Lead user innovation - Geoffrey Otieno 2020

Published: 12 January 2023| Version 1 | DOI: 10.17632/93wym8spv4.1
Geoffrey Otieno


Demystifying lead user innovators and showing their importance has been a subject of many arguments. In many cases, the discussions have focused on the firm level of innovation and rarely on the innovator as an individual. Lead users have been recognised for bringing about commercially attractive user innovations and as sources of innovation for new products and services. According to lead user theory, these users are defined as being ahead of an important market trend and experiencing high benefits from innovating. This mixed method study extends lead user theory by exploring the antecedents and consequences of lead user innovation based on 321 quantitative survey responses and 36 interviews. Additionally, five interviews were conducted with regulators. The quantitative survey responses consisted of 298 male and 23 female lead users; the 36 qualitative interviewees were six female and thirty male lead users; the five regulator interviewees were from the Communications Authority of Kenya, Central Bank of Kenya, Insurance Regulatory Authority, Kenya Industrial Property Institute, and SACCO Societies Regulatory Authority. Regarding antecedents, the study uncovered that user characteristic variables (gender, age, marital status, occupation, work experience, education level, and trend leadership), as well as motivation (benefits expected, religion, and incentives) and process of innovation variables (time, number of partners and locus of control) help explain an individual's lead user outcomes. These variables might therefore be used as a proxy to identify the lead users. Concerning the outcomes, the study focused on lead users’ success or failure, employment capability from the innovation, the ability to raise funds for the innovation and the type of innovation produced. The study found that for the lead user characteristics, the age, and the leadership in emerging trends were significant determinants of outcomes of innovation. Marital status was only significant when interacted with age. For the motivation, benefits expected, and incentives were significant determinants of the outcomes of innovation, while regulatory authorities were moderators of innovation; For the process, none of the variables were significant on their own unless interacted with the characteristics’ variables. The study recommends a shift of focus from products and organizational processes that focus on individual constructs to frameworks that show an integrated approach to lead user innovation. When the focus shifts from process to framework, businesses can detach themselves from business as usual and find integrated ways of ensuring the success of innovations.


Steps to reproduce

The study used an explanatory sequential mixed methods study design. Piloting was used to train the enumerators and adjust the research tool. The research designed after the pilot phase involved a 3-stage process. First stage involved interviews of selected lead users using the developed data collection tool. This was to capture the quantitative data that would help in the deductive approach. Second stage involved regulator interviews based on regulators who were mentioned in stage one by lead users. The regulator interview guide (Appendix 4) was unstructured but was informed by feedback received from the lead users in stage one. This stage enabled the inductive approach to the in-depth understanding of regulators based on the results of stage one. The third stage involved in-depth interviews of selected lead user cases based on analysis or the responses in stage one and two. The multi-method research approach helped achieve the research objectives fully through combining the methods above in data collection. The total population considered for this research was the number of lead users who are leading innovations in various parts of Kenya. A database of lead users in Kenya does not exist, so the population is unknown. Therefore, the researcher used Taro Yamane’s formula (Yamane, 1967). The identification of respondents for this study was done by snowball sampling – selecting lead users based on referrals by experts, at the Enterprise Support Organisations (ESO), or identified lead user innovators at various fintech businesses. The researcher used pyramiding, a method developed for lead user search, which is a variant of snowball sampling. This snowball sampling method involved asking individuals with a rare characteristic being sought to identify others they may know who have that same characteristic (Goodman, 1961; Kaulartz and von Hippel, 2018; Somoza Sánchez et al., 2018; Welch, 1975). The effectiveness of snowballing stems from the observation that people tend to know or be aware of people like themselves (Hai-Jew, 2014; von Hippel et al., 2009). The regulator interviews for the Communication Authority of Kenya (CAK), Central Bank of Kenya (CBK), Insurance Regulatory Authority (IRA), Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI) and Sacco Societies Regulatory Authority (SASRA) were based on responses from the first stage of the data collection and availability, accessibility, and willingness of the regulator to participate in the research. Initially, eight regulators were targeted but only five were available for interviews in the given timeframe. The regulators not interviewed included CMA, KRA, and RBA due to various reasons given beyond the researcher's control, such as changes in leadership that delayed approval of interviews, not wanting to participate in the study, and unavailability of respondents due to work pressures.


Strathmore University Strathmore Business School


Innovation, Strategy