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Rule Breaking Series #3: Pilot Test Your Innovations

What if you pilot test your innovations?

Most stories follow one fixed pathway or Canon and the author rarely give you a glimpse into how things could have turned out differently. But that’s not the path the innovation process should take. It makes sense to pilot test your innovations before making that final commitment or laying down that final chapter.

In developing or innovating a new product or service, we take inspiration from Marvel Comics, one of the greatest storytellers of all time. In 1977, Marvel Comics published a comic book anthology series called What If?, whose stories explored how the Marvel Universe might have unfolded differently if key moments had not occurred.

Exploring other possibilities through this series eventually became the basis for what is now Canon in The Hulk stories of today. The Hulk in Endgame is the perfect combination of Bruce Banner’s mind and The Hulk’s body and strength – not quite how this green monster started out (you like him a little better when he’s angry today!). By allowing the creators the freedom to explore, to think differently, to wonder “What If”, we ended up with a more palatable character and storyline.

So, “what if” you take this path of exploration when innovating your products and services? What if you accepted the first iteration of the idea and went straight to market without exploring how else it could develop?

We test our “what if” in brand and product innovation through a process known as pilot testing. There are 3 key benefits to pilot testing your innovations: testing the market at low risk before you go ahead with full development, getting feedback from your target audience and allowing your audience to create a better story for you. Let’s explore each of these points in turn.

Test the market at low risk

What if you could pilot test your innovations before investing more time or money into developing them? What if there was some way to experience the very real, less positive outcomes of what might happen with potential users of your product or service prior to release so you can make necessary changes? Well, this is one of the primary goals of pilot testing.

A pilot study results in cost and time savings. In a worst-case scenario, it allows you to fail fast before you invest all-out on full development. At best, you gain confirmation that full development should go ahead, and you’ll have insights into possible improvements into the bargain!

Get feedback from the market

Launching focus groups is a traditional way to get feedback from users. When testing online programs, this is replaced with a beta launch. This allows customers unrestricted access to the program so that they can provide feedback on features, bugs, usability issues, etc. For example, when Blizzard Entertainment release their open beta for revisions to World of Warcraft, they are able to see how many people are having issues with installation and useability of the game. They are also able to better gauge their market by seeing which features appeal most to certain demographics based on participation in testing. They can confidently make changes to meet market demand based on data-driven research.

Invite participation to create a better story

During the innovation process, you may know, probably as you pilot test your innovations, that you need a better story, but what should that be? Crowdsourcing is a way for businesses to gather a lot of ideas generated, not only by their employees, but also by their customers and suppliers.

This approach works because crowdsourcing is all about collaboration, which implies trust and openness – qualities inherent to pilot testing. It’s also a transparent process as when you pilot test your innovations, you are expecting failure.

This openness enables rapid identification of flaws and bad assumptions before it is too late.

For these reasons pilot testing is one of the tools we use at Flying Fish Lab and an integral part of our innovation process. If you are keen to explore agile approaches to innovation, we could be the right partner for you.


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