Exploring the relationship between Lead Users and collaborative orientation in the design of a functional running garment

Morris, Kristen
Ashdown, Susan
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While some users have great potential to increase product novelty and customer benefit, some do not, making user collaborations risky as they can lead to loss of time and money for the apparel company. If apparel professionals can find the "right" users to involve in the design process, they can reduce the risks while obtaining the benefits of collaborating with users. Past research has shown that Lead Users (LUs) develop product ideas that represent the needs of traditional consumers and can generate commercially successful products. The study design used an entrance survey, design session, exit survey, and online evaluation where users (runners) developed and evaluated concepts for a base layer garment. Sixty-five runners were sorted into seven LU groups and ten NLU groups. The design sessions resulted in 17 base layer design concepts. In the online survey,183 evaluated each of the 17 design concepts between 108-114 times. The highest scoring base layer concept was produced by the highest scoring LU group. Three of the five top-rated concepts developed by LU groups. Garment scores were moderately positively correlated to the group's usership score, further supporting previous research that LUs develop commercially attractive products and, therefore, should be considered as collaborators when designing new apparel concepts. From the literature, we expected there to be a significant relationship between higher levels of usership and CO, but no such relationship was found collaborative orientation was not correlated with any of the three LU traits, but rather, it was negatively correlated to technical expertise. Groups who ran more per week were more likely to develop a highly-rated garment. Industry professionals should seek people who score high on LU traits, especially TE, over people who are collaboratively oriented. People who are willing to collaborate and work well in a team may be less likely to produce a commercially attractive garment. This finding is critical to understand how to optimize user collaborations. Apparel professionals may accommodate LUs by working with LUs individually or allowing LUs to have time to work alone to find a solution to their needs. The next steps of this research are to test the output of LU in nominal groups of one.