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Lead User

17 Examples of a Lead User

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A lead user is a customer who has needs in a particular area before the rest of the market. Engaging lead users to understand their needs is a common method of innovation. The idea is that lead users hold the requirements that will define the future of a product, service or technique. By being the first to deliver to these requirements, a firm takes a leadership position in a market. The following are illustrative examples.


A cyclist planing a trip from London to Tokyo by bike is a lead user for a light and reliable bicycle.


An interstellar space mission that will span decades is a lead user for highly reliable robots.

Information Security

A social media site that is regularly attacked by sophisticated entities such as governments is a lead user for information security.

Wood Products

A skateboarder is a lead user for strong and flexible wood products.


A city with extreme air quality problems is a lead user for zero emissions energy production and transport.

Market Data

A firm that specializes in high frequency trading is a lead user for fast and reliable market data.


A doctor working in a war zone is a lead user for a simplified emergency medical procedure.


A makeup artist working in the fashion industry is a lead user for cosmetics such as makeup remover.


The tallest building in an earthquake-prone city is a lead user for seismic vibration control systems.


A motorsports team is a lead user for safety equipment such as helmets.


An electric car company is a lead user for efficient batteries.

Machine Automation

A recycling facility that needs to sort random garbage into 20 bins by material at high speed is a lead user for machine automation.

Artificial Intelligence

A self driving car project is a lead user for machine learning algorithms.


A three star restaurant is a lead user for artisanal food such as unique chili peppers.

Information Technology

A bank with customer data duplicated and inconsistent in 20 different systems is a lead user for master data management.

High Availability

An ecommerce company that processes 10,000 orders an hour is a lead user for high availability techniques such as cloud computing.


A firm that designs and manufacturers prosthetic limbs is a lead user for materials with special properties including factors such as strength, weight and energy absorption.
Overview: Lead User
Definition (1)
A user who experiences needs before the rest of the market.
Definition (2)
A method of innovation that looks at the requirements of users who have extreme needs relative to the rest of the market.
Attributed to
Eric von Hippel, Lead Users: A Source of Novel Product Concepts, Management Science, 1986.
Related Concepts


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Cost Innovation
Crash Of Ineptitude
Design Thinking
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First Principles
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Inventive Step
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Naive Innovation
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Proof Of Concept
Speculative Design
Systems Thinking
Technology Winter
Throwaway Prototype
Trough Of Sorrow
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