david hieatt

Why Short Sprints Work?


We tend to work the way we do because that is how we have always done it, that is how everyone does it. We all follow a well-beaten path. But how we are currently working might not be the best way to get the most done. Some food for thought:

An experiment in the 1940’s measured men loading pig iron onto train freight cars at The Bethlehem Steel Company. Each man didn’t stop until they managed 12 1/2 tons. By noon, they were exhausted and could do no more.

The next day, they were told to load the pig iron for 26 minutes. Then rest for 34 minutes. They rested more than they worked.  At the end of the day, they had loaded 47 tons. That’s almost 4 times as much as working flat out.

A short sprint followed by a longer rest, can get way more done. But, we think of resting up as some badge of dishonour. As humans, we are built for short bursts. Our attention span is built for short bursts. Our creativity is built for short bursts. Yet mostly, we work like we are built for marathons.

I think sprints are a practical way to make a lot of stuff happen quickly with limited resources. I use them a lot for Hiut Denim and The Do Lectures.

Sprints shortcut red tape. They get you to launch quickly. And often. They keep momentum. And it breeds an urgency of doing which I think needs to be there.

You can’t sprint forever. And yes, a longer rest has to follow a sprint. But I have no doubt, sprints work.

This link tells you how Google use sprints. Google Sprint Design

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My Book: Do Purpose.

Photo by Jim Marsden.

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