Embedded Lead Users - The Benefits of Employing Users for Corporate Innovation

Posted: 21 Oct 2012 Last revised: 25 Feb 2020

See all articles by Tim Schweisfurth

Tim Schweisfurth

University of Twente

Christina Raasch

Kühne Logistics University (KLU)

Date Written: October 19, 2012


This paper is the first to study the organizational behavior of “embedded lead users” (ELUs) – employees who are lead users of their employing firm’s products or services. Most of the literature views producers and users as organizationally distinct. Employing lead users is a novel mode for firms to absorb sticky user knowledge. We hypothesize that, due to their unique knowledge structures, ELUs excel in innovation-related behaviors within the firm, specifically in innovative work behavior, boundary spanning behavior, and customer orientation behavior. Using survey data from the mountaineering equipment industry (N=149), we can confirm these hypotheses. We find that lead userness, rather than product involvement or general use expertise, matter for innovation. Additional robustness checks all confirm our results. Managerial implications are discussed, as are directions for future research on this empirically important, but hitherto under-researched phenomenon.

Keywords: Embedded lead users, organizational boundaries, sticky knowledge, user innovation, organizational behavior

JEL Classification: D23, O31, O32

Suggested Citation

Schweisfurth, Tim and Raasch, Christina, Embedded Lead Users - The Benefits of Employing Users for Corporate Innovation (October 19, 2012). Research Policy, Vol. 44, No. 1, 2015, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2164555 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2164555

Tim Schweisfurth (Contact Author)

University of Twente ( email )

Postbus 217

Christina Raasch

Kühne Logistics University (KLU) ( email )

Großer Grasbrook 17
Hamburg, 20457

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