Killer Questions (AKA "Sprint Questions")

Killer Questions (AKA "Sprint Questions")

Recipe step number
Day 1, Activity 2
Important questions that will drive focus
Reading Time
4 mins


Why do this activity? Killer questions help to identify the important areas that can reduce the risk and uncertainty of these high-value initiatives. They're called “killer questions" because they help reveal the most important questions we need to answer, that could “kill” this effort if we don't think about them early enough?

Here's a video from Design Sprint agency AJ&Smart that shows how to create Killer Questions (AKA Sprint Questions).

Key tips

Tips from the Sprint Book (pages 57-58)
  • Killer Questions should focus on customer
Key learnings and tips from Advance Concepts
  • Guiding the team to focus on customer-related questions is best for Sprint testing. This is human-centered design, and unforeseen human problems are the most common reason for solutions to fail. Teams often get hung up on technology and business questions to answer. We think there is more agility to tackle those, but you won’t have the ability to change your customers.
  • It helps to frame these as “Can We…. “ questions so that you can test and strive for clear Yes/No answers at the end.

How to do this activity

Allow 30 mins
[5 mins] Introduce the purpose of Killer Questions

"Killer Questions are the important questions we don't usually think to ask. Things that could trip us up later on. During the rest of the Design Sprint we will focus our solutions on answering these questions."

[5 mins] Participants write multiple Killer Questions
  • Set a timer for 5 mins
  • Each person writes multiple questions in silence:
    • As many as they can think of in 5 mins
    • One question per sticky note
    • It helps to start the question with "Can we..."
[10 mins] Group vote
  • Remind participants of the Long-Term Goal
  • When they vote they should remember what we have decided to focus on in this Sprint

  • Remind them to focus on the customer's needs, not on what the business wants
  • Set the timer for 5 mins
    • Each person gets 3 votes to choose the stickies they think are the most important (for this Sprint)
    • They can vote on their own stickies
    • They can put multiple votes on one sticky
[5 mins] Decider Vote
  • Remind the Decider of the Long-Term Goal
  • And remind them to focus on the customer
  • The Decider gets 3 large visible dots
  • They should choose stickies that represent the 3 most important areas to try and solve in this Sprint
There are 2 Common pitfalls when making the final choice: 1. Choosing questions that are "overlapping" or similar - Examples: "Can we make the hiring process faster and smoother" or "Can we improve the efficiency and effectiveness of hiring" - These two questions might both be important, but they are so similar that we are wasting a question if we choose both. 2. Choosing questions that aren't focused on customer needs - Bad Examples: "Can we find a way to make this project work?" or "Can we get management buy-in?" - These aren't going to help generate useful solution ideas for the customer