Book Review: SPRINT

A practical guide for running your own Design Sprints

Business books generally seem to be good at doing one of two things: offering business theory backed-up by anecdotes and case studies, or offering step-by-step instruction for the reader to immediately put into practice.

I’m happy to report that Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days is the rare business book that effectively combines compelling storytelling with a practical how-to guide, to the great benefit of the reader. It is the hands-on manual for a relatively new business practice called “Design Sprints”. The sprint website defines a Design Sprint as follows:

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.

Written by Jake Knapp, formerly of GV (venture capital arm of Alphabet, Inc.) and teammates who together ran over 100 sprints for Google and their start-up investments (including Slack, Medium, and Blue Bottle Coffee), the book is filled with in-depth examples of some of those real-world design sprints. Those case-studies, while interesting in their own right, support the main function of the book: providing a step-by-step manual so that readers can run (sorry for the pun!) their own Design Sprint.

The Design Sprint Five-Day Structure

Because the Design Sprint itself is so effectively structured in a five-day format, the book is able to translate each day into a single chapter that shares the day’s purpose, agenda, activities, and team roles, all with a healthy dose of interesting anecdotes from past sprints. The book also offers a robust case for the value of sprints and specific instruction for the facilitator’s responsibilities. The facilitator, in particular, is the linchpin to the success of the whole sprint, so the book appropriately offers details for would-be facilitators, such as how to plan the sprint, form a sprint team, and manage each day’s exercises.

The most powerful benefit of the book: that it is so compellingly practical, the reader will have to try a Design Sprint for themselves.

At the end of the book, the reader will find a helpful FAQ and a very useful supplies checklist to make sure the team has everything the need each day to be effective.

Overall, the book is a quick read due to its practical structure and well-written stories. While giving detail to every step of the process, its deepest value is in making the inherent complexity and messiness of innovation into an clear process to follow. And that might be the most powerful benefit of the book: that it is so compellingly practical, the reader will have to try a Design Sprint for themselves.

Daniel Vogelzang is a facilitator with deep expertise in branding, marketing, and design. If you are ready to run a Design Sprint at your company but need someone to plan, manage, and facilitate it, email me to see how I can help.