Monday, March 24, 2014

Who's Your "Lead User" Community?

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I read this interesting post by Michael Schrage on the HBR blog this week.

In it, he talks about the challenge Google is having with their new Google Glass product and their "lead user" community (i.e., the people out and about with advance versions of Google Glass, testing the user experience in the real world and, not unimportantly, creating buzz and excitement for the new product in the land of us muggles*).

Seems like some of these lead users aren't quite creating the impression Google had hoped for, acting rude and narcissistic and forcing the creation of a new term--"Glassholes."

This is a big problem because, as Schrage says:

"Breakthrough" innovation depends less on design thinking and user experience than how well your lead users/early adopters “brand” your breakthroughs in the mind of the marketplace.

It got me thinking. As an association executive, who is my "lead user" community? Who is it that is out and about in my membership, modelling use of my new products and services and creating buzz and excitement about them? Do I even have one? Should I?

Seems like the answer to my last question is an obvious "yes." Recognizing how difficult it increasingly is to capture the attention of your members and deliver effective communications to them, imagine how productive it would be to have a community of "lead members," interacting with your larger community in the "real world," demonstrating the value of your programs and services.

For me, my board currently plays some version of this role. Their willingness to embrace a new idea has served as a kind of bellwether for me, giving me a clue as to how popular they might be among the broader membership.

But using their enthusiasm more intentionally, leveraging their natural ambassador role for the dissemination of key ideas and services among the membership, is a strategy that has a lot of appeal to me.

*Note: This is likely the first and only Harry Potter reference that will ever appear on this blog.

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This post was written by Eric Lanke, an association executive, blogger and author. For more information, visit, follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at

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