Introducing the New Era of Lead User Innovation

A Big Data method using leading consumer insights to innovate more quickly, efficiently and effectively.

Innovation research shows that it is not the producers but the consumers themselves who are the real pioneers. Those most engaged in a particular field; the ‘lead users’, have an inherent motivation to develop novel solutions and regularly create many radically new products and services ahead of market demand.

In a volatile business era where 90% of innovations fail, this paper claims that marketers and market researchers should no longer assume that it is their task to develop innovative product concepts for consumers. Instead, they should place these lead users at the centre of product development practices.

A new method developed by Ipsos and specialists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) offers a way to do this, adapting R&D practices to leverage the insights that lead users freely share and discuss in online interest-specific domains, and the potential products that could result from them.

It uses big data techniques such as semantic algorithms to source and filter online content for relevance, extracting and condensing the highly relevant and innovation-rich information.

Using social and search data, the method can take the guess-work out of which products will be popular with trend and diffusion analysis of the emerging products or concepts.

A pilot study in the field of kitesurfing demonstrates the method’s ability to identify both product improvement innovations and radical innovations.

Lead User Innovation - White paper


Key takeaways from the paper:

  1. Successful innovations are crucial in today’s volatile business environment with insurgent brands disrupting entire categories
  2. Lead users themselves are often the best innovators and develop novel product ideas ahead of market demand
  3. These pioneering consumers should take center stage of the modern innovation process
  4. Only 24% of producers currently use and value Lead User Innovation methods, due to an inefficiency of methods
  5. A new agile Lead User Innovation method by Ipsos and the MIT can efficiently identify the entire innovation landscape in domains of interest
  6. The method uses innovation diffusion analytics to track the adoption of trends and the evolution of innovations

Ipsos is a member of the MIT Innovation Lab where Professor von Hippel leads a select group of academics and innovation practitioners, reviewing, discussing and sparking research ideas for societal and business innovation. The Ipsos Science Organization supports this initiative, drawing in content and technical expertise from across the company to engage and benefit MIT and Ipsos.

Consumer & Shopper