I used to think the most fun you could possibly have with a small team of people in 5 days was a video games marathon fuelled by Pizza and ice cream. Not anymore. Not now I have learned how Jake Knapp and his friends at Google Ventures run 5 day sprints to help startups and established businesses find winning product ideas.
Not only is Sprint a detailed book about the process, it contains real case studies of massively successful or ambitious organisations, including Slack and Savioke, who successfully used sprints.
Throughout Sprint, there is a sprinkling of weird humour, too. Or maybe it's just American. But don't let that put you off, it's not so bad. I even laughed a couple of times.
If you think this doesn't sound like a book you would be interested in, I fully encourage you to watch this presentation from the authors. I'm convinced, that you will be convinced, to read it.
What is a Sprint?
A sprint is a week dedicated to answering one or two of the biggest questions or unknowns in a business or on a specific product. It is a finely-structured process that relies on a small team of 7 being co-located and 100% focused for the entire week.
A sprint involves creating innovative ideas, building 'just enough' prototypes, and testing with 5 real users.
The Sprint book breaks down each day into specific activities, giving you all the advice you need to run a sprint. For example, on Monday afternoon you will interview domain experts and colleagues, and on Wednesday afternoon, you'll create a storyboard which forms the basis for the prototype you will spend Thursday building.
A sprint also necessitates specific materials - a couple of large white boards, post-it notes, and as the authors specifically point out - white board markers but NO sharpies because they stink too much.
Can it Really Work?
Whilst reading Sprint, there was a constant voice in the back of my head saying "this isn't possible, this just isn't possible". There are so many reasons why it feels like a sprint is impossible, and until you've done one, I guess you can never be sure for yourself. I don't think Google Ventures would publish a book promoting some fad process they use. So the logical part of my brain believes them, but there is still a huge "this cannot be possible" thought that dominates my thoughts on this topic.
There are two major hurdles that feed my disbelief: how can you build a prototype in just one day, and how can you find the research participants you need at such short notice?
Until I've done a sprint I'll just never fully accept how one can work. But sprints do sound so immensely exciting - a week of 100% focus on creating innovative product ideas and testing them with customers. I'm crossing all my fingers and toes hoping I won't have to wait long.