User-led innovation


Chapter 16 of ‘Strategic innovation management’

NESTA report on user innovation in the UK

This suggests that 8 per cent of UK consumers create or modify one or more of the consumer products (such as cars, sporting equipment or gardening tools) they use in order to better address their needs. This represents a major category of undocumented innovation in the UK.  The report also explores the extent to which UK firms develop and improve process technologies to better serve their in-house needs. The results of the survey show that 15 per cent of respondents have modified or created process equipment and/or process software for their own use over the last three years.

Watch these videos:

(a) Eric von Hippel is the ‘godfather’ of user innovation studies and in this set of videos, made while working with the 3M company, he explains some of the core principles and tools behind user innovation.

(b) This video interview with Catherina van Delden describes her experience in setting up a company to exploit user-driven innovation across communities.

(c) Hyve is a German software company which specializes in mobilizing user insights to support innovation – for example in cosmetics. In this video Michael Bartl describes work with the Beiersdorf company (owners of the Nivea brand) using ‘netnography’ – developing ideas in the field of sunless tanning products by using online communities as a source of information about user needs.

Listen to:

Tim Craft is a practising anaesthetist but has used his experience of the problems and limitations of equipment to design and produce a range of specialist medical equipment. This audio interview and transcript explores his experience as a user innovator.

Reflect using these activities:

(a) Try to identify examples where you have had ideas for innovations arising out of your own user experience. How would you develop the best ideas into a proposal for possible funding and development?

(b) Study these resources and prepare a short report (or a presentation) on the main points involved in adopting a ‘lead user’ approach to innovation.

Von Hippel videos explaining lead user methods

Toolbox description of lead user methods


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