Understanding the Future through Extreme Users

How those on the edge 
can shape innovation

Qualitative segmentation has a variety of sampling methods used to guarantee a pool of participants to represent a target market. But for innovation research, we ignore those squarely in the middle of a target market. Instead, we look to extreme users who are indicative of the future and live where the future has already arrived. These users are more articulate about their problems and needs, and more likely to employ innovative workarounds.

Extreme behaviors are powerful examples of human agency and the ability to challenge dominant social structures. We explore this framework with three case-studies: Trans people for feminine care innovation, Hikikomori for future social spaces, and the Amish for clothing sustainability.

The case for Extreme User segments

Case one: Trans men and trans women as articulators of need in feminine care

Case two: The Amish as creators of 
hacks and workarounds

Case three: Hikikomori as avatars of the
future in social interaction

extreme user