Creating Breakthrough Products and Services with the Lead User Method Professor Eric von Hippel MIT Sloan School of Management [email_address]
The “functional” source of innovation depends upon the functional relationship between innovator and innovation:
An INNOVATION is anything new that is actually used (“enters the marketplace”) – whether major or minor.
An innovation is a USER innovation when the developer expects to benefit by USING it;
An innovation is a MANUFACTURER innovation when the developer expects to benefit by SELLING it.
How we discovered that users develop many major new products 63 44 4 Total 63 14 1 Transmission Electron Microscopy - 5 1 Ultraviolet Spectrophotometry - 14 1 Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectrometry - 11 1 Gas Chromatography Minor Improvement Major Improvement First Device Innovations Affecting
First device used in field developed and built by: 22 72 77% Total 17 44 72% Transmission Electron Microscopy 0 6 100% Ultraviolet Spectrophotometry 3 12 80% Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectrometry 2 10 83% Gas Chromatography Mfg. User % User Innovations Affecting
A Completely Automated Radiommunoassy System
Source: Science Vol 194 October 1976
The World Wide Web – A Lead User Innovation
“Berners-Lee did not set out to invent a contemporary cultural phenomenon; rather, he says, “it was something I needed in my work.” He wanted to simply to solve a problem that was hindering his efforts as a consulting software engineer at CERN.
Berners-Lee’s innovation was to apply hypertext to the growing reality of networked computers. He expanded the idea he had developed at CERN and made it available on the Internet in the summer of 1991.
Technology Review , July 1996, p.34
Examples of Important Consumer Product Innovations Electronic Mail Desk Top Publishing Computer Application Software White-out Liquid Office Chocolate Milk Graham Cracker Crust Food Sports Bra Apparel Mountain Bike Mountain Climbing-Piton Sports Equipment Protein-base Shampoo Feminine Hygiene Personal Care Gatorade Health Products Example Category
History of “AOL Instant Messenger”
Instant Messaging is a User Innovation
By 1987 MIT Lab for Computer Science had thousands of “Athena” workstations online and difficulties diffusing system admin info rapidly. Developed “Zephyr” instant message system.
MIT students begin to use for general instant messaging.
Other universities adopted Zephyr-like programs
First Commercial Product 9 years later
1996 Israeli firm Mirabilis put out comml product ICQ
1998 Mirabilis acquired by AOL
Source: October 2002 Technology Review
Ongoing evolution of Wi-Fi
User Activities to Date
Users discover possibilities and begin free sharing of wireless networks
Users Modify Wi-Fi antennas to greatly increase range
Widespread implementation occurs – travelers find “hot spots” as they travel, can get Internet access, send e-mail from the highway etc.
Traditional Supplier Responses?
No one will want it – no network security
We think this might be service stealing… should stop.
Firm with highest innovation-related profit expectations most likely to innovate.
“ Sticky information” transfer costs
Firm with stickiest local information needed for innovation most likely to innovate.
Always creates tendency towards user innovation “I will do it myself because I want something exactly right for me – You are only willing to make something almost-right for many.”
Always creates tendency towards user innovation “By the time you can physically get here to do what I need, I might be bankrupt – so I have to do it myself (Example, solving semiconductor production problems – loss rates as high as $10,000 per minute!)
User and Manufacturer Innovations Differ
Users tend to develop Functionally Novel innovations:
The first sports-nutrition bar
The first scientific instrument of a new type
Manufacturers tend to develop Dimension of Merit Improvements:
A better-tasting sports-nutrition bar
Improvements to an existing type of scientific instrument
Users innovate when it pays… for them
Only “Lead User” innovations form the basis for new products and services of value to manufacturers.
“ Lead Users” are users that:
Have needs that foreshadow general demand in the marketplace;
Expect to obtain high benefit from a solution to their needs. (Such users are more likely to innovate – “Necessity is the mother of invention!”)
Time Only lead user prototypes available Commercial versions of product available # of users perceiving need Lead users are now facing “emerging needs”
Product area selected for pilot test of lead user methods: Computer-Aided-Design systems Used to lay out printed circuit boards (PCB-CAD)
In PC-CAD Lead Users were innovating - Routine Users were not 99 33 Number in Sample 1% Yes 82% Yes Did you build own PCB CAD System Active In Solving Own Problem? It’s OK No “ Are you satisfied with your present PCB CAD system? High Need For Improved System? 4.1 15 6.8 11
What are your:
Avg. Number of layers?
Avg. Line width (mils)? (1988 data)
At Front of “High Density” Trend? Routine Users LEAD Users Type of Questions We Asked Expected Lead User Attribute
Performance Assessment of Lead User Research at 3M
Research Team: Prof. Gary Lilien, Penn State University; Prof. Pam Morrison, University of New South Wales; Dr. Kate Searls, ASI Associates, Mary Sonnack, Division Scientist, 3M;
Prof. Eric von Hippel, MIT
For the complete article and other Lead User Videos and articles: Go to leaduser.com on the Web
Overall study outcomes The 3M Assessment study showed: 8 X Higher Sales in Year 5 $146 vs. $18 Million per concept “ The highest rate of new product line generation in 50 years for the 5 Divisions tested.”
Assessment Results: Lead User vs. Non-Lead User Funded Ideas Note: Items measured on 10 pt. Scale, 10=high, 1=low 0.80 0.92 0.61 6.7 6.7 8.0 7.1 7.8 8.8
Fit with Business
Intellectual property protection
Fit with mfr. Capabilities
Fit with distribution channels
0.08 9.24 7.3 8.4 9.6 9.8
Fit with Strategic plan
0.01 0.00 33% 18m 68% $146m
% market share in year 5
Estimated sales in year 5
0.01 0.09 6.8 5.3 9.6 8.3
“ Newness” of Idea
Novelty compared to competition
Newness of needs addressed
Sig. NON-LU Ideas (n=42) LU Ideas (n=5)
Determines Future Business Growth and Margins
Major Product line >20% of Division Sales
Valuable to existing business
Extension to existing line
5 0 LU Method At 3M 1 41 Traditional 3M Method Breakthrough Incremental
Lead User concept generation projects cost more than traditional ones $100,000 (plus coaching) 154 Lead User concept development stage At 3M $30,000 60 Traditional 3M concept development stage Total Cost Person Days
ACTIVITY: Think about possible Lead Users in your markets Specify what you might learn from each type of LU Step 4
Brainstorm possible lead users outside target market
Which types of users in other fields & applications are facing a similar need but in a more demanding form?
Brainstorm possible lead users within that target market
Which types of individuals or firms have needs at the leading edge of the trends?
Which ones have a high incentive & the resources to solve their leading edge needs?
Step 2 Select a specific market & specific major trend to think about Step 1
Example of searching for lead users outside your target market
Look for users facing higher needs than anyone in target market:
People who need even high resolution than anyone doing medical imaging