Lead user analysis: Approaches for learning from your lead users

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What is lead user analysis?

Lead user analysis is an approach from learning from the most advanced users – those at the forefront of technology advancements. Such users are most likely to want to see advancements in the technologies that you produce and may have their own opinions for how they see the overall industry advancing. Lead users are often a great source of new ideas and suggestions – helping you to stay ahead of technology advancements. 

Different approaches for learning from your lead users

There are various different approaches for seeking insight from lead users. These include:

Observing adaptations that lead users have made

One approach for gaining insight from lead users is to see adaptations that they have made to your products. Any modifications that they have made (potentially with extensions to software, or actual modifications to physical products) can be a good source of inspiration for areas that can be improved. If someone has gone to the effort of actually making a change to your product, it is a good indication that at least for them, it was operating suboptimally before. 

Observing how lead users use your product

Another approach to learn from lead users is to observe how they are using your products. Potentially there are shortcuts that they have developed or visible frustrations that they have about a particular interface. Seeing how your product is actually used can help illustrate the key areas that it is important to concentrate on, and which areas are less important. 

Asking lead users for their suggestions and predications

Another approach to gain insight from lead users is to directly ask them for their opinions on your product or service, as well as how it compares to other offerings. Lead users are likely to have their own opinions on the technology, potentially having thought in advance of ways they hope that it progresses. 

Gaining feedback from lead-users on prototypes

Another approach for involving the insight of lead users is to get their feedback on prototypes or new products that you have yet to launch. This may give you some early-stage feedback for what is working and the areas that can be refined. A 10-minute conversation may reveal insight that it would take months to gain having launched a product. 

The limits of listening to lead users

While there is a lot that can be gained from lead users, it is important not to be dependent on the opinions of the most technologically advanced users. Their needs may vary from the broader population of users that you will be targetting, and while there is still a lot that you can learn, it is important to put it into perspective and assess to what extent their opinions are likely to translate into your wider audience. 

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