- Lead user innovation and entrepreneurship in the virtual world: A study of Second Life residents
- 12th McGill International Entrepreneurship Conference, Vaasa, Finland
- Book/source title
- Proceedings of the 12th McGill International Entrepreneurship Conference, Vaasa, Finland
- Document type
- Conference contribution
- Faculty of Economics and Business (FEB)
- Amsterdam Business School Research Institute (ABS-RI)
While prior research have investigated factors, processes and pathways traversed in lead user innovation within the three-dimensional concept of space and time, there is a scant attention on lead user innovation and ‘user entrepreneurship’ that take place within the four-dimensional concept of space and time, i.e. the virtual world. Using Second Life as a natural laboratory, we reported a study of four lead user innovators/entrepreneurs using virtual participant observation and in-depth interviews. Results suggest that 1) the paths traversed by lead user innovators in the virtual life resemble those in the real life. One clear difference is that innovation and entrepreneurship in the virtual world is constrained by the ‘design space’ and often breeds opportunities leading to entrepreneurial acts in the real world. The study also suggests that 2) the virtual world as a new technological platform will generate a range of opportunities that are not obvious to all potential user innovators/entrepreneurs and that 3) any given user innovator/entrepreneur will discover opportunities related to his or her prior knowledge but the range and quality of innovation generated will depend on the nature of networks and weak ties. Furthermore, 4) the study shows that virtual infrastructure in Second Life simultaneously facilitate and deter user innovation and entrepreneurship, which will in turn spur more innovative/entrepreneurial acts as residents attempt to solve the technical problems. As such, this study extends the lead user innovation and entrepreneurship theory, Austrian economics theory of entrepreneurial discovery and creative collective theory into the virtual context. We conclude with implications of these findings for theory and practice of lead user innovation and entrepreneurship.
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