Lead users vs. “Crossing the Chasm”

MIT professor Eric Von Hippel’s Democratizing Innovation studies the role of user innovation in product development, and concludes that businesses should follow their lead users to find profitable new products.
The book cites research showing that a surprisingly large number of users

3 thoughts on “Lead users vs. “Crossing the Chasm””

  1. I think your 2nd point is key – lead users generate ideas for products, but to Cross The Chasm you need to package a WholeProduct that normal people can deal with. And given limited resources (esp market intelligence) in a startup you need to pick 1 to bet on and dedicate resources to.
    I may post more once I’ve read more of Hippel…
    http://webseitz.fluxent.com/wiki/CrossingTheChasm

  2. Hi, Adina:
    As Bill Seitz says, I think your second point is the key. Lead user search occurs at an earlier point in the innovation process than does ‘crossing the chasm’ Lead users are where companies can find new and promising product ideas and prototypes. Companies then have to adapt these ideas in such a way that they can cross the chasm.
    For example, early Power Bar-like nutritional supplements were developed by leading-edge athletes (Olympic Atheletes and their nutritionists, Navy Seals, etc.) long before Power Bar made them into a commercial product.
    If commercialized in the form that the lead users designed them to solve their own needs, this lead users innovation was clearly destined to be a niche product. For example, the functional food did the functional job the athletes needed, but it tasted terrible. Taste didn’t matter much to lead users – so they didn’t solve the problem. It was therefore the job of companies like powerbar to modify them to suit a mass market and get the product from lead users to early adopters and then ‘across the chasm’.
    Hope this helps!

  3. Bell Curves for Lead User vs. “Crossing the Chasm”

    When I first started studying innovation theory, I noticed that Eric von Hippel and Geoffrey Moore both used a bell-shaped diagram. At first I thought they were the same diagram, but it turns out I was wrong. My blog talks about the differences.

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