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A Pilot is a longer-term test of your solution and a critical step before going to market.


Suggested Time


Level of Difficulty


Materials Needed

Everything necessary to run your solution


Design team, key partners, staff

Process Phase

If a Live Prototype is a quick look at how your solution behaves in the marketplace, a Pilot is a sustained engagement. Pilots can last months and will fully expose your solution to market forces. At this point you’re not testing an idea—should my product be green? do I need a different logo?—you’re testing an entire system. Ideally you’ll have run a few Live Prototypes before going to Pilot so that some of the kinks are worked out. During a Pilot you’ll fully execute on your idea finding out if it truly works the way you envisioned by running it with all the staff, space, and resources necessary. You’ll learn if your idea really is desirable, viable, and feasible, and what it might look like to do it at scale. If it’s a success, you’ll head to market.


  1. First you’ll need to sort out all the logistics of your Pilot. Who will you need to hire, should you rent a space, are your distributors and manufacturers lined up, do you need a permit or anything like that? 
  2. Before you launch your Pilot, strategize how you can differentiate from your competition, how you get customers in the door, or what kind of messaging you need to succeed? You’ll be out in the market and you need to plan for those dynamics.
  3. You’ll be iterating less in Pilot because now is the time to truly test your system. You can of course make necessary improvements, but if you change too many variables it may become harder to know what’s working and what isn’t.
  4. At Pilot stage you’ll probably need to collect more rigorous data and evidence. Ensure you have a fit-for-purpose measurement plan by using the Monitor and Evaluate activity, and consider bringing some measurement expertise into your team now if you have not done so already. Feedback from the people you’re designing continues to be crucial.