Lean LaunchPad and customer discovery as a form of qualitative research

Cory Hixson, Ella Lee Ingram, Rachel McCord, Julia M. Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


In this theoretical paper, we highlight the scholarship of integration by exploring how customer discovery connects to other methodologies in engineering education research and the opportunities for using this methodology in engineering education research. As a result of the National Science Foundation's Innovation Corps (I-Corps) and I-Corps for Learning initiatives, the Lean LaunchPad®/Customer Discovery methodology has grown in popularity within academic institutions, particularly in business and entrepreneurship education. In addition, the Lean LaunchPad®/Customer Discovery approach has helped startups, individuals, academics, and students test the potential of an idea, make important decisions about the structure, value, and implementation of their projects, and develop a minimum viable product, service, or offering. While the Lean LaunchPad®/Customer Discovery approach is relatively new to the fields of business, engineering education, and entrepreneurship education, its methodological background emerges from well-established qualitative research techniques. We first describe the Lean LaunchPad®/Customer Discovery process and give examples of its current use in academia. Next, we explain the connections between the Lean LaunchPad®/Customer Discovery approach and specific forms of qualitative research like design-based research, action research, and qualitative interviewing. Finally, we offer a detailed example of how our team used the Lean LaunchPad®/Customer Discovery approach to conduct an engineering education action research project. This example serves to clarify how the Lean LaunchPad®/Customer Discovery approach can be successfully applied, validated by funding received after our use of the process to develop a program. We expect that this theoretical work will add value to individuals interested in conducting action-oriented educational research projects for two reasons. First, we show how robust qualitative research methodologies provide the foundation for a popular market research approach. Second, we give an example of using this approach in an educational context. Our motivation is to expand the breadth of methodologies available to researchers and practitioners.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jun 23 2018
Externally publishedYes
Event125th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - Salt Lake City, United States
Duration: Jun 23 2018Dec 27 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© American Society for Engineering Education, 2018.


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