Comparing Lead Users to Emergent-nature Consumers as Sources of Innovation at Early Stages of New Product Development

Linda Hamdi-Kidar, Peter Keinz, Emmanuelle Le Nagard, Eric Vernette

Publication: Scientific journalJournal articlepeer-review


The large potential of lead users (LUs) in developing innovative and radically new product concepts is well established in the literature. However, in a widely acknowledged study, Hoffman et al. introduced the new concept of emergent‐nature consumers (ENCs) and showed the superiority of this group of individuals over LUs in developing new product concepts. Consequently, they postulated ENCs to be “the right consumers” to be integrated in new product development processes. In this article, we critically reflect and build on Hoffman et al.'s study and further investigate the promise of the ENC concept as compared to the LU concept. In a pilot study, we replicated the study by Hoffman and colleagues: We conducted a crowdsourcing competition and asked for concepts for new services; those concepts had been generated collectively by the participants and had been assessed by a consumer crowd. In the main study, the participants of a crowdsourcing competition submitted individually generated concepts for products, which were evaluated by industry experts. Across both studies, using different empirical methods in two different contexts, and in contrast to Hoffman et al.'s work, we find support for LUs outperforming ENCs (as well as average users) in generating the commercially most promising concepts. Thus, our insights reinforce the existing user innovation literature and the notion of LUs being the primary source of new product/service concepts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)616 - 631
JournalJournal of Product Innovation Management (JPIM)
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Austrian Classification of Fields of Science and Technology (ÖFOS)

  • 502052 Business administration
  • 502014 Innovation research

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