Advancing the Lead User Method and its Adoption in Organizations

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


A key to being a successful business is not only being able to respond to demand but being able to anticipate future demand. This is easier said than done, as understanding what users need is one of the areas of most persistent and costly failure in product development. The importance of involving users in the development of both products and services has been widely noted, but some users develop solutions on their own. This is not a marginal phenomenon, but innovation by users and so called lead users can be found in all fields ranging from post-it-notes to sporting equipment and surgical instruments to banking services, for example. The lead user method is described as a process that companies could apply in their product or service development in order to benefit from lead users. Despite its documented advantages, the LU method has not gained ground as a standard part of companies' toolbox for product and service development. In this dissertation, a qualitative approach building on semi-experimental set-ups, a multiple case study, and a longitudinal two-case case study was used to explore the challenges involved in the use of the LU method and to provide remedy and direction for its use in organizations that are seeking to benefit from lead users. First, this dissertation improves the concepts and means available for lead user identification. Second, it generates more understanding on and alternative means for transferring the lead user knowledge. Third, it sheds light on the factors that challenge the adoption of the LU method in an organization and provides suggestions on how the adoption hurdles could be overcome. It was found that instead of general resistance to user ideas or new ways of working or the cost and time required by the LU method, it is the difficulty of transferring and retaining the knowledge of how to conduct a LU project that hinders its adoption in an organization. The case analyses demonstrate that the LU method features skill components that are more costly and difficult (i.e. "sticky") to transmit among employees than the adopter organizations were prepared for. Rather ironically, it is the same phenomenon that user innovation research has identified as one of the key reasons for why users hold solution and trend information and why lead users should be utilized in the first place.
Translated title of the contributionEdelläkäyttäjämenetelmän edistäminen ja sen omaksuminen organisaatioissa
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Ekman, Kalevi, Supervising Professor
  • Hyysalo, Sampsa, Thesis Advisor
Print ISBNs978-952-60-6974-6
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-6973-9
Publication statusPublished - 2016
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


  • lead users
  • lead user method
  • user innovation
  • product development
  • service development
  • organizational adoption


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