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Creation of Empathic Lead Users From Non-Users via Simulated Lead User Experiences

[+] Author Affiliations
Meagan R. Vaughan, Carolyn C. Seepersad, Richard H. Crawford

The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX

Paper No. DETC2014-35052, pp. V007T07A048; 8 pages
doi:10.1115/DETC2014-35052
From:
  • ASME 2014 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference
  • Volume 7: 2nd Biennial International Conference on Dynamics for Design; 26th International Conference on Design Theory and Methodology
  • Buffalo, New York, USA, August 17–20, 2014
  • Conference Sponsors: Design Engineering Division, Computers and Information in Engineering Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-4640-7
  • Copyright © 2014 by ASME

abstract

Customer Needs Analysis (CNA) is a common method used to help non-user designers to identify latent user needs. However, efforts by engineers in developed countries to conduct CNA with lead users from developing countries is complicated by differences in culture, geographical location, and language among participants. To overcome these issues, we present in this paper an alternative strategy to create Empathic Lead Users (ELU) from non-user product design engineers through the use of simulated lead user experiences.

The strategy for creating ELU includes two exercises to build empathic understanding of the needs of lead users. The problem selected for this case study was to improve lower-limb prosthetics for amputees in developing countries. The first exercise was an academic, lecture-style training session — based on videos, photos, and literature — to build understanding of the needs of amputees worldwide and in a particular developing country, Bolivia. The second exercise simulated the experiences of lead users by allowing participants to don, ambulate, and doff a mock-prosthetic limb. Each participant was interviewed before, between, and after the experiences and customer needs were interpreted from their responses. For comparison, lead users in Bolivia and typical users in the United States were similarly interviewed and customer needs interpreted from their responses.

The ELU participants were able to identify a majority of the lead user group’s needs and the traditional user group’s needs, 95% and 95% respectively. Further, by completing a CNA with the ELU group, there was a 100% increase in the number of latent needs that could be utilized in future design efforts in this study, relative to the 5 latent needs identified by the lead users themselves. As a result of this study, it appears that customer needs analysis with ELU helps to identify more latent needs, and possibly more avenues for product innovations, than interviewing lead or traditional users alone.

Copyright © 2014 by ASME

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