A Live Prototype is a chance to run your solution for a few weeks or months out in the real world.
Though you’ve been getting feedback from the people you’re designing for all along, a Live Prototype gives you a chance to stress-test your complete solution in real-world conditions. It can run from a few weeks to a few months, and it might be the first time that you observe how all parts of your solution work together as one system. It’s similar to a Pilot in that way but usually involves more real-time troubleshooting and iterations during the testing period. Live Prototypes are all about understanding the feasibility and viability of your solution so that you can optimize it further.
- The first step is to determine what it is you want to learn in your Live Prototype. What outstanding questions have you got about how your solution will reach its audience? What do you need to validate about it’s feasibility or effectiveness? You will like have surfaced a number of these unknowns during your Theory of Change activity.
- Once you’ve decided on your learning goals you’re ready to determine the scope of your live prototype. How long does it need to run for to get the data you need? In how many locations should you test? As a general rule of thumb, smaller is better in a live prototype as you’ll most certainly need to iterate on your solution afterwards.
- Check out the Monitor and Evaluate activity to help you identify key indicators and data collection tools you will need. Consider the logistics of your Live Prototype too. Do you need a physical space, additional staff, uniforms, a permit, or anything else?
- If you have the capacity, think about running a few Live Prototypes at once. This will allow you to test variations on your solution quickly.
- Keep Iterating. If something went wrong on Day 1, try a new approach on Day 2.
- Live Prototypes are all about learning quickly, iterating on the fly, and pushing your solution closer and closer to the real thing. This will fast-track your progress to an impactful solution that is ready for next level testing in a Pilot.
If your 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 to 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 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.