Sprint - how to solve big problems and test new ideas in just five days

This post describes the Sprint process of the book >Sprint how to solve big problems and test new ideas in just five days< by Jake Knapp. If you are familiar with the SCRUM framework: this sprint is different from the SCRUM sprint.

The sprint is a five-day process starting on Monday and ends on Friday to create a new prototype to test a new product or feature. The process is a way to experiment in a fast pace and with minimum risk to the business. Particularly for startups, it’s not easy to finance an extended product finding process. Here it’s important to learn fast and also fail fast if necessary to get the chance for another try.
Besides the fast pace, the Sprint process is also focusing on a strong execution with clear process steps and time boxes to avoid procrastination.


Monday morning starts with a question:

what’s our challenge?

So the company/team needs to decide which challenge the Sprint should tackle.

After the decision is made our first priority is to setup a diverse team of seven people. These seven people need to include two unique roles:

  • The decider (needs to be someone how is trusted by the company owners or managing board to be able to make the necessary decisions)
  • The facilitator (takes care of time management, summarizing discussions and led the process)
    From time to time your team could also use some help, so it’s a good idea to look after people who can give you some advice. They could be part of your team, within or from outside the company.

In the Monday afternoon, your team starts with building a roadmap for this Sprint beginning with the goal. From your goal, you work your way backward to the beginning. You will end the first day with setting a clear target of the Sprint. A clear target should include the knowledge of how and when your users will use your product or feature.

Monday is the day with the most different actions. Therefore, it’s important to keep the time boxes and stick to the agenda. We need a strong execution of the processes for this day.


Tuesday, the second day of the Sprint is all about brainstorming.
Your team is bringing up ideas how to reach the target. Treat the ideas like Lego blocks: you collect as many blocks as possible, build a solution, reassemble it and try many different things with them. Spend the most time of this day on the brainstorming task.
When you collected some ideas, you start a lightning demo session where each team member has 3 minutes to present their favorite idea. The end of the demo sessions is also the end of the day.


In the Sprint you are usually not able to build more than one idea. That’s why you need to filter the ideas to the most promising one on Wednesday morning. This can lead to many discussions and a waste of time and energy. To avoid this, you can present each idea, give some space to answer questions about it, and in the end vote for the best idea.

Now you finally got the idea what you will work on the rest of the Sprint. But we don’t start prototyping right now. Before we do this, we need to create a storyboard for the winning idea. The storyboard should bring more details to the idea to get a better direction where to go and shape a product around it.


Only two days left. Nothing engineered till now. The last day of the Sprint cycle is for testing, so it’s time to start the prototyping phase. As you only get one day to build the prototype, you need to change your mindset to:

fake it, till you make it.

You don’t need to code something or maybe only a little. It’s enough if you can demonstrate something in a prototyping tool, on a dummy web page and even a paper prototype could be ok. As long as you can put this in the hands of a user, it’s ok.

The idea of a Sprint is not to build a ready to launch product. The Sprint only helps you to create ideas and test them as fast as possible. That’s the reason why we only have one day for prototyping: we try to reduce waste. If the idea is working, a development team need to start the actual implementation. Usually, here it’s better to start from the beginning instead of reusing a coded prototype.


The last day of the Sprint is dedicated to user testing. This means you need to put your prototype in the hands of users. In the best case, you have five users to interview. You just get them use your prototype and don’t answer the questions how to use it. They should find out by themselves to give you meaningful feedback on usability and business value of the idea.

If you built something on your existing webpage/app, you could also test this in production with an A/B test. When a real user is clicking a buy button, it's even better feedback to validate the business idea than a user test.


This Sprint model, a five-day brainstorming and testing session is a cool idea to verify a hypothesis and discover new features or products. But the name leads to potential misunderstandings. Compared with a SCRUM sprint the only similarity is the iteration process. But SCRUM sprints are focused on delivering a working increment of your software where this Sprint approach is completely focused on rapid idea validation.