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3M Case Study

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How does the Lead User research process differ from and complement other traditional market research methods?
The ‘Lead User Research’ methodology states that certain customers experience needs faster than other customers.   Such users are called ‘lead users’ and in many cases have come up with solutions on their own to mitigate their own problems or needs.
Lead user research is typically performed on a small set of people called ‘lead users’ whereas other traditional forms of market research might be conducted over a larger set of consumers that include a subset of these ‘lead users’.   Some of the ‘lead users’ may be picked up from a market that is either loosely related or even unrelated to the target market as in the case with the makeup artist they use in the 3M lead user research group.   The makeup artist clearly had no experience in surgical dressings, but the product development team thought that their expertise in makeup application might help them come up with a revolutionary idea in the application of surgical dressings in the field.
In lead user research, a considerable amount of time is spent in people networking in order to find the right ‘lead users’ to work with, as opposed to traditional market research methods which only collect information from users who are at the center of the target market.  
In traditional methods, marketers only seek to identify the problem, not necessarily the solution.   Companies may carry out focus groups and analyze customer complaints to find the issues.   Later product developers analyze this research and use their own ideas to find possible solutions for a new product.  
Conversely, lead user research methods collect data on both the problem and the available solutions from markets that have similar needs.   The development team then uses the ideas that were found in these markets and comes up with a set of possible new product ideas that suit the company’s needs based on ideas from the lead users and internal...

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