"The sprint is GV’s unique five-day process for answering crucial questions through prototyping and testing ideas with customers."
In Sprint, Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky, and Braden Kowitz, partners at Google Ventures, provide a step-by-step guide with checklists, visual examples, and even a shopping list on how to conduct a sprint. The sprint is a “five-day process for answering crucial questions through prototyping and testing ideas with customers.” This process has been used by over a hundred different companies in a wide array of industries. If you, your company, your business, your team, or whatever has a problem that needs to be tested or a question that needs to be answered – a sprint is the way to go.
After ups and downs and tweaking the old way of group brainstorming, the five day sprint was developed. The authors lay out how to conduct a sprint to test a major idea without spending tons of time and money to do so. This book is not just about theory and an imagined way of conducting a sprint, it is a proven, tried, and tested method that has worked over and over again. There are several examples of actual sprints throughout the book. Some company names and key players remain anonymous while others will definitely ring a bell. After reading this book, it seems as if the team has thought of every human error and emotion that could cause hang-ups along the way and how to combat and/or minimize them. A sprint looks like this:
Day 1 – Map out the problem and pick an important place to focus.
Day 2 – Sketch out competing solutions on paper.
Day 3 – Decide on the best course of action and turn ideas into a testable hypothesis.
Day 4 – Build a realistic prototype.
Day 5 – Test with your target market/customers.
Of course you will need to “Set the Stage” before you conduct the sprint by determining the challenge, problem, or question you want to address, have the right team in place that consists of key players, and set aside time and space to conduct the sprint without distractions.
The Big Idea
Anything can be hashed out in five days
"A sprint resembles that perfectly orchestrated heist. You and your team put your talents, time, and energy to their best use, taking on an overwhelming challenge and using your wits (and a little trickery) to overcome every obstacle that crosses your path."
The power of TEAM is a consistent thread throughout the book. The sprint team consists of key players and decision makers:
Decider – the person who will make the decisions for the team or for this particular project. This person may be, for example, a department head, CEO, product manager, or founder.
Finance expert – someone who can explain where the money comes and goes. This person may be the CFO, CEO, or business development manager, to name but a few.
Marketing expert – this is the person who is responsible for crafting your company’s message, i.e.: the CMO, PR, community manager, marketer.
Customer expert – someone who regularly talks to your customers on a one on one basis. Some examples may include customer support, sales, researcher, etc.
Technical/logistics expert – an individual who understands what your company can build and deliver, i.e. an engineer or CTO.
Design expert – this is the person who designs the products your company makes. Common titles include designer and product manager
Other key players are the Troublemaker and the Facilitator. The Troublemaker is that person who has strong and contrary opinions, and who might make you uncomfortable about including them in the sprint. This person is a key ingredient because he or she is able to see problems differently from everyone else. “There’s a fine line between a rebel and a jerk, of course, but don’t avoid people just because they disagree with you… the sprint process turns competing ideas into an asset.”
The Facilitator should be someone different than the Decider. The Facilitator should be able to remain unbiased during the decision making process. Sometimes it is best to employ an outsider to be the Facilitator.
Also, keep in mind that you don’t want too many people to be a part of the sprint. Seven seems to be an ideal number. If you need to include any extra experts, bring them in on the first day of the sprint to collaborate and voice their expertise.
Truly work as a team
"The word ‘team’ is pretty cheap, but in a sprint, a team is really a team."
To effectively work as a team, everyone must be given the opportunity to present their ideas, solutions, and votes, which creates inclusion and a sense of ownership in the project. The detailed techniques of decision making within the sprint process help reduce biases and skewed opinions. Everyone presents a sketch of possible solutions but does not add his or her name to the sketch or is allowed to explain the rationale behind it. The sketch must be self-explanatory enough for everyone to understand the sketcher’s rationale. This helps to prevent favoritism from sneaking in. “In the real world, the creators won’t be there to give sales pitches and clues. In the real world, the ideas will have to stand on their own.” Each step in the decision making process includes a script to follow that reduces the likelihood that the conversation will go off on a tangent and encourages honest decision making. The sprint process is to the point. It is more efficient than the normal “brainstorming group” as we know it. With a sprint, things get done in a systematic and timely manner.
Skip the BS and the fluff
"Instead of meandering, your team’s conversations will follow a script. This structure is socially awkward, but logical… It’s all designed to get the most out of the team’s expertise, accommodate for our human strengths and shortcomings, and make it as easy as possible to come to a great decision."
This process lays out how to remove the fluff and BS from decision making. The partners who created the sprint considered human behavior and emotions when perfecting the process. If two solutions can’t be combined and both are viable, prototype and test both. Short term memory isn’t reliable – write notes down on a sticky note. Got a long-winded team member? No worries, fortunately there’s limited space on a sticky note! Need to organize the top favorites? Everyone votes using dot stickers. Less talking and more doing. Straight and to the point. No arguing, no fussing, just voting and carrying on. Sprinting is so efficient. This is how it is possible to hash out almost anything in just five days.
I’m glad I picked up Sprint. It has taught me efficiency and teamwork. It is a great DIY guide to testing a product and/or service. What big problem do you need to solve quickly? What new idea would you like to test in just five days?