Prototype: An early sample, model, or release of a product built to test a concept or process or to be replicated or learned from.
Plan: Any diagram or list of steps with timing and resources, used to achieve an objective.
It is popular at the moment to suggest new entrepreneurs don’t need to make a business plan, a stark contrast to the doctrine that dominated the twentieth century and instructed all would-be entrepreneurs to begin with a lengthy formal business plan. Baby boomers and government employees still suggest that business plans should be used by all new entrepreneurs. They refer to all alternatives of not using a plan as ‘disorganised.‘ The alternative options are not all disorganisated, one alternative known as prototyping that is common in design and engineering is repeately outperforming planning when it comes to setting up new projects and new businesses.
Planners use their time to research past examples by examining market data. If no data exists, planners benchmark to similar situations though guesswork. Planning is primarily interested in utilizing past results to predict what may happen in the future. The objective is set at the beginning and a plan is made that researches how to bring that plan to life.
Prototyping is about launching small experiments to generate feedback about the present in order to predict what may happen in the future. Prototyping is primarily focused on feedback from the present.
Planning is faster and cheaper than prototyping, but completely unreliable if you are doing something radically new. If you are launching a new Korean restaurant, make a plan! There is plenty of market information available. If you are selling Korean food in a way that Korean food has never been sold before such as a monthly subscription of Korean food delivered daily for collection to your local coffee shop, skip the plan and do a prototype! Keep making prototypes until an optimal product is found. In prototyping, an objective is set for the first prototype and then that objective is moved every time feedback is recieved.
The first milestone for those on track 1 is to have a plan detailing past performance of their chosen market. The first milestone for those on track 2 is a collection of feedback from their prototypes and a version that works. Once complete, both can create a business that is the repetition of a process to produce an outcome such as a profit.
Some examples of great prototypes.
Please check out my related thoughts on those who practice prototyping and planning – ‘Prototypers vs. Planners,’ or my thoughts on ‘Innovation vs. Repetition.’