Lead User Bell Curve Diagram vs. "Crossing the Chasm" Bell Curve Diagram
Figure 2. Geoffrey Moore's "Crossing the Chasm" Bell Curve Diagram (Wikipedia)
Both authors describe a bell curve. The x-axis is the same in both diagrams; it represents time. The y-axis, however, represents different things.
For Moore, the y-axis is the number of people who adopt an innovation in a given period of time (x-axis). For von Hippel, the y-axis is the number of people who begin to experience the need for an innovation in a given period of time (x-axis).
The curves are not necessarily correlated in time. Say an innovation to address the need is never invented. In that case von Hippel’s graph might show a bell-shaped curve but Moore’s graph would show a flat line, y=0.
Conversely, in a particular span of time, von Hippel’s curve may be flat while Moore’s graph shows a bell-shaped curve if a solution appears suddenly on the market to a long-standing unaddressed need. Even though the trend toward increasing need has already played out and everyone who wants a solution can obtain it, the diffusion will still be gradual and probably conform to a bell-shaped curve. This is because—as Moore argues—the mainstream of the market will refuse to adopt the solution until it is well proven by the early-adopters.
A question still remains in my mind about the difference between Lead Users and Technology Enthusiasts / Visionaries.
For another good post on this topic, see Adina Levin's weblog entry on Lead Users vs. "Crossing the Chasm".