Abstract: Lead-User Innovation and the UK Outdoor Trade since 1850

Mike Parsons and Mary B. Rose


The development of the U.K. outdoor clothing and equipment trade provides an ideal laboratory to study the changing nature of consumer innovation from the nineteenth to the twenty-first century. We trace the shifting role and experience of lead-user innovation over a 150-year period, demonstrating significant changes in sporting needs, technology, manufacturing organization, business methods, and communications. We explore the shifting interface between users and manufacturers and the extent to which shared communities of practice and knowledge have influenced product development and been shaped by the innovations themselves. Summarizing research on lead-user innovation and the historical evidence of lead-user innovation in U.K. industry, we explore the changing relationships between outdoor sportspeople and clothing and equipment suppliers, as well as the changing role and experience of lead-user innovation across a range of products, including climbing equipment, rucksacks, and clothing. An analysis of shifting communities of practice through time underpins our co-evolutionary approach.

BEH On-Line Paper