The Design Sprint

The sprint gives teams a shortcut to learning without building and launching.

The sprint is a five-day process for answering critical business questions through design, prototyping, and testing ideas with customers. Developed at GV, it’s a “greatest hits” of business strategy, innovation, behavior science, design thinking, and more—packaged into a battle-tested process that any team can use.

Working together in a sprint, you can shortcut the endless-debate cycle and compress months of time into a single week. Instead of waiting to launch a minimal product to understand if an idea is any good, you’ll get clear data from a realistic prototype. The sprint gives you a superpower: You can fast-forward into the future to see your finished product and customer reactions, before making any expensive commitments.

This page is a DIY guide for running your own sprint. On Monday, you’ll map out the problem and pick an important place to focus. On Tuesday, you’ll sketch competing solutions on paper. On Wednesday, you’ll make difficult decisions and turn your ideas into a testable hypothesis. On Thursday, you’ll hammer out a high-fidelity prototype. And on Friday, you’ll test it with real live humans.

The Sprint book

“Read this book and do what it says if you want to build better products faster.” —Ev Williams, founder of Medium and Twitter

New York Times best seller Sprint takes you behind the scenes with some of America’s most fascinating startups. You’ll meet a robotics maker searching for the perfect robot personality, a coffee roaster expanding to new markets, a company organizing the world’s cancer data, and Slack, the fastest-growing business app in history.

A practical guide to answering critical business questions, Sprint is a book for teams of any size, from small startups to Fortune 100s, from teachers to nonprofits. It’s for anyone with a big opportunity, problem, or idea who needs to get answers now.

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Sprints are versatile

At GV, we’ve run sprints with companies like Nest, Flatiron Health, and Medium—to help them enter new markets, design new products, develop new features for millions of users, define marketing strategies, and much more. Teams around the world have adopted sprints, and we‘re collecting their stories at SprintStories.com.

Slack used sprints to overhaul their marketing and reach more customers.

Blue Bottle Coffee used sprints to expand their business into online sales.

FitStar used sprints to perfect the new-user experience for their personalized fitness app.

Savioke used sprints to give their hotel delivery robot a personality.

Foundation Medicine used sprints to design interactive diagnostic tools for oncologists.

Basic sprint resources

The book is a complete hour-by-hour guide to running your sprint. Below we’ve assembled a basic DIY guide, including daily checklists, videos, and other resources.

Set the Stage

Before the sprint begins, you’ll need to have the right challenge and the right team. You’ll also need time and space to conduct your sprint.

Monday

Monday’s structured discussions create a path for the sprint week. In the morning, you’ll start at the end and agree to a long-term goal. Next, you’ll make a map of the challenge. In the afternoon, you’ll ask the experts at your company to share what they know. Finally, you’ll pick a target: an ambitious but manageable piece of the problem that you can solve in one week.

Tuesday

After a full day of understanding the problem and choosing a target for your sprint, on Tuesday, you get to focus on solutions. The day starts with inspiration: a review of existing ideas to remix and improve. Then, in the afternoon, each person will sketch, following a four-step process that emphasizes critical thinking over artistry. You’ll also begin planning Friday’s customer test by recruiting customers that fit your target profile.

Wednesday

By Wednesday morning, you and your team will have a stack of solutions. That’s great, but it’s also a problem. You can’t prototype and test them all—you need one solid plan. In the morning, you’ll critique each solution, and decide which ones have the best chance of achieving your long-term goal. Then, in the afternoon, you’ll take the winning scenes from your sketches and weave them into a storyboard: a step-by-step plan for your prototype.

Thursday

On Wednesday, you and your team created a storyboard. On Thursday, you’ll adopt a “fake it” philosophy to turn that storyboard into a prototype. A realistic façade is all you need to test with customers, and here’s the best part: by focusing on the customer-facing surface of your product or service, you can finish your prototype in just one day. On Thursday, you’ll also make sure everything is ready for Friday’s test by confirming the schedule, reviewing the prototype, and writing an interview script.

Friday

Your sprint began with a big challenge, an excellent team—and not much else. By Friday, you’ve created promising solutions, chosen the best, and built a realistic prototype. That alone would make for an impressively productive week. But 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.

Your sprint story

If you run a sprint, let us know! We’re collecting stories from the sprint community at SprintStories.com. Tweet us at @GVDesignTeam, or help spread the word below.

The Sprint book

A practical how-to guide for sprints, featuring behind-the-scenes stories from some of America's most fascinating startups. Sprint is available now in hardcover, e-book, and audio.

Buy on Amazon   or see more ways to buy

From GV

Timer illustration

GV design partner Jake Knapp began running design sprints at Google in 2010. He worked with teams like Chrome, Google Search and Google X. In 2012, Jake brought sprints to GV, and the rest of the team chipped in their expertise to perfect the process.

Braden Kowitz added story-centered design, an unconventional approach that focuses on the customer journey instead of individual features or technologies. Michael Margolis took customer research—which can typically take weeks to plan and often delivers confusing results—and figured out a way to get crystal clear results in just one day. John Zeratsky helped us start at the end, and focus on measuring results with the key metrics from each business. And Daniel Burka brought firsthand expertise as an entrepreneur to ensure every step made sense in the real world.