3 Reasons Why Extreme Users boost Your Innovation

3 Reasons Why Extreme Users boost Your Innovation

3 Reasons Why Extreme Users boost Your Innovation 2600 1586 Use Design

Too often companies are focused on satisfying the needs of the majority. It usually matches their target market. The intention is understandable, but during the design phase, focusing on your mainstream users/consumers can bridle innovation. The so-called “extreme users” or “lead users” are enormously insightful for innovators. Here’s why:

  1. They will dig up work-arounds and hacks that could benefit your mainstream audience

Their needs are in some way « amplified » (power usage, greater constraints, etc.), therefore they have to find work-arounds to make your products work. The hashtags — # — have been introduced by a twitter user, not by Twitter’s founder.

2. They will give you new perspectives

They can indicate evolutions of your market. Extreme users sometimes act as early adopters without realizing it. Facebook, by observing misuse of traditional Facebook profiles at its early days, pushed new features such as Facebook “Groups,” “Events” and “Pages.” Those innovations came at a crucial period of growth for the company amid competition from other social networks.

Gatorade was formulated in 1965 by a team of scientists at the University of Florida College of Medicine, including Robert Cade, Dana Shires, Harry James Free and Alejandro de Quesada. Following a request from Florida Gators football head coach Ray Graves, Gatorade was created to help athletes by acting as a replacement for body fluids lost during physical exertion.

3. They can spark opportunities that you’d never have imagined

Cliff Kuang reminds us of a few extraordinary stories about this:

In 1808, Pellegrino Turri built the first typewriter, so that his blind lover, Countess Carolina Fantoni da Fivizzano, could write letters more legibly.

In 1872, Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone to support his work helping the deaf.

In 1972, Vint Cerf programmed the first email protocols for the nascent Internet. He believed fervently in the power of electronic letters. His proof was his own experience: Electronic messaging was the only seamless way to communicate with his wife, who was deaf, while he was at work.

Microsoft fully embraced this approach and decided to use disabilities as another engine for innovation, reinforcing its design thinking process.

The most important insight we can get from this is the fact that innovation relies on people. And people are not necessarily the whole R&D department, a state-of-the-art lab, or even a crystal ball. Some humans are capable of identifying their own needs and find a creative solution for themselves. Observe them and learn from them to make those solutions work for the majority.

This doesn’t only save companies a lot of effort, but also provides a proven solution for people’s problems. What else could we ask for? Wasting this extremely relevant source of inspiration would be completely ignoring the core of every innovation: humans.


If you haven’t had a chance to try Caravel yet, see how it can boost your team’s user research by becoming a flexible and inspirational platform for all your findings.

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