Lead users and the organization

  • Christopher LettlEmail author


Lead user research has branched out into many different research streams. In this paper I take an organizational view and differentiate three different perspectives which historically emerged in this sequence. First, lead users as external creators of ideas for focal firms. Second, lead users as creators of organizations. Third, lead users as internal creators of ideas for focal firms. I elaborate on opportunities for further research in each of these perspectives. As becomes apparent, Cornelius Herstatt has been a pioneer researcher in each of these perspectives and a significant source of inspiration for his students.


Lead Users User Innovation Innovation Process 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Belz, F. M., and W. Baumbach. 2010. Netnography as a method of lead user identification. Creativity and Innovation Management, 19(3), 304-313.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bhave, M. P. 1994. A process model of entrepreneurial venture creation. Journal of Business Venturing, 9(3), 223-242.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Birch, H. G., and H. S. Rabinowitz. 1951. The negative effect of previous experience on productive thinking. Journal of experimental psychology, 41(2), 121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Chesbrough, H., Lettl, C., and T. Ritter. 2018. Value creation and value capture in open innovation. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 35(6), 930-938.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Dyer, J. H., Gregersen, H. B., and Christensen, C. 2008. Entrepreneur behaviors, opportunity recognition, and the origins of innovative ventures. Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal, 2(4), 317-338.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Fauchart, E., and M. Gruber. 2011. Darwinians, communitarians, and missionaries: The role of founder identity in entrepreneurship. Academy of Management Journal, 54(5), 935-957.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Franke, N., Keinz, P., and K. Klausberger. 2013. “Does this sound like a fair deal?”: Antecedents and consequences of fairness expectations in the individual’s decision to participate in firm innovation. Organization Science, 24(5), 1495-1516.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Franke, N., and S. Shah. 2003. How communities support innovative activities: an exploration of assistance and sharing among end-users. Research policy, 32(1), 157-178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Franke, N., Von Hippel, E., and M. Schreier. 2006. Finding commercially attractive user innovations: A test of lead‐user theory. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 23(4), 301-315.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Herstatt, C., and C. Lettl, 2004. Management of” technology push” development projects. International Journal of Technology Management, 27(2-3), 155-175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Herstatt, C., Lüthje, C. and C. Lettl. 2003. Fortschrittliche Kunden zu Breakthrough-Innovationen stimulieren. In Management der frühen Innovationsphasen (pp. 57-71). Gabler Verlag, Wiesbaden.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Herstatt, C., and E. von Hippel. 1992. From Experience: Developing New Product Concepts via the Lead User Method: A Case Study in a “Low-Tech” Field. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 9(3), 213-221.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hienerth, C. 2006. The commercialization of user innovations: the development of the rodeo kayak industry. R&D Management, 36(3), 273-294.Google Scholar
  14. Hienerth, C. 2016. Technique Innovation. In Harhoff, D. and K. Lakhani (Eds.): Revolutionizing innovation: Users, communities, and open innovation, 331-352, MIT Press.Google Scholar
  15. Hienerth, C., and C. Lettl. 2011. Exploring how peer communities enable lead user innovations to become the industry standard. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 28(1), 175-195.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hienerth, C., and C. Lettl. 2017. Perspective: Understanding the Nature and Measurement of the Lead User Construct. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 34(1), 3-12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hienerth, C., Von Hippel, E., and M. B. Jensen. 2014. User community vs. producer innovation development efficiency: A first empirical study. Research Policy, 43(1), 190-201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hinsch, M. E., Stockstrom, C., and C. Lüthje. 2014. User innovation in techniques: A case study analysis in the field of medical devices. Creativity and Innovation Management, 23(4), 484-494.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Huston, L., and N. Sakkab. 2006. Connect and develop. Harvard Business Review, 84(3), 58-66.Google Scholar
  20. Kratzer, J., and C. Lettl. 2009. Distinctive roles of lead users and opinion leaders in the social networks of schoolchildren. Journal of Consumer Research, 36(4), 646-659.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kratzer, J., C. Lettl, N. Franke, and P. Gloor. 2016. The Social Network Position of Lead Users. Journal of Product Innovation Management. Forthcoming.Google Scholar
  22. Lettl, C., and G. Gemünden. 2006. Adopting radical innovation from outside: Promotors as the linking pin. In IFSAM-Conference Paper, Track (Vol. 6).Google Scholar
  23. Lettl, C., C. Herstatt, and H. G. Gemünden. 2006. Users´ contributions to radical innovation: Evidence from four cases in the field of medical equipment technology. R&D Management, 36(3), 251-272.Google Scholar
  24. Lettl, C., C. Hienerth, and H. G. Gemünden. 2008. Exploring how lead users develop radical innovation: Opportuni-ty recognition and exploitation in the field of medical equipment technology. IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management, 55(2), 219-233.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lilien, G. L., P. D. Morrison, K. Searls, M. Sonnack, and E. von Hippel. 2002. Performance assessment of the lead user idea-generation process for new product development. Management Science, 48(8), 1042-1059.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lüthje, C., and C. Herstatt. 2004. The Lead User method: an outline of empirical findings and issues for future research. R&D Management, 34(5), 553-568.Google Scholar
  27. Lüthje, C., Herstatt, C., and E. von Hippel. 2005. User-innovators and “local” information: The case of mountain biking. Research Policy, 34(6), 951-965.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Perkmann Berger, S., and C. Lettl. 2013. Open Innovation via Collaborative Events: The Role of Incentives for Knowledge Sharing. Academy of Management Conference, August 9-13, 2013, Lake Buena Vista (Orlando), Florida.Google Scholar
  29. Salomo, S., and H. G. Gemünden. 2015. Promotors and champions of innovation: Barriers to innovation and inno-vator roles. Wiley Encyclopedia of Management, 1-6.Google Scholar
  30. Sarasvathy, S. D. 2001. Causation and effectuation: Toward a theoretical shift from economic inevitability to en-trepreneurial contingency. Academy of Management Review, 26(2), 243-263.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Schweisfurth. 2012. Embedded lead users inside the firm: How innovative user employees contribute to the corpo-rate innovation process. Dissertation. TU Hamburg-Harburg. Springer Gabler.Google Scholar
  32. Schweisfurth, T. G., and M. P. Dharmawan. 2019. Does lead userness foster idea implementation and diffusion? A study of internal shopfloor users. Research Policy, 48(1), 289-297.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Schweisfurth, T. G., and C. Herstatt. 2015. Embedded (lead) users as catalysts to product diffusion. Creativity and Innovation Management, 24(1), 151-168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Schweisfurth, T. G., and C. Raasch. 2015. Embedded lead users - The benefits of employing users for corporate innovation. Research Policy, 44(1), 168-180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Shah, S. 2000. Sources and patterns of innovation in a consumer products field: Innovations in sporting equipment (Vol. 4105, pp. 1-27). Cambridge: Sloan Working Paper.Google Scholar
  36. Shah, S., and M. Tripsas. 2007. The accidental entrepreneur: The emergent & collective process of user entrepreneurship. Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal, 1(1), 123-140.Google Scholar
  37. Shane, S. 2000. Prior knowledge and the discovery of entrepreneurial opportunities. Organization Science, 11(4), 448-469.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Shane, S., and S. Venkataraman. 2000. The promise of entrepreneurship as a field of research. Academy of Management Review, 25(1), 217-226.Google Scholar
  39. Skiba, F., and C. Herstatt. 2009. Users as sources for radical service innovations: opportunities from collaboration with service lead users. International Journal of Services Technology and Management, 12(3), 317-337.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Stockstrom, C. S., Goduscheit, R. C., Lüthje, C., and J. H. Jørgensen. 2016. Identifying valuable users as informants for innovation processes: Comparing the search efficiency of pyramiding and screening. Research Policy, 45(2), 507-516.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Urban, G. L., and E. von Hippel. 1988. Lead user analyses for the development of new industrial products. Management Science, 34(5), 569-582.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Von Hippel, E. 1986. Lead users: A source of novel product concepts. Management Science 32(7), 791-805.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Von Hippel, E. 1994. “Sticky information” and the locus of problem solving: implications for innovation. Management Science, 40(4), 429-439.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Von Hippel, E. 2005. Democratizing innovation: Users take center stage. Boston MA: MIT Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Von Hippel, E., Franke, N., and R. Prügl. 2009. Pyramiding: Efficient search for rare subjects. Research Policy, 38(9), 1397-1406.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Von Hippel, E., and R. Katz. 2002. Shifting innovation to users via toolkits. Management Science, 48(7), 821-833.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Von Hippel, E., Thomke, S., and M. Sonnack. 1999. Creating breakthroughs at 3M. Harvard Business Review, 77, 47-57.Google Scholar
  48. West, J., and K. Lakhani. 2008. Getting clear about communities in open innovation. Industry and Innovation, 15(2), 223-231.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden GmbH, part of Springer Nature 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut für Strategie, Technologie und OrganisationWirtschaftsuniversität WienViennaAustria

Personalised recommendations