Jake Knapp on Testing New Ideas

Jake Knapp, GV Design Partner

Jake Knapp is a design partner at Google Ventures (GV). He created GV’s sprint process and is the author of Sprint, a book discussing a 5-step process for solving problems and testing new ideas. Knapp has run more than a hundred sprints with startups such as 23andme, About.me, Slack, Nest, and Foundation Medicine. Previously, Knapp worked at Google, leading sprints for everything from Gmail to Google X. He also started Google Hangouts. Knapp is a frequent speaker on design process and has previously spoken at Stanford, UC-Berkeley, and Columbia University.

In an interview with Kevin Ryan, Inc. Magazine‘s associate editor, Knapp discusses how top startups use a week-long “design sprint” to incubate new concepts.

“At Google Ventures we bet that design could help companies be more successful if we could find a way to use it,” says Knapp. “We thought we can actually speed up how companies tested ideas and help them be more in touch with their customers and find solutions that matched the spread. This is a big part of our philosophy and its really only through this opportunity to work with all these different companies really fast in the very early stages that we’ve been able to kind of battle-test and find this 5-step formula that works so well.”

Knapp details the 5-step process like so:

“On Monday the job is to make a map of the problem and how all the pieces fit together and list out the customers. Then once the team has done that, they can pick a target and make sure that they’re focused on the right spot.”

Tuesday is when you start coming up with solutions,” continues Knapp. “We work individually and quietly and this allows every person on the team to come up with their own opinionated solution so by the end of the day on Tuesday you’ve got these competing ideas.”

“On Wednesday you have to choose and figure out which of these ideas is the best,” he says. “Which ones do we want to test so we do some structure decision-making again?”

Thursday you build a prototype,” continues Knapp. “We want something that looks realistic and when the customer sees it they’ll react. We really want people to show us the way they would respond in the real world if this thing was finished and built.”
“On Friday we test it so we take that facade and we show it to five customers, one at a time,” says Knapp. “We bring in customers and show them the prototype, sometimes multiple prototypes, that are kind of competing head-to-head so by the end of the day on Friday you know which ideas work and which ones need some more work before they’re ready.”
View the full video here.

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