Evidence of Lead Users in Past Innovations

DS 91: Proceedings of NordDesign 2018, Linköping, Sweden, 14th - 17th August 2018

Year: 2018
Editor: Ekströmer, Philip; Schütte, Simon and Ölvander, Johan
Author: Lappalainen, Niko; Hölttä-Otto, Katja
Series: NordDESIGN
Institution: Aalto University
ISBN: 978-91-7685-185-2


Innovations have drawn much attention due to their economic and social importance. Many models and theories have been developed to understand how innovations emerge, are developed and become popular. To ensure innovation’s commercial success and a good market position, understanding of users’ needs and expectations is obligatory. To increase such understanding, this paper examines the lead user method in innovation development processes. This examination is based on a literature review and a list of top 30 innovations from the last 30 years. The overall objective is to analyse the most renowned innovations and to identify the innovations that show evidence of a lead user like approach. Lead user is here understood as a person or group who has a need earlier than the mass market and has come up with a solution for it. The analysis was performed by exploring the development of the selected 30 innovations. We find that 37% of the 30 innovations show evidence of a lead user in the beginning stages of the innovation process. We also compared these lead user innovations to the other innovations on the same list and found that the lead user innovations were more likely radical innovations. The most common application domains for the lead user innovations were military and medical.

Keywords: Product development, innovation, lead user


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