Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days
Author: Jake Knapp
Recommended by: Stephanie Nagy, Software Developer & High-Tech Anthropologist®
Jake Knapp from Google Ventures has captured a five day process to jump start problem solving that has been used by Lego, Google, Harvard, The New York Times, IDEO, Slack, and thousands of others. During a brainstorming session, an engineer asked Jake, “How do you know brainstorming works?” Jake followed up on the success of earlier brainstorming sessions and discovered that they weren’t as profitable as he had thought. Armed with the notion that his best work came out of having “a big challenge and not quite enough time,” he iterated on a process that ended up becoming a five day Design Sprint.
The Design Sprint can be used on anything from software to physical products, and use tools that are familiar at Menlo: whiteboards, markers, sticky notes, dot stickers, and paper, and tape to stick artifacts to the walls. A charming case study from the book was about Savioke’s Relay Robot valet used to deliver items to hotel guests. Their Sprint focused on exploring how the robot should communicate with guests and if it should have a personality.
After setting up a space, inviting a small team to participate, and blocking off five days of time, the Sprint follows a specific plan for each day.
Monday: Discuss the problem space, invite experts to share information, capture requirements in the form of “How might we…?” notes, then vote on the notes to choose a place to focus.
Tuesday: Everyone uses design tools like crazy 8s (sketch 8 solutions in 8 minutes) and three panel storyboards to sketch solutions for the top voted ideas
Wednesday: Vote on the best ideas and make a hypothesis about the top 1-2; make a storyboard showing workflows that will be used to plan the prototype.
Thursday: Create a realistic prototype using quick tools like Keynote or PowerPoint, the point is to have something realistic enough to get feedback, but not build out a full working prototype.
Friday: Have one team member interview and run the test with representative users while the rest of team watches, review the results at the end of the day, look for patterns, decide how to proceed.
The results of the testing will facilitate a decision about whether to invest more in a solution or to try something else. An efficient failure demonstrates that the hypothesis was not true. That is great information to have before spending months to build out a full prototype or product. The testing might reveal a flawed success, which could lead to another Design Sprint to refine the idea and expand on the parts that worked. Often, Sprints lead to an outright success and verify that an idea is ready to head to production.
I thought Sprint was a fantastic book. It inspires testing ideas quickly in order to get concrete feedback. I think the Design Sprint process can to be a great tool to help decide whether a hypothesis is worth pursuing.
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