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The key points of 'Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days' by Jake Knapp

In 'Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days' by Jake Knapp, the author presents a structured process for teams to tackle challenges and innovate efficiently. By following the sprint process outlined in the book, teams can streamline problem-solving and idea testing within a short timeframe. Let's explore the key takeaways from this insightful guide:

Key Takeaways

  • The sprint process provides a framework for solving complex problems in a time-efficient manner.

  • Mapping and sketching help visually represent ideas and concepts during the sprint process.

  • Effective decision-making is crucial in the sprint process to move forward with the best solutions.

  • Prototyping and testing allow teams to quickly validate ideas and gather feedback from users.

  • Utilizing tools like sticky notes, whiteboards, and time timers can enhance collaboration and productivity during sprints.

1. Sprint Process

The Sprint process, as outlined by Jake Knapp, is a transformative five-day plan for tackling critical business questions through design, prototyping, and testing ideas with customers. It's a cornerstone of modern product development and strategic innovation, emphasizing rapid progress by going through a full product or feature lifecycle in just one week.

The goal is to fast-track learning without the expense and time of building and launching.

  • Monday: Start at the end and set a long-term goal.

  • Tuesday: Map out the problem and pick an area to focus.

  • Wednesday: Brainstorm solutions and decide on a target.

  • Thursday: Hammer out a prototype.

  • Friday: Test with real live users.

2. Map

The Map phase of the Sprint process is about understanding the problem space and the context in which the solution will exist. Teams begin by creating a visual map that outlines the challenge, the actors involved, and the key steps they take. This map serves as a foundation for the rest of the sprint.

Creating a comprehensive map is crucial as it ensures that everyone has a shared understanding of what's being tackled. It's a high-level view of the problem, which helps in identifying the most significant areas to focus on during the sprint.

  • Identify the end goal

  • Map out the actors (customers, users, stakeholders)

  • Outline the key steps in the customer journey

Remember, the goal of the map is not to capture every detail but to highlight the most critical aspects that will drive the sprint forward.

3. Sketch

The Sketch phase of the Sprint process is where individual creativity comes into play. Team members independently generate a broad array of ideas and solutions on paper, without the influence of group discussions. This silent brainstorming ensures a diverse set of concepts and prevents the loudest voices from dominating the ideation process.

Each participant sketches solutions, focusing on depth over breadth. The goal is to create detailed, well-thought-out diagrams that can be understood by everyone in the sprint. These sketches form the foundation for the next steps in the Sprint process.

  • List out all ideas, no matter how outlandish

  • Refine the most promising ideas into detailed sketches

  • Keep sketches anonymous to avoid bias

4. Decide

After the team has completed the mapping and sketching phases, it's time to decide on the best solutions to prototype. This stage is critical as it sets the direction for the rest of the sprint. The decision-making process should be democratic but guided by the Sprint Master, who ensures that every voice is heard and the team stays on track.

  • Gather all solution sketches.

  • Review and discuss each sketch.

  • Vote on the most promising solutions.

Remember, the decision made at this point is not final but rather the best guess of what will work. It's about moving forward with enough confidence to prototype and test with real users.

5. Prototype

The Prototype phase is about creating a realistic facade of the product that's good enough to test with real users. It's not about building a fully functional system, but rather an artifact that looks and feels like the end product.

  • Decide on the tools and software to use.

  • Sketch out the user interface and experience.

  • Develop a prototype that's as detailed as necessary to elicit useful feedback.

Remember, the prototype should be a high-fidelity mockup, often resembling a website page with custom styling for headings, links, hashtags, and quotes. Font styles, sizes, and colors are defined using specific values to ensure the test feels authentic.

6. Test

The Test phase is the culmination of the sprint week, where the team's prototype is exposed to real users. This step is crucial as it provides valuable feedback and insights into the effectiveness of the solution. During testing, it's important to observe user reactions and gather qualitative data to understand their experience.

  • Prepare the interview guide

  • Set up the testing environment

  • Recruit a diverse group of users

  • Conduct the interviews

  • Synthesize the findings

Testing is not just about finding what works, but also uncovering what doesn't. This phase often leads to surprising revelations that can pivot the project's direction or affirm the team's assumptions.

7. Expert Interviews

Expert interviews are a crucial component of the Sprint process, providing valuable insights from within or outside the company. Experts can illuminate blind spots and offer a fresh perspective on the problem at hand.

  • Identify relevant experts early in the Sprint planning.

  • Schedule short interview sessions (15-30 minutes).

  • Prepare specific questions to maximize the value of the time.

The insights gathered from the experts are later used to refine the sprint questions and make informed decisions. This step ensures that the team's efforts are aligned with real-world expertise and knowledge.

8. How Might We Notes

The How Might We (HMW) notes are a pivotal part of the Sprint process, transforming problems into opportunities. During the sprint, team members generate HMW notes to reframe obstacles as questions that can inspire solutions.

Each note should focus on a specific challenge and be written in a way that invites creative thinking. It's important to phrase these notes optimistically, suggesting that a solution is possible.

  • Identify the challenge

  • Write it as a question

  • Begin with 'How Might We'

The HMW notes are then used to fuel discussions and ideation in later stages of the sprint, ensuring that the team's efforts are aligned with solving real challenges.

9. Solution Sketch

The Solution Sketch is a critical step in the Sprint process where each team member translates their ideas into a tangible form. Individual work is emphasized here to prevent groupthink and to ensure a diverse range of solutions.

  • Team members create detailed sketches of their solutions.

  • Sketches are kept anonymous to avoid bias.

  • The focus is on clarity over artistry; sketches should be self-explanatory.

10. Heat Map

The Heat Map is a visual tool used in the sprint process to highlight the most promising solutions. Team members use dot stickers to vote on the features or parts of sketches they find most compelling. This democratic approach helps to surface the strongest ideas without the need for verbal debate.

The areas with the highest concentration of dots indicate the hot spots that the team should pay attention to. These hot spots often reveal the user's pain points or the most innovative solutions to the problem at hand.

  • Identify the most compelling ideas

  • Use dot stickers for voting

  • Look for areas with the highest concentration of dots

11. Speed Critique

The Speed Critique is a pivotal part of the Sprint process, designed to generate fast feedback on each solution sketch. During this stage, team members take turns reviewing and critiquing the sketches, often using a timer to ensure brevity and focus. The goal is to highlight potential issues and identify the strongest elements of each idea.

  • Each participant has a set amount of time to present their critique.

  • Notes are taken on sticky notes for each sketch.

  • The facilitator ensures that feedback remains constructive.

This rapid-fire approach helps to prevent lengthy discussions that can derail the sprint's momentum. It's a structured way to gather diverse perspectives without getting bogged down in details.

12. Straw Poll

After a speed critique, the straw poll is a democratic way to gauge the initial support for each solution sketch without committing to a final decision. Each team member is given a set number of dots (votes) they can place on the sketches they find most compelling. This process helps to surface the most popular ideas and can highlight unexpected front-runners.

  • Team members vote anonymously

  • Each person has an equal number of votes

  • Votes are placed on specific features or whole sketches

The results of the straw poll can inform the subsequent discussions and decisions, ensuring that everyone's voice is heard and considered before moving forward.

13. Supervote

After the team has used the Heat Map to highlight the most compelling parts of each solution sketch, the Supervote is the decisive moment where key stakeholders make their mark. Each decision-maker is given a larger, more prominent sticker, often a different color, to cast their 'Supervote' on the solutions they believe have the highest potential.

  • Stakeholders review the highlighted options.

  • They place their Supervote on the solution they support.

  • The options with the most Supervotes are selected for prototyping.

14. Storyboard

After converging on a decision through techniques like the Supervote, the next step in the Sprint process is to create a Storyboard. This visual narrative lays out each step of the prototype's user experience, ensuring that the team has a shared understanding of how the prototype should function.

  • Begin with a frame representing the end goal of the user.

  • Add frames to outline the key steps towards that goal.

  • Ensure each frame is clear and contributes to the overall story.

The storyboard doesn't need to be a work of art; it's a tool to align the team's vision. The focus should be on clarity and functionality, not aesthetics.

15. Rumble

In the Sprint process, a Rumble is a showdown between two or more competing solutions. It's a critical step where the team tests multiple prototypes simultaneously to see which one best solves the problem at hand. This approach is particularly useful when there are divergent ideas within the team, and a clear winner isn't obvious.

  • Each prototype is tested with real users.

  • Observations and feedback are collected.

  • The team discusses the results to determine the most viable solution.

The outcome of the Rumble provides a wealth of qualitative data that can guide the team in refining their approach or combining elements of different prototypes to create a superior final product. It's a process that echoes the philosophy of 'Dare to Lead' by Brené Brown, which emphasizes learning from feedback and mistakes to foster personal and professional development.

16. Fake It

In the Sprint process, 'Fake It' refers to the creation of a realistic facade for a product or feature to test with users. This approach allows teams to gather valuable feedback without the need for a fully functional product. Prototyping tools and techniques are used to simulate the user experience as closely as possible.

  • Identify the core features to test

  • Use prototyping tools to create a realistic interface

  • Ensure the prototype is interactive enough for user testing

This stage is crucial for validating assumptions and making informed decisions about whether to proceed with development.

17. Five-Act Interview

The Five-Act Interview is a structured user testing method that provides deep insights into how real users interact with your prototype. It's designed to uncover not just what users do, but also why they do it.

  • Understand: Begin by learning about the interviewee and setting the stage.

  • Explore: Show the prototype and let the interviewee use it while observing silently.

  • Focus: Ask specific questions about the prototype and the problems it addresses.

  • Refine: Dive deeper into particular areas of interest or confusion.

  • Conclude: Wrap up by summarizing the findings and thanking the interviewee.

18. Customer Recruitment

Effective customer recruitment is essential for a successful sprint. It involves identifying and inviting individuals who represent the end users of the product or service being developed. Ensure diversity among participants to get a broad range of insights.

  • Define the target demographic.

  • Determine the incentives for participation.

  • Schedule sessions in advance.

  • Prepare a screener questionnaire to select the most representative users.

Remember to be clear about the time commitment and the nature of the sprint when recruiting customers. Transparency helps in setting the right expectations and contributes to the overall effectiveness of the sprint.

19. Facilitator

The role of the facilitator is crucial in the sprint process. They guide the team through each phase, ensuring that the rules are followed and the goals are met. A good facilitator balances participation, keeping the team focused and on track.

  • Ensures the sprint runs smoothly

  • Manages time and keeps discussions productive

  • Resolves conflicts and encourages participation

20. Time Timer

The Time Timer is an essential tool in the sprint process, providing a visual representation of the passing time. This helps teams stay focused and aware of the time constraints during each phase of the sprint.

Using a Time Timer ensures that activities are kept concise and on schedule. It's particularly useful during parts of the sprint where time can easily slip away, such as brainstorming and prototyping.

  • Start each sprint day by setting the Time Timer.

  • Adjust the timer for different activities, allowing more time for complex tasks.

  • Use the timer to signal breaks and keep the team energized.

21. Sticky Notes

In the Sprint methodology, sticky notes are indispensable tools for brainstorming and organizing thoughts. They allow team members to jot down ideas quickly and move them around as concepts evolve and priorities shift.

  • Each note can represent a different idea or task.

  • Notes can be easily grouped into themes or categories.

  • They provide a visual way to track progress and changes.

The use of sticky notes during a sprint facilitates a tactile and dynamic approach to problem-solving, making it easier to capture fleeting thoughts and build upon them as a team.

22. Whiteboards

Whiteboards serve as a central visual hub for the sprint team, allowing for a dynamic and collaborative workspace. Ideas can be quickly jotted down, erased, and reworked in real-time, making them indispensable for the sprint process.

  • They provide a large, visible area for mapping out the sprint's progress.

  • Whiteboards facilitate group discussions and brainstorming sessions.

  • They are essential for drawing the map, creating sketches, and formulating storyboards.

The use of whiteboards aligns with the principles of agility and flexibility, echoing the sentiments of 'Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear' where creativity and inspiration are cultivated through an open and adaptable approach.

23. Monday

Monday marks the beginning of the sprint week, where the stage is set for the upcoming challenge. The team aligns on the long-term goal and creates a map of the challenge. It's crucial to start with a clear focus and shared understanding among team members.

  • Identify and understand the problem space

  • Agree on a specific target for the sprint

  • Make a list of questions to be answered

By the end of Monday, the team should have a clear path outlined for the next steps, ensuring that everyone is moving in the same direction.

24. Tuesday

On Tuesday, the focus shifts to solutions. The team members individually review and critique each solution sketch prepared the previous day. This is done silently to avoid groupthink and to give each solution the attention it deserves.

  • Each team member places dot stickers on the sketches to vote for the most compelling parts.

  • A discussion follows where team members highlight the pros and cons of each solution.

  • The facilitator identifies patterns and notes down the key observations.

The process encourages humility and learning from others, akin to the principles in Ryan Holiday's 'Ego Is the Enemy'. It's crucial to avoid the pitfalls of ego, such as resistance to change and isolation, which can be detrimental to the sprint's success.

25. Wednesday and more

As the Sprint progresses, Wednesday marks a pivotal point where the team transitions from problem definition to solution crafting. By this day, the prototypes are typically underway, and the focus shifts to fine-tuning and preparing for user testing.

  • Morning: Finalize solution sketches and decide on the prototypes to build.

  • Afternoon: Begin the prototype development, ensuring that each one is a realistic facade.

Thursday and Friday are then dedicated to user testing and gathering feedback. This is where the team sees their ideas in action and gains valuable insights from real user interactions. The Sprint week is a condensed timeline that encourages efficiency and creativity, pushing teams to make significant progress in a short amount of time.


In conclusion, 'Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days' by Jake Knapp provides valuable insights into a structured approach for solving complex problems and testing innovative ideas efficiently. The key points discussed in the article highlight the importance of time-boxed sprints, collaboration, prototyping, and user testing in the product development process. By following the principles outlined in the book, teams can streamline their workflow, foster creativity, and achieve rapid results. Overall, 'Sprint' serves as a practical guide for organizations looking to accelerate their innovation process and drive meaningful outcomes within a short timeframe.

Key Points of 'Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days' by Jake Knapp

What is the Sprint Process in the context of the book?

The Sprint Process is a structured methodology outlined in the book to help teams solve big problems and test new ideas in just five days.

How does the Map phase contribute to the Sprint process?

The Map phase involves creating a visual representation of the problem and potential solutions, providing a clear overview for the team.

What is the significance of the Decide phase in the Sprint process?

The Decide phase focuses on selecting the best solutions from the generated ideas, ensuring effective decision-making within the team.

Why is Prototype an essential step in the Sprint process?

Prototyping allows teams to quickly create tangible representations of their ideas, facilitating testing and feedback before investing further resources.

What role does the Test phase play in the Sprint process?

The Test phase involves gathering feedback from real users to validate the prototype and make informed decisions about the proposed solutions.

How do Expert Interviews contribute to the Sprint process?

Expert Interviews provide valuable insights and feedback from industry professionals, enhancing the quality and relevance of the solutions developed during the Sprint.

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