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Lead User Research Strategy

Lead User Identities

Lead Users solve a problem and create a
solution when no solution is currently
available in the marketplace
Lead Users can also be very early
adopters of a new product or technology
that is expected to become widely used

The Lead User Concept

Where Lead Users Live

Eric von Hippel

Some Examples of Lead Users

NASCAR drivers and motor oil
Sales people and communication tools
University hospitals and experimental
medical equipment
Desert climate residents and solar
Mountain climbers and insular sporting

Lead User Research Approach

Form cross-disciplinary team from
marketing and technical units
Diverse expertise provides synergy for
opportunity search
Immersion approach fosters creative
exploration and sustains momentum
Projects proceed through four phases

Phase 1: Lay the Foundation

Identify markets to explore
Determine type and level of innovations
desired by stakeholders in the company
Reconcile the market search with broad
company mission and strategy

Phase 2: Determine the Trends

Identify experts on emerging technologies
and leading edge applications in the area of
Seek their opinions and insights on whats
changing, whats out-of-date and whats
coming along on the user horizon

Phase 3: Identify Lead Users

Initiate a networking process to identify
who the lead users of a potential innovation
would be
Gather information on indicators of their
promising solutions to unmet needs
Based on info, shape a product concept
Assess concepts potential and company fit

Phase 4: Develop a Breakthrough

Host a working session with actual lead
users and the lead user research team
Identify the problems to be solved
Develop innovative approaches/products
that address the lead user need
Determine whether solutions fit the needs
of target market users
Determine fit of solution to the company

Lead User Research Process

Benefits of Lead User Research

Identifies potentially important technical or
market trends
Identify highly experienced participants
in those trends who have compelling needs
Results identify problems of use or
practice that need resolution
Lead user data can be projected onto the
general marketplace of users

Summary Insights
Lead User research formalizes and
systematizes the innovation process
Since lead users usually have developed a
prototype solution, this strategy can
reduce the time it takes for a breakthrough
Companies can reduce the need for
internal R&D required to develop
solutions that may already be operational