Salary Negotiation Tips: 3 Mistakes to Avoid by Lewis Lin

Source: Flickr

Source: Flickr

SEE ALSO: 60+ Brilliant Salary Negotiation Scripts

When I think about the underhanded negotiation tactics that others have used on me over the years, three categories come to mind:


"You want to pay $1 for this t-shirt?!? You are a rich Google employee. I work hard. You insult me."

Why does guilt work
Exploits a person's ego. 

In this example, the buyer sees himself as a fair, generous person that doesn't insult others.

What usually happens
"Ok, how about $10 for the shirt?"

The buyer could have bought the shirt for $1.50 from another seller. However, they rationalize the $10 purchase by saying the same shirt would have cost $45 in a Manhattan boutique.
How to counter
Don't take it personally. Be assertive instead. E.g. "I understand you worked hard to sell this shirt. However, I could buy this shirt from a different vendor for $1.50." You are no longer insulting the vendor. You are now explaining to him that you would do what any other rational person would do.


"If you don't accept this offer in the next 24 hours, I'll cancel it."

Why does it work
Loss aversion. 

We get upset for days (sometimes years) when we miss an opportunity.

What usually happens
"Ok, I'll take it."

How to counter
If the proposer has a mutually interchangeable option, then their threat is credible. However, this is not as likely as it seems. For 99.9% of all negotiations, plan B is rarely as good as plan A.

So the response here should be, "I understand you want to move quickly. However, this is a decision that I'm not taking lightly. I'd like to have 5 business days to evaluate your offer before giving you my final decision."


"How do I know you're a cop?"
"The Constitution says all cops have to admit whether or not they're a cop when asked. So ask me."
"Are you a cop?"
"Ok, here's your dope."
"I'm arresting you. I'm with the Albuquerque police."
(dialogue paraphrased by Breaking Bad, the TV show)

Why does it work
Overconfidence bias. 

We feel strongly about our abilities (in this case, intellect) that we conclude that this must be true, even though we're not an expert in Constitutional law.

Ideal response
Do your homework before you go with your gut.

SEE ALSO: 60+ Brilliant Salary Negotiation Scripts

Famous Negotiation Example from Silicon Valley by Lewis Lin

Photo credit: Fumi Yamazaki

Photo credit: Fumi Yamazaki

One of the most famous negotiation examples in Silicon Valley will absolutely blow your mind:

Evan Williams' buyback from Odeo's investors allowed him to own more of Twitter.

The clever part of the negotiation: how he positioned Twitter's potential (see bold).

Then, one day in September 2006, Odeo's CEO Evan Williams wrote a letter to Odeo's investors. In it, Williams told them that the company was going nowhere, that he felt bad about that, and that he would like to buy back their shares so they wouldn't take a loss.

In his letter to Odeo's investors, Williams wrote this about Twitter:

By the way, Twitter (Twitter), which you may have read about, is one of the pieces of value that I see in Odeo, but it's much too early to tell what's there. Almost two months after launch, Twitter has less than 5,000 registered users. I will continue to invest in Twitter, but it's hard to say it justifies the venture investment Odeo certainly holds -- especially since that investment was for a different market altogether.

Evan proposed buying back Odeo investors' stock, and, eventually, the investors agreed to the buyback. So Evan bought the company – and Twitter. The amount he paid has never been reported. Multiple investors, who had combined to put $5 million into Odeo, say Evan made them whole.

Five years later, assets of the company the original Odeo investors sold for approximately $5 million are now worth at least 1000X more: $5 billion.

Source: The Real History Of Twitter

PM Practice Interview Community: Our Wins by Lewis Lin

Our PM interview practice community has grown to nearly 1,000 members, and we're getting a lot of good wins including Google and Uber. If you're interviewing coveted PM interview roles, find PM interview practice partners and join the community today!

Uber PM Job Offer

This community and @lewislin is the best. just heard back from Uber, it's a yes! I had interviewed there twice before over the years, but it wasn't until I encountered Lewis, his materials, and this community that I was finally able to crack it.

Google APM Job Offer

Hey everyone! Just wanted to take a moment to thank you all for the practice sessions! I heard back from Google yesterday and got the APM position I wanted this group was extremely helpful to me! Thanks @lewislin for setting this up!




Customer Journey Map: The 5Es Framework by Lewis Lin

What is a customer journey map?

A customer journey map reveals the step-by-step process of a customer's experience. It helps designers, product managers, and engineers to understand how customers interact with your product and uncover opportunities for improvement.

Do you have any customer journey examples?

Here are some of my favorite customer journey map examples:

What customer journey map template do you recommend?

My favorite customer journey map framework is the 5Es framework.

What is the 5Es framework?

The 5Es is an acronym and checklist to help brainstorm different stages of the customer experience. The 5Es helps you build a customer journey map quickly and easily.

Here are the 5Es:

  • Entice. What event triggers a user to enter into the UX funnel?
  • Enter. What are the first few steps in the UX funnel?
  • Engage. What task(s) is the user trying to accomplish?
  • Exit. How does the user complete the task?
  • Extend. What follow-up actions occur after the user completes the task?

A customer journey map can help you uncover product improvement opportunities.

Do you have an example of applying the 5E framework?

Here's a customer journey map example, based on the 5Es framework. For more examples, refer to my book, PM Interview Questions.

Does my customer journey map need to be elaborate?

Make the customer journey map as elaborate as it needs to be, no more. 

A good customer journey map is less about whether it's aesthetically pleasing and more about whether it helps you:

  1. Empathize with the customer
  2. Discover product improvement opportunities

Furthermore, if you are drawing out a customer journey map at product manager job interview, keep your time constraints in mind. The customer journey map should only be one part of your overall product design answer.

Negotiation Tips for October 2016 by Lewis Lin


Earlier today I emailed a friend with some negotiation advice. I thought some of you might find it helpful, so I've decided to share those tips here. For more tips, refer to Five Minutes to a Higher Salary.

Put all your asks at once.

If I'm reading it correctly, it sounds you've put out your base salary request, but not your title change request.

I'd put in an email ASAP and say, 

"One more thing I forgot to mention, I'd like to have a title of X instead of Y because ...."

Last thing the hiring manager wants is a protracted negotiation or the feeling that you're stringing them along.

Explain your reasoning.

I'd prefer the title X because...

(Your explanation sounded reasonable to me: entry-level, limits future prospects because it sounds niche, etc.)

Prioritize, if asked.

It's absolutely okay to ask for multiple things (salary and title change). You might get both!

However, if they ask which one is important to you, do be clear on which one is more important. Not stating can come across as being difficult, unreasonable, greedy, etc.

Be nice.

I can't imagine you not being nice. :) 

I know you don't want to lose this offer, and just a reminder that offers *only* get lost when candidates take the offer personally (aka low offer = reflection of self-worth), get emotional (e.g. "you make me go through this crazy job process and you insult me with this") or tries to copy actors in TV shows (e.g. "this is my final offer" -- i.e. no ultimatums).

Photo credit: Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design

A simple process to negotiate your starting salary by Lewis Lin

Lewis' Note: Today we have a guest blog post from Josh Doody, the author of Fearless Salary Negotiation. It's a honor to get different perspectives on how to approach a salary negotiation.

Josh Doody

Josh Doody

Salary negotiation can seem like a big, scary topic. Most people know they should negotiate their starting salary, but because it's a big, scary topic, they often just throw their hands up and accept the job offer. Or maybe they make a half-hearted attempt at a counter offer and back down immediately if the company pushes back.

A great way to manage big, scary situations is to follow a process. A good process gives you small steps to take so you make progress a little bit at a time without feeling overwhelmed. So here's a process you can use to negotiate your salary without feeling overwhelmed.

Keep your current and desired salary to yourself

The first step in the salary negotiation process usually comes up early in the job interview process, so it might catch you off guard. I call it The Dreaded Salary Question, and it might sound familiar:

“So where are you right now in terms of salary, and what are you looking for if you make this move?"

Don't disclose your current or desired salary in your job interview or salary negotiation.

Later on, you hope to get a job offer. And you want that offer to be as strong as possible, reflecting the value you'll bring to the company if you get the position. Throughout the interview process, you'll continually demonstrate that you'll be an asset to their team, and you want your job offer to reflect that.

When you disclose your current and desired salary, it's more likely that your eventual job offer will reflect those numbers rather than the value you bring to the role.

So how do respond when asked for your current or desired salary? Try this:

"I’m not comfortable sharing my current salary. I would prefer to focus on the value I can add to this company rather than what I’m paid at my current job. I don’t have a specific number in mind for a desired salary, and you know better than I do what value my skillset and experience could bring to your company. I want this move to be a big step forward for me in terms of both responsibility and compensation."

Set your "walk away" number before you get a job offer

Your minimum acceptable salary is your "walk away" number—your line in the sand for the minimum salary you will accept if you take the job.

This number—your minimum acceptable salary—is how you guarantee that your salary negotiation will have a positive result. You will either exceed this number and take the job, or you will walk away from the opportunity satisfied that it wasn't a good fit.

Ask for time to think it over

The first thing you should do when you finally get a job offer is to ask for time to consider it. This will give you time to objectively consider the job offer, compare it to your minimum acceptable salary from earlier, and calculate your counter offer.

Here's one way to ask for a couple days to thin it over:

"Thanks so much for the offer! I would like to take a couple of days to think it over and discuss it with my family."

Always negotiate

You should always counteroffer, even if you really like the offer. Why? Because there's a lot of upside and virtually no downside.

The upside is that the company may be willing to pay more than they offered. Sometimes, they will leave room just in case you negotiate. But the only way to find that out is to counter offer.

There really is now downside. Many people are afraid the company will retract the job offer if they negotiate, but this just doesn't happen. There may also be a fear that they'll "start things off on the wrong foot" with their new hiring manager by negotiating. But most hiring managers anticipate that some employees will negotiate, and they often perceive a savvy negotiator as a good business person who will be good to have on the team.

Counter offer in an email if you can

I recommend countering between 10% and 20% above the base salary in the job offer. Counter closer to 10% if you need the job pretty badly and you don't sense that the company is desperate to hire you. Counter closer to 20% above the job offer if you have other options and you sense the company specifically needs you to do the job.

Once you've determined your counter offer, deliver it via email if you can. Not only will this help ensure that you can articulate your complete case very clearly, but it will create a document that can be circulated internally at the company as they discuss your counter offer.

Here's a salary negotiation email sample you can use as a template to help you get started.

Maximize base salary, then negotiate other benefits

Counter offering is a big step, but it's not the last step in your negotiation! Once you deliver your counter offer, the company will likely come back to you with a response somewhere between their initial job offer and your counter offer. Spend some time considering how you'll respond to each increment in that salary range to attempt to increase your base salary or add more benefits to your total compensation package.

It may sound overwhelming to consider all of their possible responses, but remember that there is a pretty narrow window of possible responses between their initial offer and your counter offer. For example, if they offered $50,000 and you countered at $60,000, then there's only a $10,000 window to plan for.

For each base salary increment in that window, consider whether you'll accept their response or counter again. Once you've maximized your base salary, you can ask about other benefits as long as they don't say "Yes." to your last response.

Here's what that may sound like in practice:

"You offered $50,000 and I suggested $60,000. You came up to $55,000—which I appreciate very much!—but I was hoping for $60,000. If you can do $55,000 plus an extra week of paid vacation, then I'm on board!"

This way, you can maximize your base salary, and work to improve your benefits package during your negotiation.

That's a simple, step-by-step process you can use to negotiate your starting salary. Follow this process and you'll find that salary negotiation is much less intimidating than it may have seemed before.

Get a free step-by-step guide to negotiating your starting salary including how to calculate your counter offer and a script for your final discussion: Get the guide

Interview Evaluation Sheet for PM Roles by Lewis Lin

Five Interview Evaluation Sheets

Here are five interview evaluation sheets for product manage roles including:

Use it for:

  • Evaluating your next PM interview candidate 
  • Assessing with your PM interview practice partner
Screenshot: PM Interview Evaluation Sheet for Product Design Questions

Screenshot: PM Interview Evaluation Sheet for Product Design Questions

Screenshot: Interview Evaluation Sheet for Behavioral Interview Questions

Screenshot: Interview Evaluation Sheet for Behavioral Interview Questions

PM Interview Practice Partner Community by Lewis Lin

PM Interview Practice Community is a partner matching service that allows you to find a PM interview practice partner.

Screenshot: PM Interview Practice Community

Screenshot: PM Interview Practice Community

Signups are limited. Request your exclusive invitation to this group.

You've got to train if you want to win the interview.

The best candidates train by doing LOTS of mock interviews, with peers. Here's what one candidate, Florian, had to say:

Thanks to my extensive preparations with approximately 70 mock interviews, I received offers from the two most coveted companies in the industry.

The 2 Week Product Management Interview Prep Plan by Lewis Lin

Have a PM interview for Google, Amazon, or Facebook, in the next 2 weeks?

Ace that PM interview interview with my 2 week PM Interview Prep Plan. Read on below, and I will walk you through it.

And if you really want to improve, find a PM interview practice partner on my exclusive PM Interview Practice group. To get an invite, just enter your email address and follow the signup instructions.

Week 1

Day 1-3: Product Design

Master the SCAMPER framework in Thinkertoys (~40 pages) to develop a creative thinking mindset.

Many of us are convergent thinkers. That is, we take the world of possibility and narrow it down to the best possible solution. I hope that doesn't surprise you. If you're a PM candidate, you're likely analytical by nature. And analytical types are very good at convergent thought.

Brainstorming requires divergent thinking. And analytical types don't practice divergent thinking often. To change how we think (and increase brainstorm effectiveness), apply brainstorming frameworks in Thinkertoys in your everyday life.

Try the framework without a time limit at first, then push yourself to define problems and solutions within 60-90 seconds to simulate an interview environment.

All product design should be based around solving current and potential customer problems. Exercise your ability to empathize with the customer by ranting about products you currently use. Move onto developing other personas and define the problems they might face.  

The CIRCLES Method™ in Decode and Conquer is the key framework you need to know to answer product design interview questions. Pair up with a partner and breakdown core products of your target companies.

Interviewers love it when you can draw your product ideas on a whiteboard. Unfortunately, many of us are afraid to do so. Author and researcher Brené Brown says that a third of us have a creativity scar. That is, we recall a specific incident when we were told that we weren't talented as an artist, musician, writer or singer. And Dan Roam says that roughly 75 percent of business people are afraid to pick up a whiteboard marker to do anything beyond highlighting other people's drawings.

So to get comfortable with drawing wire-frames on a whiteboard, we need to do what designers do: build a UX vocabulary of common elements. Start by reviewing Web UI Design Patterns, Mobile UI Design Patterns, and the UX Guidebook for Product Managers. From there, it's about overcoming that fear and practice doodling on the whiteboard canvas.

Goal: Think creatively, utilize a framework, and use relevant UX vocabulary when answering questions about product design.

Day 4-5: Metrics

Review the AARM Method™ in Decode and Conquer to learn how to evaluate and brainstorm top metrics for certain products or companies. Use the pros and cons approach to help you best determine which metric is the most important. From there, get into the practice of building issue trees to diagnose why metrics may be under or over performing.

Goal: Identify key product metrics, develop strong arguments on why one metric is more important than others and use issue trees to root cause metric performance.

Day 6-7: Estimation

Practice the exercises from Chapter 3 and 4 in Interview Math to develop research and critical-thinking skills for analytical problems. Start with a clear plan on how you plan to derive an answer. Then learn how to identify reasonable assumptions for a broad range of products and services. Be prepared to explain reasoning behind your assumptions.

Goal: Develop issue trees, identify assumptions, and estimate the value of products and services. This is also an area to expand your communication skills by asking clarifying questions to the interviewer.

Week 2

Day 8: Lifetime Value

Continue practicing Interview Math questions by finishing up Lifetime Value (LTV) estimation questions in Chapter 8. LTV determines product development and marketing retention strategies. Be sure to know industry-specific churn rates and customer acquisition costs.

Goal: Understand the implications of LTV in the product cycle.

Day 9-10: Behavioral

Master the DIGS Method™ in Decode and Conquer to pass the behavioral portion of the interview. Write down at least 5 stories that incorporate the highlights of your professional career. If you're interviewing at Amazon, you might find this template helpful to organize your behavioral interview responses.

Practice modifying these stories to similar types of questions and have solid responses for the ubiquitous “Tell me about yourself?” and “Why do you want to work for this company?” questions prompts. This is another section that would be perfect to verbally practice with an interview partner.

Goal: Articulate your past work experiences by incorporating them into general behavioral questions. This section would be the most beneficial to practice with a partner.

Day 11-12: Technical

Review technical concepts in How to Ace the Software Engineering Interview, and create your own technical ‘cheat sheet’. Be comfortable explaining algorithms and data structures, as well as the pros and cons of different design approaches. Next, read ‘How to Approach a Technical Question’ in Decode and Conquer and practice solving the problems in the chapter. If you need more questions, be sure to check out other resources online. Google is one of the only companies that emphasizes technical questions, so focus on other sections, if you are pressed for time.   

Goal: Handle technical questions that involve key concepts of the SE interview. Focus on the implications of product development, in relation to the methods of algorithms and data structures.

Day 13: New Market Entry/Go to Market Strategy

Memorize the new market entry checklist in Decode and Conquer and learn how to apply these concepts to tech products and services. Be mindful of customer empathy and cultural differences when introducing products to a new international market.

Walk-through the Big Picture Framework in Rise Above the Noise and study how popular marketing strategies fit into this model. Practice developing your own campaigns and pitch your ideas to your interview partner.

Goal: Introduce a product into market through campaigns and strategy. Use the Big Picture Framework when brainstorming ideas to your partner.  

Day 14: Company Specific Preparation

Research your target company, its top competitors, and current industry trends. Perform a SWOT analysis and brainstorm potential product strategies that would benefit the company. As always, emphasize how your skills can contribute to the mission and goals of your employer.

Goal: Cite the major strengths and weaknesses of your target company, as well as its position in relation to current trends. Showcase your skills in relation to the responsibilities and requirements of the job position.

Final Thoughts on PM Interview Prep

Feel free to modify the 2 week PM Interview Prep Plan template to your own situation including target companies and deadline. For more PM interview practice questions, with sample answers, check out my new book, PM Interview Workbook.

Additional PM Interview Practice Resources

Thank you to Joseph Watabe for drafting the first version of this post and Daanish Khazi for reviewing.

How to Practice Consulting Case Interview Math by Lewis Lin


Top-tier consulting firms (MBB) want consultants who are comfortable with numbers. That means you'll likely get a case interview where you'll have to do some breakeven analysis or market sizing estimations. Over on the forums, an Amazon customer makes some great recommendations on how to prepare for case interviews, including a shout-out for my book, Interview Math: Over 50 Problems and Solutions for Quant Case Interview Questions.

To save you time, I've excerpted A's must-read pointers below.


1. Victor Cheng's frameworks - work with these for a while & edit to fit your needs (

2. May be worth investing in $300 for Cheng's recordings (called "look over my shoulders") to hear him go through 5 cases with 1-3 people each (good, bad, and middle ground performers - and he makes verbal notes through out). If you like his structure, you will like his recordings. If not, then don't waste the money.

3. Go on this website to find a partner to practice with (though some are awful...and you only get 2 free):

4. Check out Cosentino's book just so you get a little more specificity than Cheng gives, but don't really rely on those.

5. if you need math help, Lin's book on "Interview Math" is a useful drill on things like break even and market sizing. It's just like 10x Break even and another 10x market get you ready for it, if it happens.

6. The tried and true MBB websites still give good cases without errors (which is hard to find). Deloitte's Human Capital case made me laugh out loud with the awful jargon and senseless conclusions (I just did it out of curiosity). I didn't look at their strategy cases. 

7. - case books from MBA programs. They have many errors that can be VERY frustrating, though. The LBS books do not have errors (the cases are donated, not from MBAs' memories), but they are very long and complicated. MasterTheCase locks them so you can't print them, which is annoying. But, some are pretty good. Ask around for MBAs that you know and case books they might have. Recent is better.

8. Hire a tutor - but at the same time, be careful of hiring tutors. Consultants have an over-inflated view of their self-worth and value. They literally think they can bill $200 an hour to do a case with you (and I made the mistake of falling for one of their sales pitches). Never pay more than 60/hr for tutoring, and try to get it for free if you can. You can find them on "spare hire" or Craigslist if you search for "mckinsey" but that person wanted $120 for one case (crazy). The guys who run are really nice, and I think it's about $75 a case. They gave me a "volume discount" because I kept going back to them. They're pretty new. 

Bracketing: An Advanced Negotiation Tactic by Lewis Lin

One of the best negotiation tactics is bracketing. Bracketing is negotiation technique that states a "lower and upper limit for which one party is willing to negotiate." For instance, if someone desires a $50k salary, they might use a bracket technique by sharing that their range is $50k-$60k. The bracketing concept is similar, but not identical, to ZOPA.

According to Malia Mason, a Columbia Business School professor, bracketing can yield better outcomes. For instance, rather than request $50k, instead ask for $50k-$60k. It increases the chance that you'll get something more than $50k vs. just asking for $50k alone.

Source: Columbia Business School

A common mistake when using bracketing is setting brackets too narrow. Let's say your target salary is $50,000, and you are willing to accept no less than $45,000. You set a bracket between $45,000 to $55,000, hoping that you'll get the desired $50,000 midpoint.

However, after stating the $45k-$55k bracket, the other party responds that they can do $54k. Crap! It looks you've underestimated their ability to pay higher salaries. You want to counteroffer with $60k, but it would be awkward because $60k is beyond the top end of your originally stated bracket. Last thing you want to do is be called out for being inconsistent and greedy (gasp!). Doing so would hurt trust in the negotiation, and trust is paramount.

To avoid this dilemma, start with a bigger (initial) bracket so you have more headroom to negotiate. Using the same example, let's say the desired salary is $50k. This time, use a different and larger bracket, let's say $40k-$80k. Now, when they respond with $54k, you have sufficient headroom to ask for a larger number such as $60k.

5 Minute Book Summary: Grit: Passion, Perseverance, and the Science of Success by Lewis Lin

A few weeks ago, I got a chance to see Angela Duckworth talk about her new book Grit, The Power of Passion and Perseverance. If you don't have time to read the whole thing, the good folks at Hire Up wrote an amazing 10 minute book summary for Grit.

Here were my favorite takeaways from the event:

  • Grit is not just about perseverance. Grit encapsulates two other dimensions: passion and purpose.
  • Those who have passion (internal motivation) for the activity can persist longer than those who just have willpower.
  • Those who have purpose (external motivation) can persist even longer than those who have passion.

I highly recommend the book, and in case it helps, Pete Carroll, the Seahawks coach is prominently featured in the book.

Photo Credit: Angela Duckworth

Responding to an Interview Request: 2 Easy Ways by Lewis Lin

I'm proud of the Hire Up team for featuring new content to help those on the job hunt.

Their latest post about responding to interview requests is an absolute timesaver, especially when you don't know how to respond. Last thing you want to do is come across as overeager or difficult to work with.

I've excerpted the two sample email templates here, but you check out and read the original post in it's entirety.

Email Template: Responding to Interview Requests

Dear Mr./Ms. [Recruiter or Hiring Manager],
Thank you for inviting me to an interview for the [Job Title] position at [Company]. I appreciate you considering me for the position and I look forward to meeting you soon.
As per your availability, I would like to schedule the interview on [Day of the Week], [Date] at [Time, AM/PM, Timezone] in the [Company Office] at [Address]. Please let me know if the time and interview location works for you.
I am excited to learn more about the opportunities at [Company]. Thank you for your time and consideration.
[Your Name]
[Your Phone Number]

Phone Call Template: Responding to an Interview Invite

Mr./Ms. [Recruiter or Hiring Manager],
Thank you for calling me to schedule an interview. I’m sorry that I couldn’t take your call earlier. I am available to interview with you on [Day of the Week], [Date] at [Time, AM/PM, Timezone]. I understand the interview will be held in [Company Office] at [Address].
Please let me know if the time and interview location works for you. I look forward to meeting you soon. To contact me, please call me at this number or email me at [Email Address].
Thank you,
[Your Name]

PM Interview Prep: Practicing PM Case Interviews by Lewis Lin

Taking PM Interview Prep to the Next Level

After you've become familiar with concepts from Decode and Conquer, you'll have to apply and master those concepts by practicing PM case interviews with others.

There's nothing like a little practice to get more comfortable with these difficult concepts and ultimately win the job offer.

If you're looking for PM case interview practice partners, here are two places you can try:

LinkedIn Group for PM Case Interview Practice

Reddit Group for PM Interview Practice: Anonymous 

Also, don't forgot to check out this 2 Week PM Interview Prep Plan.


Sprint in less than 5 minutes: A book by Jake Knapp from Google by Lewis Lin

One of the best books I read this year was Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days. Written by Jake Knapp, partner at Google Ventures, Sprint addresses how you can improve your product innovation processes and get better innovation results. If you're a product manager or product executive looking for inspiration on how to more consistently innovate breakthrough products and technologies, this book is for you.

I read the book this past week, and I highlighted what I thought were the most important points. Below is a summary of direct quotes and other important points from the book.

Reading this summary will give you the gist, but if you haven't read the entire book, I hope it pushes you to do so. Well worth your time.


Product innovation is hard

Even the best ideas face an uncertain path to real-world success. That's true whether you're running a startup, teaching a class, or working inside a large organization.

This book is a DIY guide for running your own sprint to answer your pressing questions

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 realistic prototype. And on Friday,  you'll test it with a live human.

Here are three challenges where sprints can help

High Stakes

A sprint is your chance to check the navigation charts and steer in the right direction before going full steam ahead.

Not Enough Time

You need good solutions, fast. As the name suggests, a sprint is built for speed.

Just Plain Stuck

A sprint can be a booster rocket: a fresh approach to problem solving that helps you escape gravity's clutches.

Who to Include in Your Sprint team

Decider such as the CEO, founder, product manager, head of design.

Finance expert

Marketing expert

Customer expert

Tech/logistics expert

Design expert

Set a long-term goal

Be clear on why you're doing this project and where you want to be six months, a year or even five years from now.

Make a (customer journey) map

1. List the actors: all the important characters in your story (on the left)

2. Write the ending (on the right)

3. Words and arrows in between

4. Keep it simple

5. Ask for help

You should be able to make the first quick draft of your map in 30-60 minutes.

How Might We Method

This method of note-taking, invented by Procter & Gamble in the 1970s, forces us to look for opportunities and challenges, rather than getting bogged down by problems or, almost worse, jumping to solutions too soon.

Using the How Might We Method

1. Put the letters "HMW" in the top left corner of your sticky note.

2. Wait. 

3. When you hear something interesting, convert it into a question (quietly).

4. Write the question on your sticky note.

5. Peel off the note and set it aside.

Vote on How Might We Notes

1. Give two large dot stickers to each person.

2. Give four large dot stickers tot he Decider because her opinion counts a little more.

3. Ask everyone to review the goal and sprint questions.

4. Ask everyone to vote in silence for the most useful How Might We questions.

5. It's okay to vote for your own note, or to vote twice for the same note.

Four-Step Sketch Method

1. Notes. Take notes on the goals, opportunities, and inspiration you've collected.

2. Ideas. Spend 20 minutes writing down rough ideas.

3. Crazy 8's to limber up and explore alternative ideas.

4. Solution Sketch a single well-former concept with all the details worked out.

Crazy 8s Brainstorming Method

Crazy 8s is an exercise to rapidly sketch eight variations of an idea in eight minutes.

How to Decide Between Competing product Ideas

Knapp recommends this five-step process:

  1. Art museum: Put the solution sketches on the wall with masking tape.
  2. Heat map: Look at all the solutions in silence, and use dot stickers to mark interesting parts.
  3. Speed critique: Quickly discuss the highlights of each solution, and use sticky notes to capture big ideas.
  4. Straw poll: Each person chooses one solution, and votes for it with a dot sticker.
  5. Supervote: The Decider makes the final decision, with--you guessed it--more stickers.

How to Do the Speed Critique

  1. Gather around a solution sketch.
  2. Set a timer for 3 minutes.
  3. The Facilitator narrates the sketch. ("Here it looks like a customer is clicking to play a video...")
  4. The facilitator calls out standout ideas that have clusters of stickers by them.
  5. The team calls out standout ideas that the Facilitator missed.
  6. The Scribe writes standout ideas on sticky notes and sticks them about the sketch. Give each idea a simple name, like "Animated Video" or "One-Step Signup."
  7. Review concerns and questions.
  8. The creator of the sketch remains silent until the end. ("Creator, reveal your identity and tell us what we missed!")
  9. The creator explains any missed ideas that the team failed to spot, and answers any questions.
  10. Move to the next sketch and repeat.

How to Run a Straw Poll

  1. Give everyone one vote (represented by a big dot sticker).
  2. Remind everyone of the long-term goal and sprint questions.
  3. Remind everyone to err on the side of risky ideas with big potential.
  4. Set a timer for ten minutes.
  5. Each person privately writes down his or her choice. It could be a whole sketch, or just one idea in a sketch.
  6. When time is up, or when everyone is finished, place the votes on the sketches.
  7. Each person briefly explains his or her vote (only spend about one minute per person).

Note-and-Vote Method

When you need to gather information or ideas from the group and make a decision, you can use the note-and-vote method.

  1. Give each team member apiece of paper and a pen.
  2. Everyone takes three minutes and quietly writes down ideas.
  3. Everyone takes two minutes to self-edit his or her list down to the best two or three ideas.
  4. Write each person's top ideas on teh whiteboard. In a sprint with seven people, you'll have roughly 15-20 ideas in all.
  5. Everyone takes two minutes and quietly chooses his or her favorite idea from the whiteboard.
  6. Going around the room, each person calls out his or her favorite. For each "vote," draw a dot next to the chosen idea on the whiteboard.
  7. The Decider makes the final decision. As always, she can choose to follow the votes or not.

How to Do User Testing

  1. Welcome
    1. "Thanks for coming in today! We're always trying to improve our product, and getting your honest feedback is a really important part of that."
    2. "This interview will be pretty informal. I'll ask a lot of questions, but I'm not testing you-I'm actually testing this product. If you get stuck or confused, it's not your fault. In fact, it helps us find problems we need to fix.
  2. Ask open-ended questions about the customer
    1. "What kind of work do you do?"
    2. "For how long have you been doing that?"
    3. "What do you do when you're not working?"
    4. "What do you do to take care of yourself? To stay in shape? To stay active?"
    5. "Have you used any apps or websites or other things to help with fitness? Which ones?"
    6. "What did you want them to do for you? What do you like or dislike about them? Did you pay ofr them? Why? Why not?"
  3. Introduction to the prototype
    1. "Would you be willing to look at some prototypes?"
    2. "There are not right or wrong answers. Since I didn't design this, you won't hurt my feelings or flatter me. In fact, frank, candid feedback is the most helpful."
    3. "As we go, please think aloud. Tell me what you're trying to do and how you think you can do it. If you get confused or don't understand something, please tell me. If you see things you like, tell me that, too."
  4. Do detailed tasks to get the customer reactions
    1. "Let's say you came across FitStar in the App Store. How would you decide if you wanted to try it?"
    2. "What is this? What is it for?"
    3. "What do you think of that?"
    4. "What do you expect that will do?"
    5. "So, what goes through your mind as you look at this?"
    6. "What are you looking for?"
    7. "What would you do next? Why?"
  5. Quick debrief to capture the customer's overarching thoughts and impressions
    1. "How does this product compare to what you do now?"
    2. "What did you like about this product? What did you dislike?"
    3. "How would you describe this product to a friend?"
    4. "If you had three magic wishes to improve this product, what would they be?"

Summary of Unconventional Ideas on How to Work Faster and Smarter

  • Instead of jumping right into solutions, take your time to map out the problem and agree on an initial target. Start slow so you can go fast.
  • Instead of shouting out ideas, work independently to make detailed sketches of possible solutions. Group brainstorming is broken, but there is a better way.
  • Instead of abstract debate and endless meetings, use voting and a Decider to make crisp decisions that reflect your team's priorities. It's the wisdom of the crowd without the groupthink.
  • Instead of getting all the details right before testing your solution, create a facade. Adopt the "prototype mindset" so you can learn quickly.

Photo Credit: Jake Knapp @ Google Ventures, Fast Company,, 

The Magical Salary Negotiation Letter Sample by Lewis Lin

Image: One Minute Salary Negotiation Letter Template

Image: One Minute Salary Negotiation Letter Template

Have an upcoming salary negotiation? Get results easily with the salary negotiation letter template featured in my book Five Minutes to a Higher Salary.

Salary Negotiation Letter Template

Dear Hiring Manager,

Thank you for offering me the position at Google. I'm passionate about the role, and I'm excited to start.

For base salary, I am looking for something closer to $125,000.

Here's the reason why: I'm currently making $130,000 in my current job. Also, I'm looking to buy a house and pay off my school debt. So the extra money would make a difference.

Is there an wiggle room on base salary?


Elsa Erickson