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The Lead User method: an outline of empirical findings and issues for future research

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In order to reduce the risks of failure usually associated with NPD, leading companies such as 3M, HILTI, or Johnson&Johnson are increasingly working with so-called Lead Users. Their identification and involvement is supported by the Lead User method – a multi stage approach aiming to generate innovative new product concepts and to enhance the effectiveness of cross-functional innovation teams. While the Lead User method is frequently cited in the literature, yet, there are only limited attempts to comprehensively discuss how this approach is embedded in theories and empirical findings of innovation and marketing research. Therefore the Lead User method is in the focus of the present paper, both with respect to its theoretical foundation and its implementation into the innovation management system. First, empirical research on user innovations is reviewed to clarify the theoretical foundation of the Lead User method. Second the attention is drawn to the Lead User practice by discussing the various process steps of this specific approach on the basis of two applications of the method. Based on this discussion, we outline open questions related with the practical implementation of the Lead User method in order to start an agenda for future research.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Institute for Technology and Innovation Management, Hamburg University of Technology, Hamburg, Germany

Publication date: November 1, 2004


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