Outside Innovation—Patricia Seybold’s Take on Lead Users
She highlights the Lego Mindstorms project as an example of a successful Lead User process. In October 2004, five key lead users were chosen to help design the next version of the product.
Patricia goes on to highlight National Instruments’ role in the Lego Mindstorms project and then discusses NI’s own Lead User program. Patricia interviewed me for the book and included many of the quotes from our discussion. I believe Lead Users can be applied to both the definition of the product as well as the definition of the target market. Drawing from “Crossing the Chasm” we labeled the former as Technologists and the latter as Early Adopters if for no other reason than to keep track of what a lead user team expects of a project.
In the book she hits on one of the key reasons LabVIEW has been successful – it’s an open environment for customers to create their own solutions. It accommodates a user’s domain knowledge and amplifies his creativity. LabVIEW fosters innovation among customers by letting them create their own applications in their own way. This brings the customer into the LabVIEW design process as well. Feedback from customers then drives the development of the LabVIEW environment.
Patricia’s book goes on to highlight the use of online communities for fostering communication with customers and the use of blogs in developing a voice behind the corporate web page.
Overall the book is a fast read with some key insights that many companies will find useful. It was impressive how many pages are devoted to National Instruments and in particular NI’s lead user program.