The lead user was originally introduced by Dr. Eric von Hippel in 1986. Lead users are users of products that exhibit two key features: The first is that they expect fairly high benefits from addressing their needs, which ultimately helps them innovate. The second feature is that they are at the forefront of the most important trends in a given market, which helps them meet specific needs much sooner than many users in a given market. These users create product innovations by adapting them to their needs. Thus, lead users can provide a direct contribution to the tasks of developing new products. Very often they develop prototypes of new product solutions for themselves and also for their communities (E. Keller 2013, s. 427).
The Lead User Method
The company applies the lead user method if it has already completed the road map creation process and has defined a strategic search field. The methodology involves four major steps (E. Keller 2013, s. 428-429):
- The start phase - This phase involves defining the goals and establishing a cross-functional team. It is important to ensure that the solutions found are sufficiently suited to the strategy, research and development as well as the capabilities and production goals of the company. Also, wide anchoring reduces the risk of problems resulting from the fact that external solutions for the company are sought.
- Identification of major needs and trends - In this phase, you should choose three to five major trends. To be able to choose these trends, interviews with experts, information from online forums and literature studies are obtained. Their function in this process is the ability to regularly search for leading users and narrow down the problem. Trends are those dimensions in which lead users are always ahead of the mass market.
- Identification of users leading those trends - This phase is dedicated to searching for potential users. Earlier studies usually used a mass control method in which a large sample of users was systematically filtered to identify those users who achieved the highest scores in both dimensions of major users. Recently, lead user surveys are increasingly using the pyramid method to identify lead users. Recent studies show that pyramid search strategies have higher efficacy compared to screening.
- The lead user workshop - In the last phase, identified leading users take part in several-day workshops, in which members of the company from various functional areas also participate. During the event, there are brainstorming sessions, group discussions and other tasks aimed at using the creativity of the participants. Their ideas and concepts can be commercialized by the company (E. Keller 2013, s. 428-429).
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- Sänn A. (2017), The Preference-Driven Lead User Method for New Product Development: A Comprehensive Way to Stimulate Innovations with Internal and External Sources, Springer Gabler
- Schweisfurth T. (2012), Embedded Lead Users inside the Firm: How Innovative User Employees contribute to the Corporate Product Innovation Process, Springer Gabler
Author: Agnieszka Damian