Saturday, August 20, 2005

Become a Lead User

Eric von Hippel’s research into innovation has helped us understand that many innovative ideas come not from manufacturers, but from self-motivated Lead Users. This research has given rise to the Lead User Method (AKA Lead User Study or Lead User Research) which is helpful to companies seeking to achieve growth through innovation. More on von Hippel’s research can be found in his latest book, Democratizing Innovation.

Like big companies, individual entrepreneurs may choose the Lead User Method to identify compelling business opportunities, but it can be difficult to pull off on a shoe-string budget. An alternative is for the entrepreneur to become a Lead User. This would entail identifying an important trend, finding a job in a company involved in that trend, identifying an unmet need resulting from that trend, solving it, and then going off and commercializing that innovation as a separate business.

I have met entrepreneurs who have invented something in a large organization and then successfully licensed that technology and IP away to create a new business. Sometimes the startup can actually get re-purchased by the parent company once it becomes successful.

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