Synergies among producer firms, lead users, and user communities: The case of the LEGO producer-user ecosystem

Christoph Hienerth, Christopher Lettl, Peter Keinz

Publication: Scientific journalJournal articlepeer-review

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Abstract

While many firms today proactively involve users in their new product development efforts using a wide variety of
methods such as the lead user method, firm-hosted user communities, or mass customization toolkits, some pioneering
firms are experimenting with the creation of sustainable producer-user ecosystems designed for the continuous
exploration and exploitation of business opportunities. In this paper, the functioning of such ecosystems is studied with
particular emphasis on the synergies they can yield. Based on an explorative and longitudinal multiple case study
design, the producer-user ecosystem of the firm LEGO is analyzed, and three main actors in the ecosystem are
identified: entrepreneurial lead users who aim to start their own businesses, a vibrant user community, and the LEGO
company as the focal producer firm and facilitator for multiple user-to-user and user-to-producer interactions. Our
study reveals three kinds of synergies: (1) reduced risk for entrepreneurial lead users and the focal producer firm, (2) the extension of the design space of the focal producer firm's products, and (3) the creation of buzz within the user community. Finally, the theoretical and managerial implications of our findings for innovation researchers and
practitioners are discussed. (authors' abstract)
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)848 - 866
JournalJournal of Product Innovation Management (JPIM)
Volume31
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2014

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