These communities are today one of the main sources of innovation.
It can be you, or me, depending on our skills, our interests,... They are usually creative personalities coming from very different backgrounds and who turn out to be users at the forefront of a field. They have a strong interest in innovating for themselves, imagining and developing solutions that meet expectations and that will later be generalized to all users of the domain.
These communities crystallize into virtual and real networks. They are alive, they communicate with each other, they meet each other, they are informed by cross-media systems specially set up such as social networks, news feeds, wikiradio, meetings, barcamps, etc... This allows them to be always in tune with the life of the ecosystem.
The members of each community are profiled according to specific methodologies in order to be quickly mobilized according to their skills or interests, on a wide variety of projects. The objective is always to integrate the relevant users at the heart of the innovation process.
Eric Von Hippel, the great theorist of open innovation, economist and professor at the famous MIT Sloan School of Management, has demonstrated that innovative ideas developed by Lead Users are difficult to transfer from the environment in which they are born to the usual production centres. The contextual, situational dimension is major.
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It is very difficult, if not impossible, to observe each individual case in its "biotope". Yet it is often very specific cases that are at the source of a breakthrough innovation.
To remedy this difficulty, it is now possible to put these innovators in a context that is closest to their environment so that they can develop their ideas naturally.
It is therefore necessary to be able to recreate these particular contexts in which innovative ideas or uses are born.
And these contexts have been created: these are the Fab labs, the Living Labs, the Virtual Reality Centres.
The Living Lab is a set of methodological means allowing to put the user "in situation". Fab Labs are places where ideas can be concretized in the form of prototypes or experiments. The Virtual Reality Centre is the tool of excellence for observing situations of use in a context as close as possible to reality, and for carrying out trial-and-error routines in almost real time.
Finally, it is also a question of working with users who will be directly concerned and therefore intrinsically motivated by the future services. These assertions, however, are based on the underlying assumption that the user is creative from the outset. Questions arise about the nature of this user. Should only Lead Users, or more generally "stakeholders" be involved in the design of innovative services? Further experimentation is needed to determine the different user profiles and how they can be assessed and involved according to the expected results.
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