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vendredi 24 juin 2011

Co-creation : Work with Lead-users (*)

 Who are they ?

Lead-users are interesting for co-creation projects,  because they have two main characteristics (Von Hippel, 1986):
  • Ahead of the trend. These consumers present strong needs will become general in a marketplace months or years in the future.
  • Expect high benefits from innovating. They attempt to fill the need they experience and they can provide new product concept and design data as well.

Recent studies include new attributes to the original lead-user definition, such as technical expertise (Lüthje, 2004), community-based resources (Franke et al., 2006), early adoption of new products (Jeppesen and Laursen, 2009), opinion leadership (e.g., Ozer, 2009) and motivation (Bilgram et al., 2008). 

Taken in combination, these attributes lead to varying conceptualizations and as a result, the construct might be differently measured. In terms of psychometrics, these evolutions raise serious problems for measuring a fluctuant concept.

How to identify them ? 

Nevertheless, five methods exist. Unfortunately, research can't determine if they are convergent or divergent, but many works are in progress towards this goal.

This process relies on the ability of people with a strong interest in a search topic to know of others who are more expert than themselves (Lilien et al., 2002; Von Hippel et al., 1999). This approach offers many benefits since it allows “to reach the top of the pyramid” with a reduction of 71.6% of the search effort relative to mass screening (Von Hippel et al., 2009). Furthermore, it gives the opportunity to incorporate learning at each step of the process and to cross domain-specific boundaries (Poetz and Prügl, 2010). However, this strategy is still laborious because it seems to be efficient only when a small group of people know each other well (reputational information is needed) and have knowledge and serious interest in the topic.

Broadcast search
Firms who want to solve R&D problems externally with an open invitation to participate in providing new ideas use this solution. Broadcast search relies on a self-selection of the solvers which allows an access to (1) “core” problem domain experts and (2) experts with varying fields of expertise (Jeppesen and Lakhani, 2010). Weaknesses of this method are mainly the high search costs-because of the platform for enabling innovation and the awards for the best submissions- and the reliance on the self-assessment of the solvers.

Social networks and on-line communities
One must search consumers engaged in online communities.  Many consumers could engage in co-creation activities because they want to interact with other likeminded consumers  : "Blogs, bulletin boards, and joint collaboration spaces support interaction between participants. Community functionality enables participants to work jointly on problems and create solutions incorporating more than just the summation of each individual’s ideas and knowledge"(Füller, 2010).

Because lead-users were attracted by online environments for innovative activities and knowledge sharing (Füller et al., 2009; Jeppesen and Laursen, 2009), it's possible to obserserve and analyse these communities (Kozinets, 2002). Since there is an accumulation of lead-users within these environments, there is a growing interest in applying this solution for their identification (Belz and Bombach, 2010; Bilgram et al., 2008). However, even if netnography is a promising method, it relies on the researcher’s assessment (self-interpretation). Another limitation is linked to the missing part concerning the real-life acts of these users.

Screening via self-assessment
This method relies on the test of a large sample of users who self-assess themselves via questionnaires. Those who score highest are identified as lead-users. Several researchers have developed scales to screen a large and unknown population.  This strategy is generally preferred to the others for many reasons. Screening allows (1) easy access to the sample (via face-to-face, e-mail or telephone surveys), (2) rich data collection and analysis and (3) gain time. 

(*)  Post based on : Hamdi L et Vernette E. Identifying lead-users : validity evaluation of four self assessment scales, communication at the Open and User Innovation Workshop, Vienna, July 4th-6th, 2011.

References : See our selected Lead-user Bibliogaphy

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