FIVE DAY SPRINT by Jake Knapp: Book Summary

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In ‘Sprint,’ Jake Knapp introduces Google Ventures’ unconventional five-day method for tackling critical business questions. The core? Prototyping and customer testing at lightning speed. Knapp exemplifies this with Savioke, a robotics company. To determine how their robots should interact with humans, the Savioke team embarked on a focused sprint. They carved out a clear week, blocking their calendars and setting up “out of office” messages. With a crucial deadline looming – a live hotel test scheduled for the coming Friday – they had just four days to design and build a working prototype. The pressure was on!

Monday was dedicated to a deep dive into the core challenge. Savioke knew the stakes: if their Relay robot failed to improve guest satisfaction during the pilot program, hotel orders would dry up. The pressure was immense. A recurring concern loomed large: public expectations, shaped by films like WALL-E, envisioned robots with human-like emotional intelligence. Their robot, however, was far from sophisticated. It wouldn’t engage in conversation, and any disappointment could spell disaster for Savioke.

Tuesday was solution day. Everyone, not just designers, sketched out ideas. By Wednesday morning, the conference room walls were plastered with sketches and notes. Sprint team had 23 competing solutions. To identify critical moments of guest-robot interaction, the team created an experience map. This mapped out the entire guest journey, from encountering the robot to receiving the item. Along the way were critical moments when robot and guest might interact for the first time: in the lobby, in the elevator, in the hallway, etc. With a tight deadline looming, the Decider chose the delivery moment as the focus. A flawless delivery would ensure guest delight. As Thursday dawned, team had just eight hours to get the prototype ready for Friday’s live test in the hotel. They used two tricks to finish the prototype on time:

  1. On Wednesday, Savioke sprint team had agreed on which ideas to test, and documented each potential solution in detail. Only the execution remained.
  2. The robot didn’t need to run autonomously, as it would eventually in the hotel. It just needed to appear to work in one narrow task: delivering one toothbrush to one room.

Engineers programmed and tuned the robot’s movements. Another member orchestrated the sound effects. The “face” was mocked up and mounted to the robot. By 5pm., the robot was ready. For Friday’s test, Savioke had lined up interviews with 5 guests at the local Starwood hotel in Cupertino, California. Interviewer asked a series of questions about her hotel routine. Where does she place her suitcase? When does she open it? And what would she do if she’d forgotten her tooth brush? “I don’t know. Call the front desk, I suppose?” “Go ahead and call.” She dialed. “No problem,” the receptionist said. “I’ll send up a toothbrush right away.”

Interviewer continued his questions. Did she always use the same suitcase? When was the last time she’d forgotten something on a trip? Brrring. The desk phone interrupted her. She picked up, and an automated message played: “Your toothbrush has arrived.” Without thinking, the woman crossed the room, turned the handle, and opened the door. Back at headquarters, the sprint team members were gathered around a set of video displays, watching her reaction. “Oh my god,” she said. “It’s a robot!” When she gave the experience a five-star review, the little machine danced for joy by twisting back and forth. “This is so cool,” she said. “If they start using this robot, I’ll stay here every time.” It was the smile of delight that sprint team saw over the video stream. And it was what she didn’t do — no awkward pauses and no frustration as she dealt with the robot. The whiteboard exploded with green checkmarks, a testament to the success of the risky robot personality – blinking eyes, sound effects, and even a celebratory dance.

The sprint equips startups with a superpower: a glimpse into the future. By prototyping and testing ideas with real customers, they can see their finished product and gauge reactions – all before committing significant resources. Success in a sprint is exhilarating, but the true learning comes from failures, however painful. This book empowers you to run your own sprint, a DIY guide to tackling pressing business questions. Over five days, you’ll transform hunches into testable solutions: Monday maps the problem, Tuesday sketches competing solutions, Wednesday refines ideas into a hypothesis, Thursday builds a prototype, and Friday puts it to the ultimate test – with real customers.

The challenge: creating an online store for Blue Bottle Coffee to sell fresh beans. Building the sprint team, the founder went beyond the obvious programmer choice. The COO, CFO, communications manager, customer service lead, company chairman, and even the founder himself all joined the table. On Monday, the team mapped the ideal customer journey through the online store. They specifically focused on a new customer – someone who had never experienced Blue Bottle’s cafes or coffee. The logic? If they could impress someone completely unfamiliar with the brand, success with existing fans would likely follow. Tuesday was dedicated to sketching store ideas. By Wednesday morning, they had fifteen unique solutions. A vote narrowed it down, and the founder (Decider) made the final selection – three designs to test.

While a fully functional website wasn’t needed, each mock store required a realistic feel for testing. Using creativity, the team transformed keynote slides into clickable prototypes, allowing test customers to interact with the designs. Friday’s customer interviews revealed fascinating patterns. The wooden shelves design, initially a favorite, flopped – customers found it “cheesy” and untrustworthy. But the other two prototypes thrived. The “How do you make coffee at home?” design offered a seamless experience. And the “lots of text” design surprised the team in a delightful way. Customers devoured the informative content, and the detailed descriptions brought Blue Bottle’s coffee expertise to life. As one customer said, “These guys know coffee.”

Sprint: Conquer challenges in just 5 days!

Sprint allows you to prototype the surface, not the whole product. Take Blue Bottle, for example. They used a slide show to create a website prototype – all before building the complex software and inventory systems. By getting the surface experience right first, they could work backwards to design the underlying technology. This focus on the user journey allows for rapid iteration and answers big questions upfront, before getting bogged down in execution. That’s why sprints are perfect for tackling any challenge, big or small.


To lead a successful sprint, you need two key ingredients: a Decider (someone with authority to make final calls) and a diverse team with a mix of skills. Google Ventures (GV) found that winning solutions often came from unexpected sources – business development, customer service, even a cardiologist! The key is to assemble a team with deep expertise and a shared passion for the challenge. While you don’t need every role under the sun, strive for a mix of decision-maker, financial and marketing experts, customer experience champions, and technical/logistics specialists, along with a design expert to round out the team. Remember, during a sprint, you’re a tight-knit unit working shoulder-to-shoulder for five days.

Time and Space

The five-day sprint is designed for intense focus and rapid progress. Team members will be together in the same room, 10am to 5pm, Monday through Thursday, with scheduled breaks to maintain energy. Friday’s test kicks off earlier at 9am. This timeframe creates a sweet spot – enough urgency to sharpen focus and eliminate unnecessary discussions, but also enough breathing room to build and test a prototype without burnout.

To maximize collaboration and eliminate distractions, all devices will be put away during sprint sessions. This fosters a distraction-free environment where ideas can flow freely and everyone is fully present. Let your team know ahead of time and assure them they can check devices during breaks or step outside if needed.

Prepare a well-equipped workspace to make the most of this focused time. Large whiteboards are essential brainstorming tools – they allow everyone to visualize ideas, iterate quickly, and keep the team aligned. Stock up on basic office supplies: sticky notes, markers, pens, a timer (ideally a large, visible one like the time timer), printer paper, and healthy snacks to keep everyone energized.


Monday is dedicated to setting the stage for the sprint. The team starts by defining a long-term goal: what success looks like after a year. Then, they take a critical approach by brainstorming potential roadblocks and turning them into questions on a separate whiteboard.

Next comes customer journey mapping – a visual representation of how customers interact with the product. This map helps pinpoint a specific target – a manageable problem within the broader challenge – to focus on for the week.

The afternoon is spent gathering expert insights through one-on-one interviews. These conversations add depth to the map and unearth valuable “How Might We” questions – opportunities to address customer needs. The team uses sticky notes to capture these questions and prioritizes them using a dot-voting system.

Finally, by considering the long-term goal, sprint questions, customer journey map, and expert insights, the team selects a single target customer and a critical moment in their experience to tackle throughout the rest of the sprint.


Tuesday is dedicated to brainstorming solutions based on the insights gathered on Monday. The team starts with “Lightning Demos” – three-minute presentations showcasing inspiring solutions from other products and industries. These demos spark new ideas and help the team approach their challenge from fresh perspectives.

Next comes the sketching phase. Everyone on the team creates individual sketches, focusing on key areas identified in the customer journey map. The emphasis is on quickly translating ideas into visual solutions, not artistic quality.

These sketches will be reviewed and refined on Wednesday, forming the foundation for the prototype and customer testing later in the week.

The four-step sketch

Tuesday afternoon is dedicated to transforming ideas into detailed sketches. The session starts with a “boot up” phase, allowing individual time to gather notes, brainstorm rough ideas, and quickly explore alternative solutions using “Crazy 8s.”

The core activity is creating a “solution sketch” – each person’s most promising solution visualized in detail. These sketches should be self-explanatory, anonymous, and well-written, focusing on the customer journey through the proposed solution. On Wednesday morning, all sketches are posted anonymously for team review and selection.

Customer recruitment typically starts on Monday or Tuesday. The team leverages existing networks and Craigslist to find potential participants. A generic ad is posted on Craigslist with a link to a screening survey. An incentive, like a gift card, is offered to attract interest.

The screening survey filters participants based on pre-defined criteria – characteristics the team wants to include and exclude in their test group. By Wednesday afternoon, the team can start contacting potential participants and scheduling interviews for Friday’s testing.


On Wednesday morning, the team gathers to evaluate all solution sketches simultaneously. They use a “heat map” approach with dot stickers to identify interesting aspects of each solution. A facilitator leads a “speed critique” discussion for each sketch, highlighting key ideas and capturing them on sticky notes. Finally, everyone casts a vote for their preferred solution using a “straw poll.”

The Decider, with input from the CEO, has the final say. They review the dot votes and provide a “supervote” to determine the winning sketch(es). By lunchtime, the team knows which solutions will be prototyped and tested on Friday.


On Wednesday afternoon, you’ll take the winning sketches and string them together into a storyboard. This will be similar to the 3-panel storyboards you sketched on Tuesday, but it will be longer: about 10-15 panels, all tightly connected into one cohesive story. You’ll use your story-board to imagine your finished prototype, so you can spot problems and points of confusion before the prototype is built.

Draw a grid

The storyboard is a 15-frame grid depicting the user’s journey through the prototype, starting a step or two before the actual solution. It’s recommended to include competitors’ products in the test alongside your own.

The storyboard creation follows a comic book style, with one team member drawing each scene and the team discussing it before moving on. Existing ideas from solution sketches should be used for details and writing.

The goal is to keep the entire prototype experience within 15 minutes to ensure focus on core solutions. Each storyboard frame represents one minute of testing time.

Once all winning sketches are incorporated, the storyboard is complete. While new ideas might arise, the focus should remain on testing the existing concepts to maximize the sprint’s efficiency.


  • Focus on Appearance: Prioritize creating a prototype that looks real and believable, even if it’s not fully functional.
  • Thursday’s Goal: Simulate a real product within a day to evoke genuine user reactions during Friday’s testing.
  • Key Principles:
    • Prototype anything: No limitations on what can be prototyped.
    • Disposable prototypes: They serve their purpose during testing and don’t need to be permanent.
    • Build just enough: Focus on core functionalities for learning, not comprehensive features.
    • Appearance matters: A believable prototype is crucial for obtaining valuable user reactions.
  • Distinguish Feedback vs. Reaction: Aim for user reactions to your seemingly real product, not in-depth feedback on functionalities (which hold less value at this stage).


Challenge: To build a seemingly impossible prototype for a personalized fitness trainer app in a day.


  1. Divide and Conquer: Tasks were divided among team members based on their skills (e.g., writing script, recording video).
  2. Leverage Existing Tools:
    • Keynote on iPad was used to create a slideshow resembling a real app.
    • Pre-made templates with realistic iPad buttons and icons were incorporated.
    • Photos and illustrations from the actual FitStar app were included for a more realistic feel.
  3. Prioritize Appearance:
    • Videos were embedded into the slides.
    • Screenshots from the iPad App Store were added for an authentic touch.
    • Consistency across slides was ensured.


  • Despite not being actual software, the prototype looked real enough to evoke genuine user reactions.
  • The team obtained valuable information to identify promising solutions and discard irrelevant ones.
  • This “fake it” approach allowed the team to build a functional prototype within just seven hours.

Key Takeaway: In the context of a design sprint, creating a believable prototype is more important than intricate functionalities, as the goal is to gather user reactions, not detailed feedback on features.

Question: What’s the best way to explain Slack to non-tech customers?
Format: Two competing websites with interactive software.
Tools: Keynote, InVision (prototyping software), the real Slack software, and some acting.

Question: What essential information do oncologists need to make treatment decisions?
Format: Paper medical report with first page only.
Tools: Keynote, realistic test data, printer.

Question: How will hotel guests react to a robot with personality?
Format: Physical robot with iPad touch screen.
Tools: Keynote, sound effects library, iPad, robot, remote control, hotel room, acting.

Question: Can a doctor’s office for professionals adapt to families with kids?
Format: A medical clinic that’s only open for one night.
Tools: Doctor’s office, medical staff, bananas, crayons.


1. Prototype for Presentation, Not Development

Ditch the usual development tools! Prototyping aims to showcase a product’s look and feel, not its internal workings. Keynote or slide presentations are ideal for this. Instead of building a working device, focus on creating website mockups, sales videos, brochures, or slide decks that would be used to market the actual product.

2. Assemble Your Prototype Team

Here’s a winning team structure for rapid prototyping:

  • Makers (2+): These are the builders who craft the individual components of the prototype.
  • Stitcher (1): This role, often a designer or engineer, establishes stylistic guidelines in the morning and assembles the final prototype from the Makers’ contributions, typically after lunch.
  • Asset Collector(s): This team scours the web, image libraries, and even your company’s existing products for elements to accelerate the Makers’ work.
  • Writer (1): It’s impossible to make a realistic prototype with unrealistic text.
  • Interviewer (1): This individual conducts user interviews using the completed prototype on Friday. The interviewer can use the prototype day to write a script based on the conversation starters and refine it as the team finalizes the prototype. This script can be printed for reference during the interview on Friday.

3. Polish and Perfect

Once assembled, meticulously review the prototype for typos or any glaring errors. Remember, even minor imperfections can break the illusion for potential customers and remind them they’re looking at a concept, not a finished product.

4. Prototype Walkthrough and Refinement

Schedule a mandatory team meeting at 3 PM on Thursday. Everyone pauses their work to gather around as the Stitcher walks through the entire prototype, narrating its functionalities. This walkthrough serves several purposes:

  • The Interviewer becomes familiar with the prototype and interview script to maximize user feedback sessions.
  • The Decider (presumably a product manager or ceo) verifies that the prototype aligns with their vision.

This collaborative walkthrough on Thursday helps ensure a smooth and successful user interview session on Friday.


Uncover User Insights Through Friday Interviews

Friday is dedicated to gathering valuable user feedback through focused interviews. The Interviewer will conduct one-on-one sessions with five target customers, allowing each participant to interact with the prototype and try completing a specific task. While the customer interacts, the Interviewer will ask insightful questions to understand their thought process and experience.

Simultaneous Observation and Debrief

The remaining team members won’t be idle. They’ll observe the interviews remotely via a video stream, taking detailed notes on user reactions and interactions with the prototype. This collaborative observation allows the team to glean valuable insights beyond what the interviewer might capture alone.

Efficiency in Learning

The beauty of this approach lies in its efficiency. By scheduling five one-hour sessions with short breaks in between, you can gather significant user feedback within a single day. Wrap up the day with a team debrief to discuss the observations and collectively identify areas for improvement in the prototype. Five well-conducted interviews can yield a surprising wealth of knowledge to guide your product development.

The Five-Act Interview

1. Warm Welcome and Setting Expectations

  • Location: Greet the customer in a comfortable interview room, separate from the team observation area.
  • Technology: Use a standard laptop with video conferencing software (Zoom/Google Meet) to allow the team to observe with the customer’s permission.
  • Introduction: Begin with a friendly welcome, thanking the customer for their time and emphasizing the value of their honest feedback.

2. Context Setting Through Conversation (10-15 minutes)

  • Natural Flow: Ask open-ended questions related to the product’s purpose and the customer’s life. This disguised “pre-interview” phase helps understand their needs and frame the upcoming prototype interaction.
  • Focus: Aim to discover how the product might fit into their life, their general thoughts on competitors, and any relevant background information.

3. Introducing the Prototype (5 minutes)

  • Transparency: Explain that you’ll be showing prototypes and some features might not be fully functional yet.
  • Openness: Reassure the customer there are no right or wrong answers and encourage honest, candid feedback.
  • Active Participation: Ask them to “think aloud” while interacting with the prototype, explaining their thought process and questions.

4. Prototype Exploration and Task Completion (20-30 minutes)

  • Guiding Tasks: Present a series of detailed tasks that encourage the customer to interact with the prototype in a natural way.
  • Example Prompts:
    • “Imagine you find this app in the app store. How would you decide if you wanted to try it?”
    • “What do you think this feature is for?”
    • “As you navigate this section, what are you looking for?”
    • “What would you do next, and why?”

5. Capturing Overall Impressions (5-10 minutes)

  • Comparative Insights: Ask how the prototype compares to their current solutions.
  • Feedback Pointers: Guide them towards sharing both positive and negative aspects of the experience.
  • Product Perception: Encourage them to describe the product in their own words, as they might explain it to a friend.
  • Improvement Wishes: Pose a hypothetical scenario where they have three wishes to improve the product. This helps identify key areas for refinement.


  • Gratitude and Incentive: Thank the customer for their valuable time and offer a gift card as a token of appreciation.

This interview process, ensures a comfortable environment for the customer, and allows for effective data collection through a combination of open-ended questions and guided tasks.

Joe described customer interviews as both agonizing and enlightening. He recalled, “We were smacking our heads,” realizing their website was riddled with flaws. Even basic tasks like picking a date on the calendar utterly confused users. When they returned to the office, Joe and his co-founders spent a week fixing the most glaring problems, and then released a new version to their customers. Weekly revenue doubled to $400, and this wasn’t the end. Weekly revenue rocketed upwards, doubling again and again to $800, then $1600, and finally $3200. That growth didn’t stop. That startup was Airbnb.

“There’s this crucial gap between a company’s vision and its customers’ needs,” Joe emphasizes. “You have to talk to people,” he says, “to bridge that gap and make your vision a reality.”

1. Be the Perfect Host

Make your customers feel comfortable and welcome. This puts them at ease and encourages them to be open and honest.

2. Open Up the Conversation

Focus on open-ended questions that can’t be answered with a simple yes or no. Instead of leading questions like “Now that you’ve seen the site, what do you think of the layout?”, ask broader questions like “What are your initial impressions of the website?”

3. Dig Deeper with Powerful Prompts

Use the “Five Ws and One H” (Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How) as a framework to craft insightful questions. For example, instead of “Why is that?”, ask “Can you elaborate on why you found that confusing?”

4. Embrace the Power of Silence

“Broken questions” like “So, what…?” followed by a pause, encourage customers to elaborate on their thoughts without feeling pressured for a quick answer.

5. Cultivate a Genuine Curiosity Mindset

Approach the interview with a genuine interest in your customer and their perspective. Actively listen, ask “why” questions to understand their reasoning, and avoid assumptions. Show your engagement through nonverbal cues like smiling, leaning in, and maintaining open body language.


Friday: Unveiling Your Prototype and Charting the Course

Friday is your opportunity to culminate your sprint story. It’s the day you get to unveil your prototypes to real customers, witness their reactions, gather answers to your sprint questions, and solidify your next steps. While the interviewer conducts user testing, the team can convene in the sprint room to observe and take notes collaboratively. This synchronized observation offers a significant efficiency boost, allowing everyone to absorb the valuable customer insights simultaneously.

Friday: Collaborative Observation and Insight Gathering

Setting the Stage for Observation

Before the first interview, transform the sprint room into a collaborative observation hub. On a large whiteboard, create a grid with columns for each customer and rows for each prototype section, sprint question, or key area of observation. Distribute sticky notes and colored markers (green for positive, red for negative, black for neutral) to everyone.

Active Observation with Sticky Notes

As the interview unfolds, encourage the team to be attentive listeners and meticulous note-takers. When something sparks their interest, be it a customer quote, an interesting behavior, or a personal interpretation of the interaction, they should capture it on a sticky note using the designated color code.

Analyzing the Collective Insights

After each interview, gather the sticky notes and arrange them on the whiteboard grid, ensuring they correspond to the correct customer and observation area. Take a short break to allow everyone to process their individual observations.

Unearthing Patterns as a Team

Reconvene the team at the whiteboard. Spend a few minutes individually identifying patterns within the collective notes. Then, facilitate a group discussion where each team member shares their findings and reads discovered patterns aloud.

Synthesis and Prioritization

On a separate whiteboard, consolidate all identified patterns, labeling them positive, negative, or neutral. Refer back to your long-term goals and sprint questions defined on Monday. With these customer insights in mind, determining the next steps should become clear.

Decision Making and Iteration

Allow for a brief team discussion to brainstorm potential next steps based on the gathered insights. Ultimately, the Decider will make the final call on how to proceed.

The Power of Customer Connection

By integrating customer feedback into your development cycle, you’ll be constantly reminded of the “why” behind your hard work. Every interview brings you and your team closer to the people you’re striving to help with your product.

You’ll find checklists for every part of your sprint at the