How to Escape Pilot Purgatory

Innovation Implementation

Moving from piloting to scaling a new venture is scary for Corporate Explorers – the training wheels come off and the project must deliver both for its customers and the business overall. It is easy to get locked in perpetual testing and validation. What some call ‘pilot purgatory’.  

Here are five steps for staying out of this danger zone:

1. Set an ambition 

Projects get stuck in purgatory because they do not have an idea of the results they will generate and why they matter to the business. Setting an ambition that is equal to the opportunity or threat of disruption helps to connect a project to a motivation that matters. 

2. Define hypotheses to test 

Projects struggle when they are pursuing an ill-defined objective with an uncertain payoff. Be explicit about what customer problem you are solving, why customers will value the innovation, and how you will make money. Only by testing your hypotheses can you hope to learn where you are right or wrong. 

3. Engage internal ecosystem

Build support from internal stakeholders early to understand their unmet needs, value drivers, and risks. Knowing what matters to these decision makers helps new ventures win support later either for investment or to leverage existing assets. Recruit allies and advocates who can tell your story to internal audiences you may not be able to reach.

4. Kill projects before they reach purgatory

Ending a project is never easy but continuing a project that has little chance to scale pulls resources away from other projects in the portfolio. Seventy percent of teams in Bosch’s Accelerator Program vote to kill their own projects based on the rigor of their testing. This frees up resources to focus on innovations that can scale. This sort of rigorous evidence-based decision-making is key to success.

5. Define a path to scale

Know what assets you’ll need to assemble to launch an innovation. We build this roadmap early in a new project so that we are always adapting it based on what we learn, seeking potential partners and acquisitions that could help us go fast later.

Read more about how to escape pilot purgatory here.