Exploring how lead users develop radical innovation: Opportunity recognition and exploitation in the field of medical equipment technology

Christopher Lettl, Christoph Hienerth, Hans Georg Gemuenden

Publikation: Wissenschaftliche FachzeitschriftOriginalbeitrag in FachzeitschriftBegutachtung


In this paper, we explore how lead users develop radical innovations outside of manufacturing firms. We analyze the transition from a very early stage of activities to the ultimate commercialization of these innovations. The focus in this context is on the initiatives undertaken by lead users in order to transform their radically new solutions into functional prototypes, and then, to convince established manufacturers of the technological and market potential of their innovations. Using a comparative case study design in the high-tech field of medical equipment technology, we find that individual lead users as surgeons launch entrepreneurial activities and bridge periods inwhich established medical equipment manufacturers would not risk investing in radical innovations. By doing so, lead users create the conditions usually provided in manufacturer-initiated lead user projects, including the supply of diversified knowledge, the development and coordination of a network for further development of the innovation, and initial tests of technical or market feasibility. Our findings have implications for manufacturing firms that wish to design radical innovation projects with (individual) lead users and for research on new forms of lead user cooperation and integration.
Seiten (von - bis)219 - 233
FachzeitschriftIEEE Transactions on Engineering Management
PublikationsstatusVeröffentlicht - 2008