Hey Ryan: Is there a difference between a pilot and a prototype?

My colleague Ryan and I have a ‘blogger volley’ going. One of us poses an unanswerable question and the other offers some thoughts, it’s a good way for each of us to take some o the things we see and put some deeper thinking around it. This week I’m the ‘Q’ and he’s the ‘A’…here we go.

Hey Ryan, I think a lot about the value of prototyping. I’m always inspired by how much our society has advanced because people just built something and went for it. SUre they failed, but they dusted themselves off, learned and tried again. As we learned the mechanisms at the heart of those failures, we learned to prototype.

I think about those grainy black and white films loops of gliders crashing into barns in the early days of flight. I think about crude and scary medical instruments from the turn of the century. Diego’s even included it as one of his Inspiration Principles.

Prototyping has led to amazing products (and some services), but I can’t understand why those same mechanisms are so hard for business and organizations. Businesses like to talk about experimenting, but by the time enough people and money are committed to the research, it feels more like a validation. I run into a lot of business pilots, but that seems different than a prototype.

Can designers and engineers see something that entrepreneurs and managers can’t? How can businesses fail, learn and evolve? Have risk avoidance tools made prototyping more difficult?

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