by Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky, Braden Kowitz

Troy Shu
Troy Shu
Updated at: March 12, 2024

What are the big ideas? 1. Compressing Months of Work into a Week: The sprint process presented in this book is unique because it compresses months of work into jus

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What are the big ideas?

  1. Compressing Months of Work into a Week: The sprint process presented in this book is unique because it compresses months of work into just five days. This approach allows teams to quickly test their ideas and make decisions based on real user feedback, providing valuable learning opportunities without the financial commitment of long-term projects.
  2. Anonymous Solution Sketches: During the ideation session, team members create anonymous solution sketches, which encourages independent thinking and eliminates groupthink or bias that can occur in group brainstorming sessions. This approach leads to more diverse and detailed ideas.
  3. The Use of Storyboards: Wednesday is dedicated to creating a storyboard that outlines how the prototype will be used. This technique helps teams visualize the customer journey and identify any potential issues with their solution, ultimately leading to a better understanding of the problem they are trying to solve.
  4. Consistency in Prototyping: The book emphasizes consistency in prototyping by assigning roles for Makers, Stitcher, Writer, Asset Collector, and Interviewer. This approach ensures that the entire prototype looks seamless and realistic, allowing teams to present their ideas effectively to customers during testing.
  5. Testing with Target Customers: The book advocates for testing prototypes with target customers instead of relying on assumptions or guesswork. This approach allows teams to gather honest feedback and make informed decisions based on real user data, ultimately leading to a more successful product development process.




  • An individual's best ideas often come from independent thinking, not group brainstorming sessions.
  • Time pressure and a focused team can lead to more effective problem-solving and idea development.
  • Adding elements of individual work, prototyping, and a tight deadline to team workshops resulted in the "design sprint" process.
  • Sprints have proven effective for various types of projects and industries, from tech startups to healthcare.
  • The sprint process brings teams together and helps bring ideas to life in a short amount of time.
  • Continuous experimentation and adaptation are key to improving the sprint process.


“My best work happened when I had a big challenge and not quite enough time.”

“With luck, you chose your work because of a bold vision. You want to deliver that vision to the world, whether it’s a message or a service or an experience, software or hardware or even—as in the case of this book—a story or an idea. But bringing a vision to life is difficult. It’s all too easy to get stuck in churn: endless email, deadlines that slip, meetings that burn up your day, and long-term projects based on questionable assumptions.”



  • The sprint process helps teams compress months of work into a week and test their ideas quickly.
  • Sprints can be used for various purposes, such as assessing business viability or improving existing products.
  • Teams will map out the problem, sketch competing solutions, make decisions, prototype, and test with real users in a sprint.
  • The process relies on the people, knowledge, and tools already available to the team.
  • Sprints provide clear data on the success or failure of an idea before making expensive commitments.
  • Failures in a sprint provide valuable learning opportunities without the "hard way."
  • The sprint process has been used by various organizations and individuals for different projects, including startups, large corporations, and schools.
  • This book provides a detailed guide on how to run your own sprint to answer pressing business questions.


“Good ideas are hard to find. And even the best ideas face an uncertain path to real-world success. That’s true whether you’re running a startup, teaching a class, or working inside a large organization. Execution”

Set the Stage


  • A sprint requires a clear calendar and focused attention for five consecutive days.
  • Eliminate distractions in the form of devices, interruptions, and fragmented work hours.
  • Use big whiteboards to maximize visibility and spatial memory during the sprint.
  • Stock up on essential office supplies, healthy snacks, and a Time Timer.


“depending on whether the customer used a Chemex, or a French press, or a Mr. Coffee, or whatever, the baristas could recommend a bean to match. “ ‘How do you make coffee at home . . . ?’ ” Braden”

“Here are three challenging situations where sprints can help:”

“Not Enough Time”

“High Stakes Like Blue Bottle Coffee, you’re facing a big problem and the solution will require a lot of time and money. It’s as if you’re the captain of a ship. A sprint is your chance to check the navigation charts and steer in the right direction before going full steam ahead. Not Enough Time You’re up against a deadline, like Savioke rushing to get their robot ready for the hotel pilot. You need good solutions, fast. As the name suggests, a sprint is built for speed. Just Plain Stuck Some important projects are hard to start. Others lose momentum along the way. In these situations, a sprint can be a booster rocket: a fresh approach to problem solving that helps you escape”

“No problem is too large for a sprint. Yes, this statement sounds absurd, but there are two big reasons why it’s true. First, the sprint forces your team to focus on the most pressing questions. Second, the sprint allows you to learn from just the surface of a finished product.”

“Solve the surface first The surface is important. It’s where your product or service meets customers.”

“When our new ideas fail, it’s usually because we were overconfident about how well customers would understand and how much they would care.”

“Get that surface right, and you can work backward to figure out the underlying systems or technology. Focusing on the surface allows you to move fast and answer big questions before you commit to execution, which is why any challenge, no matter how large, can benefit from a sprint.”

“someone with authority to make decisions. That person is the Decider, a role so important we went ahead and capitalized it. The Decider is the official decision-maker for the project. At many startups we work with, it’s a founder or CEO. At bigger companies, it might be a VP, a product manager, or another team leader. These Deciders generally understand the problem in depth, and they often have strong opinions and criteria to help find the right solution.”

“We’ve found the ideal size for a sprint to be seven people or fewer. With”

“Sprints are most successful with a mix of people: the core people who work on execution along with a few extra experts with specialized knowledge. In”

“They had deep expertise and they were excited about the challenge. Those are people you want in your sprint.”

“Just remember that a mix is good. Decider Who makes decisions for your team? Perhaps it’s the CEO, or maybe it’s just the “CEO” of this particular project. If she can’t join for the whole time, make sure she makes a couple of appearances and delegates a Decider (or two) who can be in the room at all times. Examples: CEO, founder, product manager, head of design Finance expert Who can explain where the money comes from (and where it goes)? Examples: CEO, CFO, business development manager Marketing expert Who crafts your company’s messages? Examples: CMO, marketer, PR, community manager Customer expert Who regularly talks to your customers one-on-one? Examples: researcher, sales, customer support Tech/logistics expert Who best understands what your company can build and deliver? Examples: CTO, engineer Design expert Who designs the products your company makes? Examples: designer, product manager”

“Before every sprint, we ask: Who might cause trouble if he or she isn’t included?”

“If you have more than seven people you think should participate in your sprint, schedule the extras to come in as “experts” for a short visit on Monday afternoon.”

“Facilitator Brad Pitt’s character in Ocean’s Eleven, Rusty Ryan, is the logistics guy. He keeps the heist running. You need someone to be the Rusty”

“This person is the Facilitator, and she’s responsible for managing time, conversations, and the overall process. She needs to be confident leading a meeting, including summarizing discussions and telling people it’s time to stop talking and move on.”

“One of the great delights of watching Ocean’s Eleven unfold is seeing how each member of the team utilizes his unique skill to help pull off the heist.”

“Longer hours don't equal better results. By getting the right people together, structuring the activities, and eliminating distraction, we've found that it's possible to make rapid progress while working a reasonable schedule.”

“To make sure nobody misses anything important, there are two exceptions to the no-device rule: 1. It’s okay to check your device during a break. 2. It’s okay to leave the room to check your device. At any time. No judgment. Take a call, check an email, tweet a Tweet, whatever—just take it outside.”

“Let people know ahead of time that the sprint will be device-free, and also let them know that they can step out of the room at any time.”

“Whiteboards make you smarter”

“Check the whiteboards before the sprint starts.”

“We’ve found that magic happens when we use big whiteboards to solve problems. As humans, our short-term memory is not all that good, but our spatial memory is awesome. A sprint room, plastered with notes, diagrams, printouts, and more, takes advantage of that spatial memory. The room itself becomes a sort of shared brain for the team.”

“The simultaneous visibility of these project materials helps us identify patterns and encourages creative synthesis to occur much more readily than when these resources are hidden away in file folders, notebooks, or PowerPoint decks.”

“At minimum, you’ll need two big whiteboards.”

“office supplies, including sticky notes, markers, pens, Time Timers (see below), and regular old printer paper. You’ll also need healthy snacks to keep up the team’s energy.”

“We use Time Timers in our sprints to mark small chunks of time, anywhere from three minutes to one hour.”



  • Monday is for understanding the challenge, opportunity, and risk.
  • The Decider makes the final call about the target customer and event.
  • The Facilitator captures ideas on the whiteboard and asks questions to keep the discussion moving.
  • Take breaks, eat light, and decide and move on to keep energy levels high.


“Why are we doing this project? Where do we want to be six months, a year, or even five years from now?”

“Your goal should reflect your team’s principles and aspirations. Don’t worry about overreaching. The sprint process will help you find a good place to start and make real progress toward even the biggest goal. Once you’ve settled on a long-term goal, write it at the top of the whiteboard. It’ll stay there throughout the sprint as a beacon to keep everyone moving in the same direction. • • • Okay, time for an attitude adjustment. While writing your long-term goal, you were optimistic. You imagined a perfect future. Now it’s time to get pessimistic. Imagine you’ve gone forward in time one year, and your project was a disaster. What caused it to fail? How did your goal go wrong? Lurking beneath every goal are dangerous assumptions. The longer those assumptions remain unexamined, the greater the risk. In your sprint, you have a golden opportunity to ferret out assumptions, turn them into questions, and find some answers. Savioke assumed their Relay robot would create a better guest experience. But they were smart enough to imagine a future where they were wrong, and the robot was awkward or confusing. They had three big questions: Can we make a smooth delivery? (the answer was yes). Will guests find the robot awkward? (the answer was no, except for the sluggish touch screen). And the long shot: Will guests come to the hotel just for the robot? (surprisingly, some people said they would). Just like the goal, these questions guide the solutions and decisions throughout the sprint. They provide a quasi-checklist that you can refer to throughout the week and evaluate after Friday’s test.”

“What questions do we want to answer in this sprint? • To meet our long-term goal, what has to be true? • Imagine we travel into the future and our project failed. What might have caused that? An important part of this exercise is rephrasing assumptions and obstacles into questions. Blue Bottle Coffee assumed they could find a way to convey their expertise through their website, but before the sprint, they weren’t sure how. It’s not difficult to find an assumption such as Blue Bottle’s and turn it into a question: Q: To reach new customers, what has to be true? A: They have to trust our expertise. Q: How can we phrase that as a question? A: Will customers trust our expertise?”

“Each map is customer-centric, with a list of key actors on the left. Each map is a story, with a beginning, a middle, and an end. And, no matter the business, each map is simple.”

“Nobody knows everything, not even the CEO. Instead, the information is distributed asymmetrically across the team and across the company.”

“By asking people for their input early in the process, you help them feel invested in the outcome.”

“Your final task on Monday is to choose a target for your sprint. Who is the most important customer, and what’s the critical moment of that customer’s experience? The rest of the sprint will flow from this decision.”



  • Conduct a sprint in five days: Monday through Friday
  • Set clear objectives for the sprint
  • Gather background information and conduct research on Tuesday
  • Hold a Crazy 8s ideation session on Wednesday morning
  • Create solution sketches on Wednesday afternoon, keeping them anonymous, clear, and detailed
  • Find customers for testing on Monday or Tuesday
  • Use Craigslist to recruit a broad audience or your network for hard-to-find customers
  • Write a screener survey for Craigslist applicants to narrow down participants
  • Schedule interviews with selected customers for Friday.


“great innovation is built on existing ideas, repurposed with vision.”

“Coffee filters had been tried before, but they were made of cloth. And the blotting paper? It was just sitting there. This combination of existing ideas doesn’t take anything away from Bentz’s achievement, but it is promising news for the rest of us would-be inventors. In your sprint, you’ll follow her example: remix and improve—but never blindly copy.”

“Blue Bottle wanted to help customers find coffee they’d love. But coffee beans all look alike, so photos wouldn’t be helpful. To find useful solutions, the team did Lightning Demos of websites selling everything from clothes to wine, looking for ways to describe sensory details such as flavor, aroma, and texture. In the end, it was a chocolate-bar wrapper that provided the most useful idea. Tcho is a chocolate manufacturer in Berkeley, California. Printed on the wrapper of every Tcho bar is a simple flavor wheel with just six words: Bright, Fruity, Floral, Earthy, Nutty, and Chocolatey. When Blue Bottle looked at that wheel, they got inspired, and when we sketched, someone repurposed the idea as a simple flavor vocabulary for describing Blue Bottle’s coffee beans: In Friday’s test, and later, at the new online store, customers loved the simple descriptions. It’s a prime example of finding inspiration outside your domain (and yet another reason to be grateful for chocolate).”



  • The goal of Wednesday is to create a storyboard that outlines how your prototype will be used.
  • Use the winning sketches as the foundation for your storyboard, but only include enough detail to make sense and avoid inventing new ideas on the spot.
  • Choose an opening scene that reflects how customers discover or encounter your product in real life.
  • Keep the storyboard fifteen minutes or less to focus on the most important solutions and avoid biting off more than you can prototype in the time available.
  • Follow the Sticky Decision process to make decisions efficiently and maintain energy levels throughout the day.
  • Trust the Decider to make key decisions, and push smaller details to be addressed during prototype building on Thursday.
  • Be mindful of decision fatigue and avoid inventing new ideas or solutions on the spot to conserve willpower for later in the sprint.


“Naturally, every person should have a fair opportunity to present his or her solution and explain the rationale behind it. Well . . . that may be natural, but you’re not going to do it. Explaining ideas has all kinds of downsides. If someone makes a compelling case for his or her idea or is a bit more charismatic, your opinion will be skewed. If you associate the idea with its creator (“Jamie always has great ideas”), your opinion will be skewed. Even just by knowing what the idea is about, your opinion will be skewed. It’s not hard for creators to make great arguments for their mediocre ideas, or give great explanations for their indecipherable ideas. But in the real world, the creators won’t be there to give sales pitches and clues. In the real world, the ideas will have to stand on their own. If they’re confusing to the experts in a sprint, chances are good they’ll be confusing to customers. The heat map exercise ensures you make the most of your first, uninformed look at the sketches. So before the team begins looking, hand everyone a bunch of small dot stickers (twenty to thirty dots each). Then”



  • Use Keynote or PowerPoint as your prototype tool, even if you work in a specialized industry.
  • Divide and conquer tasks by assigning roles: Makers, Stitcher, Writer, Asset Collector, Interviewer.
  • Consistency is key: The Stitcher ensures that the entire prototype looks seamless and realistic.
  • Conduct a trial run through the prototype as a team to identify any inconsistencies or errors.
  • The Interviewer should be familiar with the prototype and sprint questions for effective customer interviews on Friday.


“It makes no difference to the audience. For the few minutes we see the town, we get lost in the story. It all appears real. Whether it’s a façade or a ghost town, the illusion works. •”

“To prototype your solution, you’ll need a temporary change of philosophy: from perfect to just enough, from long-term quality to temporary simulation.”

“Prototype mindset. You can prototype anything. Prototypes are disposable. Build just enough to learn, but not more. The prototype must appear real.”

“Goldilocks quality. Create a prototype with just enough quality to evoke honest reactions from customers.”

“It’s impossible to make a realistic prototype with unrealistic text. A”



  • Run a sprint every five days to test and validate ideas quickly
  • Define a long-term goal and create sprint questions to guide the team's efforts
  • Identify target customers and recruit them for interviews
  • Design and build prototypes based on the sprint questions
  • Conduct interviews with customers using video conferencing tools
  • Review the interview recordings as a team and look for patterns
  • Decide next steps based on the test results and sprint questions
  • Repeat the process to make progress towards the long-term goal.


“Sprints begin with a big challenge, an excellent team—and not much else. By Friday of your sprint week, you’ve created promising solutions, chosen the best, and built a realistic prototype. That alone would make for an impressively productive week. But Friday, you’ll take it one step further as you interview customers and learn by watching them react to your prototype. This test makes the entire sprint worthwhile: At the end of the day, you’ll know how far you have to go, and you’ll know just what to do next.”

“When all you have is statistics, you have to guess what your customers are thinking. When you’re doing an interview, you can just . . . ask. These”

“Being in a curiosity mindset means being fascinated by your customers and their reactions.”

“It’s what work should be about—not wasting time in endless meetings, then seeking camaraderie in a team-building event at a bowling alley—but working together to build something that matters to real people. This is the best use of your time. This is a sprint.”



  • The Wright brothers achieved historical flight success through persistent experimentation and prototype development.
  • Ambitious goals require identifying and answering key questions, combining ideas, and making progress one step at a time.
  • Forming a question, building a prototype, and running a test creates focused problem-solving habits.
  • Sprints can be used in various contexts to solve important problems and make better decisions.
  • Instead of rushing solutions, take time to map out the problem and agree on an initial target.
  • Independent ideation leads to more detailed sketches of possible solutions than group brainstorming.
  • Use voting and a Decider for crisp decision-making that reflects team priorities.
  • Create a façade and adopt a prototype mindset to learn quickly.
  • Test your prototype with target customers for honest reactions instead of guessing and hoping.
  • Faith in ideas, hard work, and dedication can lead to great achievements.


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