The Sprint Secret That Launched Harry Potter

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Harry Potter owes its first publishing to an 8-year-old. Nigel Newton, CEO of Bloomsbury Publishing, didn’t read through the first manuscript of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone himself. He brought it home and gave it to his 8-year-old daughter, Alice, to read. She read the first chapter and came away glowing.

“Dad, this is so much better than anything else.”

It didn’t just stop there. Alice nagged her dad for months wanting to see what was next.

It seems so obvious to talk about it after the fact, but testing something out is the best way to gauge how it will land in the market. Picking a children’s book? Give it to a child to read and see what they think.

This is why anyone starting an idea with their focus being to get rich has a harder time gaining traction with their product compared to someone who genuinely loves solving the problem they are working on. Knowing what you’re doing will make the world a better place and solving an interesting problem will make you a better maker. You will be able to focus on the problem and how customers react. Nigel obviously loves his work and reading. He’s raising a daughter who wants to read. He wasn’t only thinking about making money quickly. That’s not how you make money quick (enlist your 8-year-old for help). But it is how you love the journey of testing out books to find the next endearing story (which Harry Potter definitely has become).

DON’T JUST FOCUS ON THE MONEY

The secret is not to think about what the customer would like, but to actually test it.

The secret is not to think about what the customer would like, but to actually test it. Click To Tweet

Don’t ask a customer what they think, but actually watch them use your product. This is amazingly easy to talk about, and amazingly hard to do. The arrogance that we know what is good or not good is a vice for all product makers. 

Validate your ideas. Watch a customer use some simple version of them. This is one way a sprint brings tremendous insight and generates excitement to help you and your team continue forward.

In the past year, my partner and I have helped other companies sprint to validate many ideas, as well as used sprints to validate several of our own ideas. Check out our guide to pitching sprints to get better at convincing others you work with to use sprints. 

When people ask me about sprints, I tell them the most important principle is having the humility to learn. That’s why you should prototype and test. Watching 5 people use a prototype will teach you more in a few hours than months of building something will ever uncover. It just takes 5.

VALIDATING FIRST MAKES FOR GREAT PRODUCTS AND HAPPY TEAMS.
Watching 5 people use a prototype will teach you more in a few hours than months of building something will ever uncover. Click To Tweet

Resources to help Product Managers find work they love and enjoy the work they do

For product managers who don’t want to hate Mondays.

Hi! I’m Ryan. I find and teach patterns that can help you find a job and master product management.

Topics include getting a product management job, creating roadmaps, influencing your team, prioritizing, launch products customers love, and getting a promotion.