Entrepreneurs and leaders face big questions every day: What’s the most important place to focus your effort, and how do you start? What will your idea look like in real life? How many meetings and discussions does it take before you can be sure you have the right solution?
Now there’s a surefire way to answer these important questions: the Design Sprint. Designer Jake Knapp created the five-day process at Google, where sprints were used on everything from Google Search to Google X. He joined Braden Kowitz and John Zeratsky at Google Ventures, and together they have completed more than a hundred sprints with companies in mobile, e-commerce, healthcare, finance, and more.
A practical guide to answering critical business questions, Sprint is a book for teams of any size, from small startups to Fortune 100s, from teachers to nonprofits. It’s for anyone with a big opportunity, problem, or idea who needs to get answers today.
The Design Sprint
The sprint is a five-day process for answering critical business questions through design, prototyping and testing ideas with customers. Developed at GV, it’s a “greatest hits” of business strategy, innovation, behavior science, design thinking, and more—packaged into a battle-tested process that any team can use.
Working together in a sprint, you can shortcut the endless debate cycle and compress months of time into a single week. Instead of waiting to launch a minimal product to understand if an idea is any good, you’ll get clear data from a realistic prototype. The sprint gives you a superpower: You can fast-forward into the future to see your finished product and customer reactions, before making any expensive commitments.
This page is a DIY guide for running your own sprint. On Monday, you’ll map out the problem and pick an important place to focus. On Tuesday, you’ll sketch competing solutions on paper. On Wednesday, you’ll make difficult decisions and turn your ideas into a testable hypotheses. On Thursday, you’ll hammer out a high-fidelity prototype. And on Friday, you’ll test it with real live humans.
The Design Sprint, day by day
On Monday, you make a map of the problem. On Tuesday, you sketch solutions. On Wednesday, you decide which sketches are strongest. On Thursday, you build a realistic prototype. And on Friday, you test that prototype with five target customers.
1. Set the Stage
Before the sprint begins, you’ve got to do some prep work. You need to have a big important challenge—something that’s worth five days of focused work. You need to recruit a team with diverse skills. And, of course, you need to find the right room and get the right materials.
2. How to pitch a Design Sprint
Of course, you may need to sell the idea of running a Design Sprint in the first place. If that’s the case, try sharing a quick overview of the process with the 90-second video, “Stop Brainstorming” post, and/or this page you’re looking at right now.
You also might help the team experience a structured meeting with a 30-60 minute Lightning Decision Jam exercise. It’s a great way to give teams a taste of the Design Sprint process before the full commitment.
Or you could just drop some names: In addition to Google, Design Sprints have been run by teams at Slack, Uber, Airbnb, Medium, Dropbox, Facebook, McKinsey, IDEO, LEGO, the United Nations, the New York Times, and many, many more.
Most importantly, get timing and tone right. Make sure the team is starting a big challenge and it’s an opportune moment to sprint. And offer the Design Sprint as a way to be helpful with solving that challenge. If the timing isn’t right, don’t force it. If you’re patient and helpful, the time will come.
Monday is a series of structured conversations to build a foundation—and a focus—for the sprint week. The structure allows the team to “boot up” as much information as quickly as possible while preventing the usual meandering conversations.
In the morning, you’ll define key questions and a long-term goal. Next, you’ll make a simple map of your product or service. In the afternoon, you’ll ask the experts on your team to share what they know. Finally, you’ll pick a target: the moment on the map that represents the greatest risk and/or opportunity.
Tuesday is all about solving the problem, using a method optimized for deep thinking. Instead of a typical group brainstorm, every individual will sketch their own detailed, opinionated solutions, following a four-step process that emphasizes critical thinking over artistry.
By Wednesday morning, you and your team will have a stack of solutions. Now, you have to decide which of those sketches should be prototyped and tested.
Instead of an endless debate or a watered-down group decision nobody’s happy with, you’ll use the five-step “Sticky Decision” method to identify the best solutions before turning the final decision over to your Decider. Then, in the afternoon, you’ll take the winning scenes from your sketches and combine them into a storyboard: a step-by-step plan for your prototype.
On Thursday, you’ll build a realistic prototype of the solutions in your storyboard so you can simulate a finished product for your customers. Design Sprint prototyping is all about a “fake it till you make it” philosophy: With a realistic-looking prototype, you’ll get the best possible data from Friday’s test, and you’ll learn whether you’re on the right track.
It’s time to put that prototype to the test! On Friday, you’ll show your prototype to five customers in five separate, 1:1 interviews. Instead of waiting for a launch to get perfect data, you’ll have quick-and-dirty answers to your most pressing questions right away.
Want to learn more about Design Sprint? Check this out Sprint