‘…AND TEST NEW IDEAS IN JUST FIVE DAYS’ part four

by Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky, and Braden Kowitz
Published by Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 9781501121746
eBook ISBN: 9781501121777
Copyright (c) 2016 by Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky, and Braden Kowitz

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“The sprint is GV’s unique five-day process for answering crucial questions through prototyping and testing ideas with customers. It’s a “greatest hits” of business strategy, innovation, behavioral science, design, and more—packaged into a step-by-step process that any team can use.

The Savioke team considered dozens of ideas for their robot, then used structured decision-making to select the strongest solutions without group think. They built a realistic prototype in just one day. And for the final step of the sprint, they recruited target customers and set up a makeshift research lab at a nearby hotel.

We’d love to tell you that we, the authors, were the genius heroes of this story. It’d be wonderful if we could swoop into any company and dish out brilliant ideas that would transform it into a breakout success. Unfortunately, we are not geniuses. Savioke’s sprint worked because of the real experts: the people who were on the team all along. We just gave them a process to get it done.

Here’s how the Savioke sprint went down. And if you’re not a roboticist yourself, don’t worry. We use this same exact sprint structure for software, services, marketing, and other fields.

First, the team cleared a full week on their calendars. From Monday to Friday, they canceled all meetings, set the “out of office” responders on their email, and completely focused on one question: How should their robot behave around humans?

Next, they manufactured a deadline. Savioke made arrangements with the hotel to run a live test on the Friday of their sprint week. Now the pressure was on. There were only four days to design and prototype a working solution.

On Monday, Savioke reviewed everything they knew about the problem. Steve talked about the importance of guest satisfaction, which hotels measure and track religiously. If the Relay robot boosted satisfaction numbers during the pilot program, hotels would order more robots. But if that number stayed flat, or fell, and the orders didn’t come in, their fledgling business would be in a precarious position.

Together, we created a map to identify the biggest risks. Think of this map as a story: guest meets robot, robot gives guest toothbrush, guest falls for robot. 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, and so on. So where should we spend our effort? With only five days in the sprint, you have to focus on a specific target. Steve chose the moment of delivery. Get it right, and the guest is delighted. Get it wrong, and the front desk might spend all day answering questions from confused travelers.

One big concern came up again and again: The team worried about making the robot appear too smart. “We’re all spoiled by C-3PO and WALL-E,” explained Steve. “We expect robots to have feelings and plans, hopes and dreams. Our robot is just not that sophisticated. If guests talk to it, it’s not going to talk back. And if we disappoint people, we’re sunk.”

On Tuesday, the team switched from problem to solutions. Instead of a raucous brainstorm, people sketched solutions on their own. And it wasn’t just the designers. Tessa Lau, the chief robot engineer, sketched. So did Izumi Yaskawa, the head of business development, and Steve, the CEO.

By Wednesday morning, sketches and notes plastered the walls of the conference room. Some of the ideas were new, but some were old ideas that had once been discarded or never thought through. In all, we had twenty-three competing solutions.

How could we narrow them down? In most organizations, it would take weeks of meetings and endless emails to decide. But we had a single day. Friday’s test was looming, and everybody could sense it. We used voting and structured discussion to decide quickly, quietly, and without argument.

The test would include a slate of Savioke designer Adrian Canoso’s boldest ideas: a face for the robot and a soundtrack of beeps and chimes. It would also include one of the more intriguing but controversial ideas from the sketches: When the robot was happy, it would do a dance. “I’m still nervous about giving it too much personality,” Steve said. “But this is the time to take risks.”

“After all,” said Tessa, “if it blows up now, we can always dial back.” Then she saw the looks on our faces. “Figure of speech. Don’t worry, the robot can’t actually blow up.”

As Thursday dawned, we had just eight hours to get the prototype ready for Friday’s live test in the hotel. That shouldn’t have been enough time. We used two tricks to finish our prototype on time:

Much of the hard work had been done already. On Wednesday, we had agreed on which ideas to test, and documented each potential solution in detail. Only the execution remained.

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.

Tessa and fellow engineer Allison Tse programmed and tuned the robot’s movements using a beat-up laptop and a PlayStation controller. Adrian put on a pair of massive headphones and orchestrated the sound effects. The “face” was mocked up on an iPad and mounted to the robot. By 5 p.m., the robot was ready.

For Friday’s test, Savioke had lined up interviews with guests at the local Starwood hotel in Cupertino, California. At 7 a.m. that morning, we rigged a makeshift research lab inside one of the hotel’s rooms by duct-taping a couple of webcams to the wall. And at 9:14 a.m., the first guest was beginning her interview.”


FROM THE BOOK JACKET:

From three partners at Google Ventures, a unique five-day process for solving tough problems, proven at more than a hundred companies.

Entrepreneurs and leaders face big questions every day: What’s the most important place to focus your effort, and how do you start? What will your idea look like in real life? How many meetings and discussions does it take before you can be sure you have the right solution?

Now there’s a surefire way to answer these important questions: the sprint. Designer Jake Knapp created the five-day process at Google, where sprints were used on everything from Google Search to Google X. He joined Braden Kowitz and John Zeratsky at Google Ventures, and together they have completed more than a hundred sprints with companies in mobile, e-commerce, healthcare, finance, and more.

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 today.


ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

Jake Knapp created the Google Ventures sprint process and has run more than a hundred sprints with startups such as 23andMe, Slack, Nest, and Foundation Medicine. Previously, Jake worked at Google, leading sprints for everything from Gmail to Google X. He is among the worlds tallest designers.

Braden Kowitz founded the Google Ventures design team in 2009 and pioneered the role of “design partner” at a venture capital firm. He has advised close to two hundred startups on product design, hiring, and team culture. Before joining Google Ventures, Braden led design for several Google products, including Gmail, Google Apps for Business, Google Spreadsheets, and Google Trends.

John Zeratsky has designed mobile apps, medical reports, and a daily newspaper (among other things). Before joining Google Ventures, he was a design lead at YouTube and an early employee of FeedBurner, which Google acquired in 2007. John writes about design and productivity for The Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, and Wired. He studied journalism at the University of Wisconsin.

This week’s selection ‘SPRINT: HOW TO SOLVE BIG PROBLEMS AND TEST NEW IDEAS IN JUST FIVE DAYS’ by Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky, and Braden Kowitz ‘appears Monday thru Friday and comes to you courtesy of dearreader.com and BurlingtonPublicLibrary.ca Business Online Book Club.

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