Lead User Recruitment with Sturm und Drang

At STURM and DRANG, perhaps each department would emphasize different aspects when it comes to which variable ultimately leads to the success of a project. But for our Collaboration Management team, it is clear: Our international network of experts and innovators as well as the precise recruitment of lead users and specialists is one of the central success factors.

When we say that we can offer a glimpse into the future of markets, it may sound surprising at first. But those who understand people’s behaviour and desires can also create offers that are relevant to the future. Ethnographic research helps us here – we stay close to people, observe their behaviour and get to the bottom of cultural narratives. How do they deal with phenomena such as sustainability, health or beauty? And what do these mean to them in everyday life?

Author Nora Pernesch


“To focus on people and their cosmos, to remain flexible and open to looking beyond narrowly defined target group definitions enable us to gain forward-looking insights.” – Nora Pernesch

Lead users and experts play a special role in our projects. They contribute a passion for innovation and are always a step ahead of their time with their intrinsic motivation to apply and test new market offers in a particular field.

Lead users give us relevant feedback and function with their enthusiasm as seismographs for tomorrow’s markets. For a company that is in a process of open innovation or that wants to get to know its users of tomorrow, lead users with their special skills such as conceptual and visual creativity and their love for the product or topic can enable a disruptive change in the correctly conceived project design.

Author Julia Valentin


“For us, it is incredibly important to know how the person acts in everyday life, to get to know their context and thus to understand their user experience and relationship to products and services.“ – Julia Valentin

We activate our network of international experts from various disciplines to develop a strategic future perspective for brands and companies. Based on their expertise, we can derive resilient foresight and help new and established brands to credibly address cultural trends.

So when a company wonders what the gastronomic formats of the future will look like and whether its own portfolio is actually still relevant, our gastronomic and lifestyle experts fan out and track down new trends and behaviours in the world of culinary diversity. In this way, we can jointly develop strategies and make it possible, for example, for more traditional companies to credibly take up trends such as streetfood culture.

Or if an international beauty group wants to develop products and services for future generations, we start a long-term community with experts and multipliers from five countries to identify the beauty recipes and trend topics of the future. For months, not only trends were discussed here, but also information channels for influencers were made transparent and future springboards for products and services were designed.

Recruiting the really relevant lead users and experts is therefore also the heart of a project for our Collaboration Management team. With years of experience, sensitive antennas and a good portion of courage, they track down suitable candidates and put them to the test – until they are sure to have found the needle in the haystack.

And that’s what’s needed. Because a deep and intensive discussion with the selected candidates is only possible if we work in a small, intimate circle and thus get to know their true perspectives.

Gesche Boekhoff


“This job is exciting because I always have to be creative – how do I find the exact person who fits the project perfectly?“ – Gesche Boekhoff

But how do we find digital natives whose heart beats for high-quality writing materials and stationery or young pipe smokers with a sense of sustainability? The core is certainly our STURM und DRANG database, which links over 1000 tried and tested experts from all over the world. In addition, there is our broad network: as with the classic snowball effect, we find the person who exactly meets our requirements in many areas in which we are active through our contacts.

In a thorough screening process, we identify strengths, abilities and backgrounds for each individual candidate in order to perfectly balance the sample. In intensive interviews – sometimes not unlike an application process – the aim is to find out how much expertise the users bring with them and how much they like to be creative, for example: Are they only users or already problem solvers? Do they look beyond their own horizons? Do they have a certain kind of connoisseurship for a certain area and reflect their interest?

In contrast to the classical sample, which is mainly based on statistical categories, for our Human Innovation projects we rely on a heterogeneous set of people who complement each other and bring with them the most diverse talent typologies – be it what skills they bring with them, what product knowledge they possess or what their degree of professionalization is.

Only with versatile people united by a creative mindset can we, together with our customers, achieve the kind of products and services that are meaningful, that create resonance and commitment, and that change life for the better.

Our Collaboration Management Team, consisting of Gesche, Julia and Nora.
Our Collaboration Management Team, consisting of Gesche, Julia and Nora.