Design thinking

Lead User Innovation Lab

Nicola Chamberlain

With our commitment to methods that challenge companies to develop innovations based on the needs and dreams of people’s everyday lives, we are collaborating with The Interactive Institute and IKEA on a unique method development project that explores ways to connect a market-proven approach to innovation known as The Lead User Method.

In the fast pace of the global marketplace, companies and even countries are looking for guaranteed ways to improve innovation and to explore outside the purely commercial context. The Lead User Innovation Lab project builds on the participatory Innovation Lab model that we have developed together with The Interactive Institute. It incorporates elements of The Lead User Method, popularised by Eric Von Hippel.

It is founded on the observation that people innovate when faced with extreme needs and stand to gain significantly from addressing those needs and involves immersion into a subject area in order to find and collaborate with people innovating at the ‘leading edge’ of emerging market trends.
While companies worldwide have employed The Lead User Method to great commercial success, our team is focusing on maintaining an approach that balances the needs and dreams of everyday people with the commercial aspirations of industry.

Urban Biking Eco-System

Working on the Urban Biking Ecosystem case presented by IKEA’s Life at Home department, the multidisciplinary team is exploring physical and virtual settings to identify opportunities for innovation. The team grounded the research project by conducting fieldwork in diverse cycling contexts throughout Europe, from cycle-saturated Copenhagen, to the under-used cycling infrastructure of Barcelona. In a series of participatory Innovation Labs, the team has collaborated with a diverse range of users and IKEA stakeholders to explore the possibilities of working with lead users in the context of Urban Biking Ecosystems.

The research team has worked closely with members of IKEA to situate the method in relation to the company’s workflow. Method review sessions serve as a valuable opportunity to align perspectives and critically reflect on the activities and flow of each lab. Utilising accessible and content-rich forms of documentation, such as video presentation and illustrated storytelling, the research team modelled the labs to support a collaborative learning process among the three organisations.

IKEA is concerned about people’s opportunity to live a sustainable urban life. Therefore we are interested in how we might support people to make better use of bikes in their everyday life in the city. IKEA's interest in supporting people to cycle more is based on two broad trends: Urbanisation and Sustainable Conscience, where people are consciously looking for ways to live more sustainable lives.

Project Manager, Future Home at IKEA

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