As every good entrepreneur and leader knows, creating small pilots, tweaking, iterating and launching is the key to success. Part of running successful pilots involves having a culture that actively celebrates failure. But it also requires some hard skills. So how do you run a successful pilot? What do you need in order to have the confidence you need to go full steam ahead with your idea? Here are the principles to running a killer pilot.

1.    Right Size Your Idea

Before you engage in any pilot, you must make sure your idea is clearly and concisely articulated. So much so, that if someone without background knowledge picked up your idea, they would understand exactly what it was.  Once you have this, find a way to scale your idea back to its essence, in order for you to create a pilot that tests the epicenter of your idea.  

2.   List Your Assumptions

Once you have determined your idea DNA, you must then list all the assumptions that must hold true in order for your idea to be successful. List down as many assumptions as you can think of, however obvious. For example: people will like enjoy the product, they will understand how to use it, they will be willing to pay $x for it, they will be willing to travel to X for it, they will understand the benefits of using our product.

3.   Decide Which Are The Most Important

Once you have all the assumptions listed out, rank them in order of most important to least important - in other words - which assumptions must hold true for your idea to have any chance of success. Once you have a prioritizes list of assumptions, it's now time to design a pilot that puts your most important assumptions to the test.

4.   Create A Pilot

With your assumptions outlined, it's time to set a pilot. Rather than test the whole concept, find a way to test just what matters most. For example, if you plan to open a restaurant that serves only organic green food, you must find a way to test the green food itself - as this is central to the idea. However, if you chose to open a restaurant that has acrobats for waiters, you'd need to create a pilot that could deliver the service experience and test how engaging it is.  Create some leeway to test some variables within your pilot, that can help enhance your learnings.

5.   Set Metrics 

Once you have decided what your pilot should look like, set metrics around what success looks like and what failure looks like. Going into a pilot without metrics is a pointless exercise. You need to know what it will take to make you feel confident about taking your idea to the next level. Outline what you expect to learn, what good looks like and what bad looks like before you begin.

6.   Learn, Iterate & Repeat

Once you have run your pilot, review what happened alongside your metrics and hypothesize as to why the outcomes landed the way they did.  IF you received a suboptimal result, find a way to address the shortcomings and reconfigure your pilot and test again. If your pilot went well, try running it at a larger scale to confirm your knowledge before you're ready to roll out.