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Innovation by the user: one of the pillars of the Double Diamond

What do skateboard, Dropbox, and Braille have in common? They are proof that any user can innovate!

What is user innovation ?

Theorized by a few researchers, including Eric Von Hippel, user innovation is opposed to producer-centred innovation, described by Schumpeter in the 1930s. According to Von Hippel, it is not producers who innovate and then consumers who use their products and services, but rather lead users who seek to respond to a problem in their daily lives by innovating. Indeed, the profit logic of producers encourages them to position themselves on non-risky markets and thus to distance themselves from a potential disruptive innovation. By extension, lead user innovations are often not industrialisable as they are. To do this, they go through 3 stages:

  1. Creation of a new product or service by a lead user for his personal use
  2. Improvement, criticism, evaluation, copying,… from other users
  3. Producers come into play once the market potential is clearly defined.


There are many concrete examples of innovation by the user that are omnipresent in our daily lives. Let us take sport, for example. Basketball was invented by a medical teacher, James Naismith, who wanted to find an activity for his students in winter. Another example is skateboarding, born in California, which evolved from surfing in the 1950s. Its democratization in the 1970s was due to an innovation by one of its enthusiasts: Frank Nasworthy. The wheels usually installed on skateboards were hard and worn far too quickly. He then had the idea, in 1971, to adapt the type of polyurethane wheels of roller skates on skateboards. The success was immediate: he founded his Cadillac Wheels company in 1972 and sold more than 300,000 wheel sets in 3 years.

But user innovation is not only present in the field of sport. We can mention for example Braille, the storage service in the Dropbox cloud, ice cones, steadycam, the Apache server, mods in video games, Go-Pro or even the web itself!

Why and how to integrate it into your project design ?

User innovation can be integrated at all stages of the design of a new service in an organization. It makes it possible to imagine disruptive services, created by and for their users.

The goal ? Design a problem common to all employees, in which the needs and ideas of each will be the basis for the construction of a problem.

At 10h11 we support this principle from the very first steps of our double diamond methodology.

To do this, we set up co-design processes with all the poles present in the organization concerned. In our first stage of discovery, this can take the form of 1 to 1 interviews, immersion in the organisation or focus groups. In the definition and creation phases, we can use personas, paper prototyping in working groups, dot voting and six-to-one. But these processes are not only present during the design of the project: users also intervene after delivery, through their feedback.

The benefits for the project are multiple. By constructing a problem common to all future users, this methodology is a catalyst for the future adoption of the service or tool. The integration of the user in the early stages of the project also makes it possible to identify uses, possible improvements, reluctance, but also and above all to encourage everyone’s ideas and creativity.

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