A tool to transfer late-adopters into engines of innovation | Researchers: Sara Jahanmir and Luis Filipe Lages
Involving late adopters in user innovation practices? HOW can companies benefit?
Sara Jahanmir, PhD Candidate in Management at Nova SBE and her PhD adviser, Luis Lages, Professor at Nova SBE, have developed an innovative new product development method. The Lag-User Method is a customized method, tailored to the characteristics of the companies and designed for involving late adopters and laggards in the process of idea generation. Companies might benefit by applying the method, which follows seven steps and has been successfully applied across different industries.
Using late adopters as a source of innovative ideas?
Jahanmir and Lages have been working on a breakthrough research topic: using late adopters and laggards as a source of innovative ideas. The project was published in Journal of Engineering and Technology Management (2015) and featured in The Wall Street Journal’s print and TV (2016). It challenges current new product development (NPD), open and user innovation practices, and proposes late adopters and laggards, the last group of users who adopt a product, as sources of innovative ideas. Their findings reveal that laggards can come up with incremental, really new or break-through innovations. These findings help companies understand, get access and explore a new source of innovations.
The feature in all three editions of The Wall Street Journal (US, Europe, Asia), one of the business newspapers with highest impact, followed by a wide range of local media (such as Diário Económico, Hipersuper and RH Online in Portugal; Financial Mirror and Gold Magazine in Cyprus) are all strong confirmations about the relevance and credibility of this topic and its importance for today’s global businesses.
User innovation: what has been missing?
Looking at widely practiced open and user innovation methods, this project fills a gap: researchers and practitioners often look at innovators and early adopters as major sources of innovations and do not involve late adopters and laggards in their idea generation and NPD process. The authors of this study show that there is much more into the concept of being a late adopter or a laggard. Traditionally, late adopters and laggards are believed to be old, poor, less educated and conservative people. However, the study of Jahanmir and Lages shows that late adopters and laggards can be among any age group, educational or social status.
Involving late adopters in user innovation practices? WHY?
Executive findings confirm that (a) late adopters’ critical insights can help companies determine the reason for their late adoption; (b) since late adopters are critical users, they are a rich source of information for converting a product’s weakness into strength; (c) their insights can help firms overcome their limitations, modify a product to avoid decline, and expand the product life cycle, or develop the new generation of products to address a larger market segment, for example by simplifying over-engineered products, as well as offering easy-to-use solutions and user-friendly designs.
As mentioned by an executive, late adopters’ needs are the ‘‘amplified needs of the majority’’ and thus can help companies overcome barriers to adoption of innovations. Ideas provided by late adopters can help companies differentiate themselves from competitors, accelerate the rate of adoption and so gain a larger market share. Also companies can use the new insights of late adopters to identify emerging trends, explore new and unknown market spaces, and create blue oceans. The application of the Lag-User Method in companies has shown that solutions provided by laggards are viable and can be implemented in the development of new products or services.
This article is based on:
• Jahanmir, Sara F. & Luis Filipe Lages (2015), "The Lag-User Method: Using laggards as a source of innovative ideas", Journal of Engineering and Technology Management, 37(Jul-Sep), 65-77.
• Wells, C. (2016, January 27). The rise of tech’s late adopters. The Wall Street Journal (US), p A8
Photo: Flickr, Pete O'Shea