Lead User Research for Breakthrough Innovation

Powerful Essays
LEAD-USER RESEARCH FOR BREAKTHROUGH INNOVATION
Lead-user research can help companies uncover both unmet customer needs and the innovative solutions that leading-edge users are developing to meet those needs.

Ivy Eisenberg
OVERVIEW: The best companies often work closely with their customers to uncover needs and wants that can be translated into new or improved product or service offerings. The lead-user research method goes a step further, looking not only to the typical customer, but to those users whose needs and preferences lead the market. These lead users, as they are called, will modify products or use them in unforeseen ways to meet their needs. The lead-user research method was developed as a systematic way to mine the insights and innovations of these lead users. Since it was pioneered in the late 1990s, the leaduser method has evolved and grown. This paper offers an update on the use of the method and on adaptations to increase its efficiency using online search and communities as well as an overview of lessons learned from experiences on more than 20 lead-user projects. KEY CONCEPTS: Lead-user research; Customercentered innovation; User innovation Most companies want the same thing—a healthy pipeline of breakthrough products and services that will provide robust and steady profits. To achieve this, companies often reach out to their customers directly in order to tap into what matters most to the people who will purchase their products and services. There is much to be learned from one’s current and potential customers. The lead-user research method goes beyond other customer-centered approaches, seeking insights not only from customers but from “lead users,” users who are so far ahead of the industry that they see no choice but to invent solutions to meet their needs. Lead users are tapped for their understanding of future needs, but even more, these visionaries provide solutions—or keys to potential solutions—for the companies that can discover these



References: Belz, F-M., and Baumbach, W. 2010. Netnography as a method of lead user identification. Creativity and Innovation Management 19(3): 304–313. Churchill, J., von Hippel, E., and Sonnack, M. 2009. Lead User Project Handbook: A Practical Guide for Lead User Research Teams. Cambridge and Minneapolis: Lead User Concepts, Inc. http://web. mit.edu/evhippel/www/Lead%20User%20Project%20 Handbook%20(Full%20Version).pdf (accessed October 18, 2010). Flanagan, Chris. 2008. Building lead-user research into an innovation platform. [Weblog entry, January 1.] Chris Flanagan. http:// businessinnovationfactory.com/weblog/archives/2008/01/lead_ user_research.html (accessed October 8, 2010). Hassan, S. S. 2008. Bringing lead-user innovations to the market: Research and management implications. SAM Advanced Management Journal 73(4): 51–54. Heinerth, C., and Potz, M. 2006. Making the lead user idea-generation process a standard tool for new product development. Presentation at the Fourth International Workshop on User Innovation, Munich, July 13–14. Lilien, G. L., Morrison, P. D., Searls, K., Sonnack, M., and von Hippel, E. 2002. Performance assessment of the lead user ideageneration process for new product development. Management Science 48(8): 1042–1059. Lüthje, C., and Herstatt, C. 2004. The lead user method: An outline of empirical findings and issues for future research. R&D Management 34(5): 553–568. Orr, J. E. 1996. Talking About Machines: An Ethnography of a Modern Job. New York: Cornell University Press. Taylor, W. C. 2006. To charge up customers, put customers in charge. New York Times, June 18. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/18/ business/yourmoney/18mgmt.html (accessed October 6, 2010). Thomke, S., and Nimgade, A. 1998a. Innovation at 3M Corporation (A). Business Case 9-699-012. Harvard Business School. Thomke, S., and Nimgade, A. 1998b. Innovation at 3M Corporation (B). Business Case 9-699-013. Harvard Business School. Thomke, S., and Nimgade, A. 1998c. Note on Lead User Research. Business Case 9-699-014. Harvard Business School. User Innovation Research Initiative 2010. User Innovation Research Initiative Vienna. http://www.wu.ac.at/entrep/forschung/ userinnovation/leaduser/index (accessed October 18, 2010). von Hippel, E. 1986. Lead users: A source of novel product concepts. Management Science 32(7): 791–805. von Hippel, E. 2005. Democratizing Innovation. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Free PDF download available at http://web.mit.edu/ evhippel/www/books.htm. von Hippel, E., Churchill, J., and Sonnack, M. 1998. Breakthrough Products and Services with Lead User Research. Cambridge and Minneapolis: Lead User Concepts, Inc. von Hippel, E., Thomke, S., and Sonnack, M. 1999. Creating breakthroughs at 3M. Harvard Business Review 77(5): 47–56. Weckström, C. 2009. The full value of lead-user innovation. [Weblog entry, February 1.] Cecilia Weckström. http://ceciliaweckstrom. com/2009/02/01/the-full-value-of-lead-user-innovation/ (accessed October 6, 2010). Reprints IMPROVING PRODUCT-DEVELOPMENT PROCESSES Fifty-one RESEARCH • TECHNOLOGY MANAGEMENT articles on this subject are now available in paperback. To order, see inside back cover. Learning from the Best New Product Developers Portfolio Management in New Product Development: Lessons from the Leaders Best Practices for Managing R&D Portfolios New Problems, New Solutions: Making Portfolio Management More Effective Assessing Technology Projects Using Real Options Reasoning Resolving Uncertainty in R&D Portfolios Critical Success Factors for New Product Development Learning is the Critical Success Factor in Developing Truly New Products Assessing Transition Readiness for Radical Innovation Speeding Development Cycles What First-to-Market Companies Do Differently Satisfy Customers While Speeding R&D and Staying Profitable Managing Risk as Product Development Schedules Shrink Roadmapping Integrates Business and Technology Transforming New Product Development Improving the Performance of New Product Teams Strategic Partnering for Developing New Products … AND MORE 58 Research . Technology Management

You May Also Find These Documents Helpful

  • Best Essays

    Bibliography: SIMO, F. (2007, October 14). Generating Breakthrough Products: the Lead User Methodology. Retrieved from Tech IT Easy : http://techiteasy.org/2007/10/14/connecting-technology-to-market-the-lead-user-methodology/…

    • 3096 Words
    • 89 Pages
    Best Essays
  • Good Essays

    3m - the Innovation

    • 1018 Words
    • 5 Pages

    The ‘Lead User Research' is the process where we find out the people or organizations that have made radical innovations to suit their needs and which are well ahead of time.…

    • 1018 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Satisfactory Essays

    3M Case Study

    • 550 Words
    • 16 Pages

    * Focus on a few individuals (Lead Users and lead use experts) with extremely rich need and solution-specific information In lead user research, a considerable amount of time is spent in people networking in order to find the right ‘lead users’ to work with, as opposed to traditional market research methods which only collect information from users who are at the center of the target market…

    • 550 Words
    • 16 Pages
    Satisfactory Essays
  • Powerful Essays

    This paper examines SPARK, eBay’s current innovation program, as a platform to collect and develop innovative ideas generated by current employees. Some employees at eBay expressed that they found it difficult to track and implement their ideas through SPARK. We feel the current SPARK program does not fully offer eBay the innovative advantage for the future. In our research, we employed two primary methodologies: (1) in-depth interviews with relevant employees and (2) quantitative surveys. Data was then analyzed using the STAR typology and Expectancy theory as frameworks. While at first we sought to propose a whole new innovation program for eBay, our research has proven that there is more value in the current program than we had realized and it has completely changed our point of view about the role of an innovation program in an organization.…

    • 9267 Words
    • 38 Pages
    Powerful Essays
  • Powerful Essays

    Chapter two focuses on how the company is using lead user concept in its innovation drive. The chapter also discusses how open the company responds to open innovation. At the end of chapter two I have looked at the potential disruptive innovation to different services the company is offering to its customers.…

    • 2466 Words
    • 10 Pages
    Powerful Essays
  • Satisfactory Essays

    LEAD USER ANALYSIS FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF NEW INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTS – GLEN L URBAN & ERIC VON HIPPEL…

    • 279 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Satisfactory Essays
  • Best Essays

    Disruptive Innovation

    • 2141 Words
    • 7 Pages

    Is 'disruptive ' a useful concept for understanding media innovation? Discuss its advantages and limitations.…

    • 2141 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Best Essays
  • Satisfactory Essays

    klkkl

    • 2112 Words
    • 9 Pages

    With the global economy facing its toughest test in over 60 years never has it been so important for companies, large and small, to innovate and grow. Whilst few business leaders would argue with this statement, research has highlighted the difficulty that businesses face in developing commercially successful, innovative products and services. It's well documented that between 80-90% of new product launches fail and whilst 80% of business leaders believe that innovation is important 65% are dissatisfied with their ability to innovate. To understand why successful, innovative products and services appears to be so elusive we conducted…

    • 2112 Words
    • 9 Pages
    Satisfactory Essays
  • Powerful Essays

    The finding of this research work will be useful to the firm used as a case study in regards to better development of its innovation funnel with feedback from market trends and consumer dynamic needs. Although, this research work used a single company for analysis, however the result of the findings can be adequately applied to other firms especially firms within the same industry.…

    • 11764 Words
    • 48 Pages
    Powerful Essays
  • Powerful Essays

    Markides, C. (2000) All the right moves: A guide to crafting breakthrough strategy. Boston: Harvard Business School Press. Mintzberg, H. (1978) Patterns in strategy formation. Management Science 24: 934–48. Robinson, A. G. and Stern, S. (1997) Corporate creativity: How innovation and improvement happen. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers. Simons, R. (1995) Levers of control: How managers use innovative control systems to drive strategic renewal. Boston: Harvard Business School Press. Tushman, M. L. and O’Reilly III, C. A. (1997) Winning through innovation: A practical guide to leading organizational change and renewal. Boston: Harvard Business School Press. von Hippel, E. (2001) Innovation by user communities: Learning from open-source software. Sloan Management Review 42 (4): 82–87. Walton, R. E. (1985) Toward a strategy of eliciting employee commitment based on policies of mutuality. In Walton, R. E. and Lawrence, P. R., eds. HRM trends and challenges. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.…

    • 4033 Words
    • 17 Pages
    Powerful Essays
  • Good Essays

    Product Policy

    • 1476 Words
    • 6 Pages

    Ideas for new products can come from the company’s own research and development department, customers, competition, employees, sales people, independent inventors, and top management.…

    • 1476 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Satisfactory Essays

    The lead-user research method provides a way to uncover rich information on emerging and future customer needs, which may help companies to find the next breakthrough innovation.…

    • 339 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Satisfactory Essays
  • Satisfactory Essays

    3M study

    • 422 Words
    • 2 Pages

    2. How does the Lead User research process differ from and complement other traditional market research methods?…

    • 422 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Satisfactory Essays
  • Powerful Essays

    New Product Development

    • 6933 Words
    • 28 Pages

    The second chapter pertains to Idea generation, ideas for newcome from several sources, including consumers, employees, R&D laboratories, and competitors.…

    • 6933 Words
    • 28 Pages
    Powerful Essays
  • Good Essays

    Innovation is one of the most important issues in business research today. It has been studied in many independent research traditions. Our understanding and study of innovation can benefit from an integrative review of these research traditions. In so doing, various topics of consideration have been identified and studied. Consumer response to innovation, Organizations and innovation, which are increasingly important as product development becomes more complex and tools more effective but demanding; techniques for product development processes, which have been transformed through global pressures, increasingly accurate customer input.…

    • 8673 Words
    • 35 Pages
    Good Essays