Around 2008, Chick-fil-A decided to launch an innovative practice.  We wanted to learn how to do it a responsible manner, so we began visiting companies that were thought leaders in their respective industries.

It became clear that we needed a new process that could be replicated and taught to folks throughout our organization.  This process could help us launch new menu items, service procedures, restaurant designs and forward-thinking ideas in virtually every area of the business.

To find what we were looking for, we connected with Stanford’s and the design firm IDEO (both based in the heart of Silicon Valley), and learned about “design thinking.”

A simple Google search will yield plenty on the topic, but here’s a version that could serve as a launch loop for your next project:

1. Understand

Begin by putting yourself in the shoes of your ultimate customer.  Think radical empathy.  What do they really want or need? What problems, challenges or opportunities are they facing?

Read David’s take on the importance of this first step.

2. Imagine

Now you are ready to do a little brainstorming.  Based on what you learned in the first step, begin ideating on how to address your customer’s need.

3.  Prototype

You may be really excited about one or more of your ideas, but before you rush to market, you need to develop some prototypes to ensure viability.  Prototypes can begin very rough (think low resolution, non-working) and evolve to being very refined (high resolution, functional).  It’s best to start with something basic to help you work out design improvements while it’s easy and inexpensive to do so.

Read more about how Jeff learned to Protoype.

4.  Validate

Once you have a prototype that you believe in, you are ready to test it.  Validation is really about listening to reactions from potential customers and other stakeholders.  Don’t get defensive or take anything personal.  Remember – feedback is your friend.  Better to learn now, before launch, while you can still make adjustments.

Shane thinks this is the most difficult step. Read why.

5.  Launch

In all likelihood, your product will have evolved quite a bit over the course of prototyping and validation, but that’s a good thing.  If you’ve listened carefully, and made the right modifications, you are now ready to launch with confidence!

Find more practical tips and inspiration to launch over at the MNTR Podcast!

Related Resource: A Toolbox for Launchers