Book Review: Sprint

By Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky and Braden Kowitz

In Sprint, Jake Knapp and co draw on their experience hosting over one hundred design sprints in companies large and small to bring to life a framework that gets answers to big problems in a very short amount of time.

Part reference book, part collective case study, Sprint encourages a company cross section of employees to work together and produce tangible results that might dictate the direction of the entire organisation for years to come. Who knew the customer service manager had such great ideas!?

The book doesn’t just help those looking to perform 7-day design sprints, but also offers a ton of useful techniques that make every meeting or team brainstorm more effective.

Recommended if you want to

  • Discover alternatives to shout-out brainstorms that rarely result in tangible progress
  • Help force a team out of a creative rut and into finding new opportunities
  • Save precious time and capital embarking down ventures that may end in disaster

Book Notes

Two efficient teamwork techniques to build and rank ideas

How Might We (p.73)

This technique was developed by Proctor and Gamble in the 1970s, but Jake and his team use it to turn problems raised by expert interviews into opportunities.

For example, if a contributor to the sprint mentions that Blue Bottle Coffee customers are unsure what difference coffee from different parts of the world makes, then it may be tempting to note down the exact issue raised: ‘customers don’t know why coffee regions matter’. However, no one wants to end a day with a list of problems.

Instead HMW suggests starting each note with the phrase ‘How Might We’. In the Blue Bottle example, this negative note now becomes ‘How might we educate customers on how coffee regions affect the taste of their coffee?’ Each HMW note captures a problem and converts it into an opportunity which can be acted on.

Deciding on a direction (p.131)

Traditionally teams make decisions by starting with individuals pitching ideas and ending with a group straw poll or team leader choosing a direction. Sprint subverts this, and presents a process that condenses what could be hours of debating and arguing into just 60 minutes of calm decision making.

First off, lay out all of your ideas for everyone to see while keeping the creators of the ideas anonymous. Like you’re in an art museum, allow participants to quietly browse each sketched idea, and place dotted stickers over parts that they like best. In just a few moments, you have a visual heat map for what features have promise.

Then, the facilitator (not the originator of any ideas) goes through and summarises each sketch, focussing on parts with more dot stickers. Team members can also add their own observations that the facilitator might have missed. A scribe summarises everything, and any concerns are raised. Finally, the creator reveals themselves and notes anything that was missed.

At this stage, sketches have been thoroughly examined and critiqued, without involving office politics or hurting anyone’s feelings. The decider now has all the information she needs to make an executive decision which takes on board everyone’s input.


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