Lead User Innovation Lab

The Lead User Innovation Lab project seeks to develop a lead user approach with IKEA that demonstrates how user ingenuity in concept development improves innovation. We adapt a participatory innovation lab model that involves consumers and stakeholders in collaboration, with a lead user approach for new concept development. The methods require a shift in (1) identifying trends, locating and recruiting lead participants; (2), how to draw on their knowledge in the design and innovation process; and (3) how to collaboratively support their further exploration. The project combines exploratory research and method development of RISE Interactive (formerly called Interactive Institute) and Veryday and pilot project execution with IKEA’s Life at Home department to promote scalable innovation methods. It seeks to contribute to a successful business case and a toolbox for conducting a form of lead user innovation activities.

Participatory Innovation Lab + Lead Use
With the “lab” concept, we refer to a compressed period of intensive project work with participants from a variety of backgrounds (users, experts, stakeholders). A lab seeks to explore new connections between activities such as user studies, analysis, concept development and evaluation. It represents a shift from approaching knowledge as something that can be created "by others" and delivered to an organization or project team, to knowledge as something that is experienced and generated together in practice. The benefits of working in a “lab” arise from:

  • The use of space and formats for multidisciplinary value sharing and cross disciplinary fertilization
  • Focusing on sharing, constructive criticism and building together
  • A close proximity to sites of product and service use and sites of production

A lead user approach, as formulated by Eric Von Hippel,  seeks to give companies a competitive advantage through leveraging the vast knowledge and expertise of users with special needs, special skills, and great experience in their product and service domain. In this case, we put into question the idea of focusing on user attributes and inventions alone, versus focusing upon how people in a context of use generate value and how to create a process for generating value together. 

Case - Urban Biking Eco-System
We first explore the value of the lead user innovation lab with an IKEA development team focusing on urban biking as a sustainable practice:

IKEA is concerned about people’s possibility to live a sustainable urban life. Therefore we are interested in how we might support people to use bikes in a better way in their everyday life in the city.

IKEA's interest in supporting people to bike more is based on two broad trends:
(1) Urbanization: more people living in cities, and
(2) Sustainable conscience: people consciously looking for ways to live more sustainable lives 

The urban biking eco-system project raises an interesting set of challenges for how to approach the interrelationship of people, products, and environment in relation to people's dynamically changing daily lives (single, couples, raising children, confronting injuries, moving, etc.). 

The Lead User Innovation Lab project runs from January - December 2013

Project partners
RISE Interactive - Brendon Clark -  overall project lead 
Veryday - Nicola Chamberlain  
IKEA - Eva-Carin Banka Johnsson 

The Lead User Innovation Lab project is partially financed through an Open Innovation and Lead User grant by VINNOVA (Swedish Governmental Agency for Innovation Systems).