re-invent the wheel, feel free to re-purpose existing solutions.
Give a 3 minutes demo for people to present their ideas.
Collectively choose the top 3 ideas and let people group to sketch solutions for the picked ideas.

Wednesday – Time to Take a Decision

Today is the day to critique all ideas and choose the one that will be explored in the sprint.
Ideas need to be hung on a wall anonymously so that no one influential can skew people’s opinions. Keeping ideas anonymous is key because you’ll need the team to focus on the actual idea not who had the idea. 
Discuss sketches one at the time for 5 minutes each, then each participant gets to vote via color stickers on their favorite idea. (Think of it as a heat map). The idea with the most colored stickers wins!
Ideas that are not chosen can always be part of a future sprint, or if there two excellent ideas you can always prototype them both!
Once a winning idea is picked, the team should storyboard a prototype. It’s very helpful to see the customer story and write a storyboard just like the one of a movie. The opening scene could be for example someone reading an article about your product and then visiting your website.
Design sprints are designed to test big bold ideas that might have high payoffs. Don’t test small things. 

Thursday – Prototype

Your team needs to make a prototype that looks pretty real, not too sloppy to where it’s obviously fake, not too perfect because you’ll work all night, not finish it and ultimately just slow down the learning process.

You should not use “Lorem ipsum” content, use real world good messaging with no typos. The prototype needs to look realistic.
You can prototype with just about anything and you don’t need to use professional tools, in fact, you shouldn’t! Professional tools take too long to use and make you focus on too many details. You can even use Keynote for interactive prototypes.

Friday – Interviews

Now it’s time to interview customers and see people’s reactions.
You should interview five customers. (Selected prior the sprint based on their personal interest and relevance to your market) 
Interviewing five people exposes 85% of the problems, you don’t need to talk to 1000 customers for qualitative feedback.
Record your interviews so that the whole team can see the results.
Before showing the prototype make sure to put the person at ease, ask them general personal questions even not related to the product. Once the person is at ease, just ask them if they would be interested in seeing the prototype.
Make sure that you state that you did not design the prototype, nobody’s feelings will be hurt by the feedback, in fact, the more honest and clear the feedback the better.

Once the interview is concluded analyze collectively the results and evaluate if the prototype is promising and deserves further development or not.
If your prototype fails, that’s not bad news; the sprint just saved you months of work and development on something that would not have worked anyway. So no now you can focus on something else that might work!

Design sprints are a way of working; sprints can help find an answer to big questions, bring attention to the work that matters, reduce risk and get better solutions.

If this brief summary was of any interest to you should really get a copy of the book because it goes into much more details and provides priceless tips!

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