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The problem-solving view of new product development sees the innovation process as a series of problem-solving loops broken down into three stages: problem detection, analysis and removal. We link this framework with lead user-driven innovation regarding software and show that effort by lead users (LUs) in each stage of the innovation problem solving process is, in varying degrees, associated with the source code’s quality, the productivity of the development process and the software’s popularity. We also test whether front loading the problem solving process is associated with development performance and we find that front loading is associated with increased code quality but decreased development productivity. Empirical tests are carried out with data from open source software projects. Findings potentially impact the design and management of online communities to help product development.

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Decision Support Systems