Disruption from new technologies and new business models fundamentally changes companies’ competitive positioning. Most CEOs and boards of directors today recognize their business is at risk if they don’t change, as disruptive competitors will gain ascendency over them. Because they recognize the power of disruptive technologies and the need to change, many invest in pilots to determine whether a technology can create the desired performance outcome. Unfortunately, pilots rarely deliver real value. Furthermore, look at Amazon, GE and other firms that successfully incorporate disruptive technologies into their business model, and you’ll realize they don’t use pilots to drive change. Why not?
Pilots often succeed in demonstrating a technology is useful in achieving company objectives. What happens next is an “evangelist” communicates the success, believing this will result in the organization implementing the technology and driving change. Sounds good, but there’s little evidence that this works. I’ve observed countless pilots over more than two decades, and very few resulted in meaningful changes to competitive positioning. There are three primary reasons why this happens.