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Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days by Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky, Braden Kowitz and Brad Kowitz

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Traditional brainstorming doesn’t generate as good ideas as when individuals think, supported by other key individuals with a tight deadline & desire to make a prototype. 

Process optimised in Google found that 5 days intensive work dedicated only to that one problem. 7 people or less are required as too many isn’t efficient. The decider is a key person to be involved in the Sprint – even if just on day 1 to give it the green light and agree the main challenge to be addressed. A mix of relevant people such as marketing, CFO, engineers and researchers are best covering all aspects of the wider team. It is important to include a ‘trouble maker’ someone who asks uncomfortable questions – in this situation their competing ideas are turned into an asset. 

Two successful examples of Sprints were a robot that delivered items to people’s hotel rooms which customers wanted to see again and a website that optimising coffee sales online by categorising these by type of equipment required rather than region. 

Go after most important problem in the Sprint this can help make progress on large complicated problems. 

6 hour days 1 hour for lunch in room. 

No interruptions, no devices with two exceptions:
1. It’s okay to check your device during a break.
2. It’s okay to leave the room to check your device.

You need a giant white board write long term goal at top

Your goal should reflect your team’s principles and aspirations. Think of a long term goal – then imagine it failed, question your assumptions.

Day 1 – Monday

This exercise is rephrasing assumptions and obstacles into questions. Then think of ways to answer this so it is less likely to fail. 

Map out the process, your map will show customers moving through your service or product. On Monday, the first day of the Sprint you’ll use the map to narrow your broad challenge into a specific target. Later in the week, the map will provide structure for your solution sketches and prototype. This map helps you keep track of how everything fits together, and it eases the burden on each person’s short-term memory.

The map consists of:
1. List the actors (on the left)
The “actors” are all the important characters in your story. Most often, they’re different kinds of customers. Sometimes, people other than customers—say, your sales team or a government regulator—are important actors and should be listed as well.
2. Write the ending (on the right)
It’s usually a lot easier to figure out the end than the middle of the story.
3. Words and arrows in between
The map should be functional, not a work of art. Words and arrows and the occasional box should be enough. No drawing expertise required.
4. Keep it simple
Your map should have from five to around fifteen steps.
5. Ask for help
 “Does this map look right?” collaborate on the map so you improve it and have more information together using experts

Get each individual to write their notes on sticky notes
“How might we?”
This creates a wall of opportunities which you later vote on to take key ones forward – less depressing than the wall full of problems.

Initially just add all the “How might we?” notes on a wall, read them and organise into themes. Only spend 10 mins on this so vaguely ordered, including an “other” category.

Dot voting – stops lengthy debates, simply give people a dot sticker.  This is their vote, they place their sticker on what they think is most important.  You might provide the “decider” with two dots allowing them to have two votes.

At end of day one agree to one particular point to focus on.

The facilitator is crucial in the Sprint, always capturing ideas, writing lists, summarising discussions and keeping the team on track with time. 

During the sprint it is important to decide and then move on.  There will be multiple decisions throughout the process.

Remember as a whole great innovation is built on existing ideas, repurposed with vision.

Day 2 – Tuesday – Individually each team member will create sketches.

The four-step sketch

1.  You’ll start with twenty minutes to “boot up” by taking notes on the goals, opportunities, and inspiration you’ve collected around the room. Copy down the long-term goal. Next, look at the map, the How Might We questions, and the notes from your Lightning Demos. Write down anything that looks useful.

2. You’ll have another twenty minutes to write down rough ideas.

3. Explore alternative ideas, tweak and expand on those good ideas with a rapid sketching exercise called Crazy 8s.

Each person begins Crazy 8s with a single sheet of letter-size paper. Fold the paper in half three times, so you have eight panels. Set a timer to sixty seconds. Hit “start” and begin sketching—you have sixty seconds per section, for a total of eight minutes to create eight miniature sketches. Go fast and be messy: As with the notes and ideas, Crazy 8s will not be shared with the team.

4. Finally, you’ll take thirty minutes or more to draw your solution sketch—a single well-formed concept with all the details worked out.

Day 3 – Wednesday, you’ll critique everyone’s sketches and pick the best ones. Merging each person’s individual work allows you to make the optimum solution.  Day 4 – Thursday make the prototype and test this with customers on Day 5 – Friday.

Recruitment of testers is done during the Sprint.  Think of the exact criteria you want them to have then an ad on the internet like Craigslist with a link to Google forms. Add a questionnaire you that doesn’t show what you are looking for so the applicant can’t game it – then you can find the people who are interested in the relevant subject be it sports, video games or whatever. 

This allows for testing of the prototype on the final day Friday
Makeshift Research Lab
Two rooms. In the sprint room, the sprint team will watch a video feed of the interviews. You’ll need a second, smaller room for the actual interviews.
Position a webcam so you can see customers’ reactions and set up video stream. Use any video-conferencing software to stream video to the sprint room.

Perform five interviews in one day – patterns will emerge.  Watch these live together, take notes and learn together from them, meaning you will collectively draw the most accurate conclusions.  Adding the notes onto a whiteboard.

In the Interview provide:
A friendly welcome, explaining that you’re looking for candid feedback.
Start with easy small talk, then transition to questions about the topic you’re trying to learn about.

Introduce the prototype. Remind the customer that some things might not work, and that you’re not testing him or her. Ask the customer to think aloud.

Tasks and nudges. Watch the customer figure out the prototype on his or her own. Start with a simple nudge. Ask follow-up questions to help the customer think aloud.

Debrief. Ask questions that prompt the customer to summarize. Then thank the customer, give him or her a gift card, and show the customer out.

Interviewer Tips
Ask open-ended questions not leading closed questions. 
Ask broken questions. Allow your speech to trail off before you finish a question. Silence encourages the customer to talk without creating any bias.

Curiosity mindset. Be authentically fascinated by your customer’s reactions and thoughts.

At the end of the day, read the board in silence and write down patterns. Make a list of all the patterns people noticed. Label each as positive, negative, or neutral. Wrap up. Review your long-term goal and your sprint questions. Compare with the patterns you saw in the interviews. Decide how to follow-up after the sprint. You’ll learn what you need for the next step with your prototype even if it appears flawed or a success.

In summary a Sprint is a 5 day process that allows a small group to take time to map out the problem and agree on an initial target. Work independently to make detailed sketches of possible solutions. Use voting and a decider to harness the true wisdom of the group, coming to a decision, skipping out endless at times abstract meetings.  Utilises the benefits of a “prototype mindset” so you can quickly test an idea with target customers and get their honest reactions.

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