User driven innovation

user centered slide

»Policymakers and economists always assumed that consumers

just consumed and that they don’t innovate« (Eric Von Hippel).


User-driven innovation research field is defined as the process of examining articulated or unknown users’ needs; and systematic involvement of users in the process of innovation (Wise & Hogenhaven, 2008). Following the literature review, two different views of user driven innovation can be interpreted: the first view is about business orientation (focus) on users and their involvement in the process of new product or service development (Rosted 2005, Pedersen 2009, Wise and Hogenhaven 2008; Bisgaard et al. 2010); the second, companies’ work organization and use of different methodologies that serve to identifying users needs, and other activities that helps involving users into innovation processes (Rosted 2005; Cooper and Edgett 2008; Kelley 2006).

The term of user driven innovation is well established among the Scandinavian countries and their scholars, who coined the following definition: “user driven innovation is a process that examines the real user needs and users as such are systematically involved in the process of innovation in order to develop new products and services” (Wise & Hogenhaven 2008, p.21). The essence of the concept is in anticipation of users’ knowledge and user needs, which could be well or not articulated.

Wise and Hogenhaven (2008) underline two important elements of user driven innovation, first is about understanding of users needs, and second is in relation to systematic work with them. In Denmark the past user-driven innovations were associated with the expansion of information technologies and human-oriented design, which was typical for the development of computer science and telecommunications industries. Human-oriented design as a kind of a Scandinavian tradition was released in 1970 as a national development strategy for the Scandinavian countries, in order to prevent users’ denomination by evolving technology and fast growing computer industry. These days user-driven innovation is related with processes development in different industries, such as medical and medical devices industry (Bevan et al. 2007; Bate and Robert 2007), construction industry (Christiansson et al. 2010; Christiansson et al. 2008), fashion industry (Rosted 2005, Lockwood 2010), the public sector (Bevan et al. 2007) and others.

Rosted (2005), in one of rare quantitative studies on user driven innovation field, has defined three key dimensions. These dimensions are: companies’ focus on users; companies’ knowledge and employees’ skills for users’ needs detection; and effective methods for analyzing users’ articulated and none articulated needs. It is expected that working with users is associated with high costs (and resources), which enable relevant information to be transformed into appropriate innovation, which also reaches a value on the market. Therefore some may reach a conclusion that user driven innovation is a topic for large enterprises because only them can afford it, but Rosted’s (Rosted 2005) study showed that in fact there is an opportunity for Small and Medium Sized enterprises too. When creating value for customers, it’s more about organization and skills than resources and costs. However, we have to pay attention on the sector and industry where the business is competing. Among them is a large deviation. It is necessary to highlight the creative industry in which small businesses can achieve a breakthrough innovation with the help of creativity that is conditionally linked to effective users’ research (Howkins 2001).

There was an important issue discussed in articles that for user-driven innovation paradigm is essential to be accepted by senior managers as a business strategy or a kind of companies’ orientation. Orientation could be established as well on regional or states’ level. Denmark is the first state that implemented user driven innovation paradigm as innovation policy at the state level in 2007. Danish government started to support areas of users’ research by investing more than 16 million $ into the field (Scherfig et al. 2010). This program ranked Denmark as a pioneer country in the field of user driven innovation. In the program 80 participants were involved – various SMEs, large companies, public institutions and universities. SMEs were crucial in the project, since it is expected most out of them in terms of continuation of good practices how to get a new competitive position in the global economy through knowing and working with users. The program showed that most companies did not have the knowledge and experience in dealing with users’ research by existing innovation processes. The knowledge concerning deeper examination of users by ethnographic and anthropological research methods were needed to strengthen the momentum of user innovation processes (Coughlan et al. 2007, Scherfig et al 2010).

Rosted (2005) proposes four categories of methods how to include users into innovation process that are specific for user driven innovation.  On the basis of two dimensions: first is about indirect and direct involvement of users in the innovation process, and the second dealing with known (articulated) and unknown (not articulated) needs, four categories of methods were proposed: user testing, user innovation, users’ research and user participation.

Scandinavian researchers linked activities of user-driven innovation process by following eight stages: opportunity identification, data collection, pattern recognition, ideas concept, conceptualization, prototyping, testing and implementation. They also propose to combine the stages into two phases of the innovation process, namely the first phase as “what phase” and the second as a “how phase” (Bisgaard et al. 2010). In the first phase, also referred as the front-end phase of the innovation process, companies are usually looking for the answer to the question of what to offer to users and customers, while exploring and trying to understand all their wishes and non articulated needs. While in the second phase companies are looking to provide solutions to already identified user needs and preferences. This phase is aimed at different scenarios and options for developing a business model that enables businesses to flourish.

Source: Nagy 2011.