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3M Lead User Methodology for Innovation


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This presentation discusses the Lead User Strategy that systematizes and formalizes the process of innovation. 3M is an ever innovating company and Lead User method helped it come up with many breakthrough innovations. The Lead User Methodology was proposed by Eric von Hippel. Many companies have used the method to their benefit. While innovation is always a much sought after virtue, there is no definitive and sure-shot way to continuous innovation. Lead User Method is one way to make systematic the process of innovation. it significantly increases the chances of success. Lead Users are often those who use an improvised arrangement (Indian 'Jugaad') as there are no commercial dedicated solutions available, using existing products or technologies to solve their purpose in a way that was perhaps not initially intended of the product/technology. So lead users can be potential source of new product ideas.

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3M Lead User Methodology for Innovation

  2. 2. DEVELOPING NEW PRODUCTS: THE LEAD USER STRATEGY  Lead User:  An early adopter of a new product or technology that is expected to eventually receive widespread use  Lead users create a solution (Indian ‘Jugaad’) when there is no commercial solution available.
  3. 3. LEAD USER SYSTEM The lead user process begins with formation of small cross- disciplinary team from marketing and technical departments One member serves as project leader. Team members usually spend 12 to 15 hours per week on the project for its duration. This level of immersion fosters creative thought and sustains the project’s momentum. Lead user projects proceed through four phases.
  4. 4. LEAD USER METHODOLOGY Phase1: Laying the foundation • Identify the markets to target • Determine the type and level of innovations desired by stakeholders within the company Phase 2: Determining the trends • Seek opinion of experts & people who have a broad view of emerging technologies and leading-edge applications in the area being studied.
  5. 5. LEAD USER METHODOLOGY Phase 3: Identifying lead users • Initiate a networking process to identify and learn from users at the leading edge of the target market and related markets. • Gather information that helps identify promising innovations and ideas. • Based on info collected, shape preliminary product ideas • Assess the business potential of the concepts and how they fit with company interests.
  6. 6. PHASE 3: IDENTIFYING LEAD USERS Finding Lead Users: • Networking: Teams begin by explaining their problem to individuals who have expertise on the subject. • Then they ask for a referral to someone who has even more relevant knowledge. • Eventually, this successive networking (in related as well as not-so related fields) leads to Lead Users at the front of the target market
  7. 7. Lead Users can help redefine goals. Medical Imaging team's initial goal to create high resolution images changed based on inputs from Lead Users. Their discovery of military specialists' use of pattern recognition led them to a new goal: to find methods to recognize medically significant patterns, whether by better image resolution or by other means. Team focused on Medical imaging identified need to detect smaller and smaller features- like early stage tumors. They identified lead users in the field of Medical radiology, semiconductor imaging, and pattern recognition PHASE 3: IDENTIFYING LEAD USERS
  8. 8. LEAD USER METHODOLOGY Phase 4: Developing the breakthrough • Begin by hosting a work- shop with several lead users, in-house marketing and technical people, and the lead user team. • Participants first work in small groups and then as a whole to design final concepts that precisely fit the company’s needs. • After the workshop, the project team: • further hones the concepts • determines whether they fit the needs of target market users • eventually presents recommendation to senior managers.
  9. 9. LEAD USER STRATEGY: THE SURGICAL DRAPES EXAMPLE The Problem: • Surgical drapes sales was stagnating. • Surgical drapes were too expensive for markets in developing countries • Surgical drapes were not providing fool-proof protection against microbes; were not very effective in hotter conditions Lead user team formed: • 6 member cross functional team formed comprising members from R&D, marketing & manufacturing Initial Goal set: Find a better disposable surgical drape
  10. 10. LEAD USER STRATEGY: THE SURGICAL DRAPES EXAMPLE Phase 1: • The group learned more about cause and prevention of infection by researching literature and interviewing experts • The group then held a workshop with management, discussed all they had learned and set parameters for acceptable type of breakthrough products Phase 2: • Focus on better understanding trends in infection control • Team sent to India, Indonesia and Korea learned: • Cheap antibiotics used by surgeons as substitute for expensive drapes • Recipe for crises as microbes develop resistance to antibiotics over time • Problem redefined: Find cheaper & effective infection control method that does not depend on antibiotics
  11. 11. Phase 3: • Networking to identify lead users • Specialists in Veterinary Hospitals who managed to keep infection rates very low despite difficult conditions • Hollywood’s make-up artists who are experts in applying skin materials that do not irritate & are easy to remove Phase 4: • Lead Users invited to a two-and-half day workshop to discuss various ideas • Participants discussed in small groups and then as a whole • Three product line concepts emerged- • Economy line of surgical drapes ( using existing 3M tech, not breakthrough) • Skin Doctor line of handheld devices that could lace anti-microbial substances on patients’ skin and vacuum up blood/other liquids during surgery • Armor line of products that could be used in catheters and tubes allowing 3M to enter a $2 bn market aimed at controlling of blood- borne, urinary tract, respiratory infections LEAD USER STRATEGY: THE SURGICAL DRAPES EXAMPLE
  12. 12. CONCLUSION Lead User Methodology formalizes and systematizes the process of innovation. It cannot guarantee 100% success, but then nothing can Lead User strategy increases the chances of success Lead User strategy can also reduce the time it takes for breakthrough innovations (often the lead users have already developed some sort of prototype) as companies do not have to start from scratch
  13. 13. THANK YOU