Nir's Note: My friend Jake Knapp just published a fantastic book titled, Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days. The book details a process he and his colleagues at Google Ventures use to quickly go from idea, to prototype, to live test. Jake put together an exclusive excerpt from the book for NirAndFar.com readers. Here it is:
Monday of the sprint week begins with an exercise we call "Start at the End". It’s a look ahead—to the end of the sprint and beyond. You and your team will lay out the basics: your long-term goal and the difficult questions that must be answered to get there.
When a big problem comes along, it’s natural to want to solve it right away. In your five-day sprint, the clock is ticking, the team is amped up, and solutions start popping into everyone’s mind. But if you don’t first slow down, share what you know, and prioritize, you could end up wasting time and effort on the wrong part of the problem.
Starting at the end is like being handed the keys to a time machine. If you could jump ahead to the end of your sprint, what questions would be answered? If you went six months or a year further into the future, what would have improved about your business as a result of this project? Even when the future seems obvious, it’s worth taking the time to make it specific, and write it down. You’ll start with the project’s long-term goal.
To start the conversation, ask your team these questions: “Why are we doing this project? Where do we want to be six months, a year, or even five years from now?”
The discussion could take anywhere from thirty seconds to thirty minutes. If your team doesn’t quite agree about the goal or there’s any lack of clarity, don’t be embarrassed. But do have a discussion and figure it out. Slowing down might be frustrating for a moment, but the satisfaction and confidence of a clear goal will last all week.
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.
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.
List sprint questions
You’ll list out your sprint questions on a second whiteboard. We have a few prompts for getting teams to think about assumptions and questions:
- 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. When Blue Bottle Coffee ran a sprint to build an online store, they assumed they could find a way to convey their coffee expertise to new customers, 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?
This rephrasing conversation might feel a little weird. Normal people don’t have conversations like this one (unless they’re Jeopardy! contestants). But turning these potential problems into questions makes them easier to track—and easier to answer with sketches, prototypes, and tests. It also creates a subtle shift from uncertainty (which is uncomfortable) to curiosity (which is exciting).
You might end up with only one or two sprint questions. That’s fine. You might come up with a dozen or more. Also, just fine. If you do end up with a long list, don’t worry about deciding which questions are most important. You’ll do that at the end of the day on Monday, when you pick a target for the sprint.
By starting at the end with these questions, you’ll face your fears. Big questions and unknowns can be discomforting, but you’ll feel relieved to see them all listed in one place. You’ll know where you’re headed and what you’re up against.
Jake Knapp is a Design Partner at Google Ventures. He has run more than a hundred sprints with startups such as 23andme, Slack, Nest, and Foundation Medicine. To learn how to run a sprint with your own team, check out Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days.
Top Consumer Psychology Articles
- The One Fitness App That Hooked Me For Good
- Here's How Fortnite 'Hooked' Millions
- How Apps Can Shape Your Future Self
- How Netflix's Customer Obsession Created a Customer Obsession
- Want to Design User Behavior? Pass the 'Regret Test' First
- How to Trigger Product Usage that Sticks
- How to Get People to Help Each Other, Online and Off
- Here's How Amazon's Alexa Hooks You
- How to Use Psychology to Make Persuasive Video
- How to Use Personality Science to Drive Online Conversions
- The Unbelievable Future of Habit-Forming Technology
- The Secret Marketing Power of Evolutionary Psychology
- Don’t Ask People What They Want, Watch What They Do
- How Cognitive Biases Can Help (and Hurt) Your Business
- What Most People Don't Know About Behavioral Design
- How to Start a Career in Behavioral Design
- Your World is Full of Placebo Buttons (and That's a Good Thing)
- How to Build Technology that Feels Like a Friend
- 3 Pillars of the Most Successful Tech Products
- Here's How to Ethically Manipulate Other People
- How Two Companies Hooked Customers On Products They Rarely Use
- How to Hook Users in 3 Steps: An Intro to Habit Testing
- Die Dashboards, Die! Why Conversations Will Reinvent Software
- The Secret to Sending Emails and Notifications That Work
- How to Win Your Competition’s Customers
- Hooked for Good: How Habit-Forming Products Improve Lives
- Good Products Start With Good Questions
- Human + A.I. = Your Digital Future
- Why 'Assistant-As-App' Might Be the Next Big Tech Trend
- People Don’t Want Something Truly New, They Want the Familiar Done Differently.
- 4 Ways to Win Your Competitor's Customer Habits (Slides)
- Here’s Why You'll Hate the Apple Watch (and the Important Business Lesson You Need to Know)
- The Secret Psychology of Snapchat
- The Psychology of Notifications: How to Send Triggers that Work
- How Technology Tricks You Into Tipping More
- The Limits of Loyalty: When Habits Change, You're Toast
- 4 Ways to Use Psychology to Win Your Competition's Customers
- The Real Reason “Stupid” Startups Raise So Much Money
- The Psychology Behind Why We Can't Stop Messaging
- The Psychology of a Billion-Dollar Enterprise App: Why is Slack so Habit-Forming?
- Framing Reward is as Important as Reward Itself
- A Free Course on User Behavior
- It’s Not All Fun And Games: The Pros and Cons of Gamification at Work
- Getting Traction: How to Hook New Users
- Designing for Behavior Change Book Review
- The Sneaky Trick Behind the Explosive Growth of the Kardashian Game
- How Successful Companies Design for Users' Multi-Device Lives
- The Link Between Habits and User Satisfaction
- What Triggers The Best Word of Mouth Marketing?
- What Tech Companies Can Learn from Rehab
- The Secrets of Addictive Online Auctions
- Teach or Hook? What's the Real Goal of Online Education?
- Using Mind Control to Raise Startup Cash
- How To Build Habits In A Multi-Device World
- How To Cope with Your Insane Jealousy Of The WhatsApp Deal
- Why Do Fads Fade? The Inevitable Death Of Flappy Bird
- You'd Be Surprised By What Really Motivates Users
- Nostalgia: A Product Designer's Secret Weapon
- How You Can Help Users Change Habits
- Is “Lean Startup” Right for Your Idea?
- Hunting for Habits: Keying in on smart design to make a product irresistible
- Are Companies Too Obsessed With Growth? How to Measure Habits
- Refresh: The App a Secret Agent Would Love
- Angel or Devil: Who’s Really Investing In Your Start-Up?
- In 10 Years, We Won't Use Personal Technology
- 4 Simple Things I Did to Control My Bad Tech Habits
- "Yes, And": The Two Words that Created a #1 App
- From Laid to Paid: How Tinder Set Fire to Online Dating
- What if In-App Purchases Came to Real Life?
- Hooking Users One Snapchat at a Time
- How To Save Your Startup From The “Spotlight Effect”
- Bible App: Getting 100 Million Downloads is More Psychology Than Miracles
- How to Boost Desire Using the Psychology of Scarcity
- Marketplaces & The Curse of the Network Effect
- Today's Behaviors, Tomorrow's Startups
- Venture Capital and The Superstitious Investor
- The Future is Driven by Interface Changes
- Why Business is Addicted to Habits
- Viral Loops Or Viral 'Oops'?
- Making a Marketplace
- What Killed Turntable.fm?
- What You Don't Know About Human Intuition Can Hurt You
- Designing to Reward our Tribal Sides
- New Video - "Hooked: Building Habit-Forming Products"
- How Technology is Like Bug Sex
- Ways To Get People To Do Things They Don’t Want To Do
- The Network Effect Isn’t Good Enough
- Mass Persuasion, One User At A Time
- How Investment Drives Engagement (Slides)
- Getting Your Product Into the Habit Zone
- Where Have The Users Gone?
- Infinite Scroll: The Web’s Slot Machine
- Designing User Habits Video
- Psychology of Sports: How Sports Infect Your Brain
- This is Your Brain On Boarding: How to Turn Visitors Into Users
- User Investment: Make Your Users Do the Work
- Behavior by Design Video
- When Designing for Good Is Bad
- Stop Building Apps, Start Building User Behaviors
- The Next Secrets of the Internet
- User Growth and Engagement: A Hacker Metric
- Spotting the Next Facebook: Why Emotions are Big Business
- The Billion Dollar Mind Trick: An Intro to Triggers
- Why Everyone Hates I.T. People
- Hooking Users In 3 Steps: An Intro to Habit Testing
- Abolish The Reference Check
- Variable Rewards: Want To Hook Users? Drive Them Crazy
- How to Design Behavior (The Behavior Change Matrix)
- How To Design For “Normals”
- Hooks: An Intro on How to Manufacture Desire
- User Habits: Why Startups Must Be Behavior Experts
- What Is, and Is Not, Your Product's Job
- Pinterest’s Obvious Secret
- Personalized eCommerce Is Already Here, You Just Don’t Recognize It
- Where is the Web Going?
- The Developer Divide: When Great Companies Can't Hire
- Being a Quitter Makes You a Good Entrepreneur
- Behavior by Design
- Why You Should Run Your Business Barefoot
- Are you a Startup Star, Wacko, or Wannabe?