The Zen of Co-creation

Co-creation is to enterprise 2.0 what “mass customization” is to marketing 2.0: not the Holy Grail, since it is definitely not a delegation of responsibilities, but a breakthrough approach to enterprise governance. Think about it as a way to inject a company or brand’s ecosystem’s output inside their internal processes, resulting in a Moebius band like value chain, each iteration providing value by itself, independently of the process involved.

More than with any other 2.0 internal initiatives, setting up the scene for co-creation needs a cultural shift to happen; fostering the right behavior challenges a lot of corporate attitudes, focusing on continuous innovation and persistent interaction.

Co-creation is not about control, but about persistence of a vision

Co-creation is neither crowd sourcing, nor focus groups. Involving partners, suppliers or clients into co-creation, means that you will have to accept losing control on some of your assets to trigger innovation or improvement. On the other side, you will need to share a consistent vision of what you want to achieve and provide a clear framework to your goals. Do not change the rules of the game in the middle of the road; if you intend to reward the best contributions with money, tell it from the beginning. Since co-creation won’t fit into your existing business processes, you have to integrate its output into a larger sketch.

Expect the unexpected

Zen focuses on the gesture rather than on the goal. You will need to perfect your platform and the way you interact, without trying to drive the output of your initiative. True innovation is disruptive per nature; you won’t be able to seize it if you pave the way before proceeding. Embrace the unexpected as the best way to trigger new solutions to known problems.

Forget your strengths, expose your weaknesses

Fear of competitors is a fierce brake put on your co-creation efforts, as you are here to make up for your weaknesses. A co-creation platform is the less adequate place to pitch your competitive advantages. Humility is key.

You will get as much as you give

The more you give, the more you will get. This looks like obvious, but think about the need for dismiss control; how many businesses are today ready to publicly expose so-called “sensitive” data or jealously crafted processes? Procter & Gamble now famous Connect + Develop website is a perfect example of a successful open innovation platform which leverages reciprocity. Giving is not giving, anyway. As Marcel Mauss exposed in “The Gift”, exchange of goods always has a symbolic dimension which goes far beyond the simple act of freely giving up a property. While giving, the deep ownership of gifts remains property of the owner, and cannot be redeemed unless a counter-gift is made. The behavioral nature of exchanges without market is an inherent part of co-creation initiatives. You are not creating a marketplace, even if you reward the submissions; you are in fact creating a value process.

Avoid destruction

The nature of co-creation could easily lead to destruction of value, either by entering too deeply into the exchange process (internal destruction), or by ignoring creative inputs apparently too far away from your expectations. A consistent vision should avoid you the first possibility. Keep in mind that disruption is not destruction, but another angle to consider known assets. Always consider positively any input, no matter how destructive it might look at first glance; just consider it from a different angle.

Keep the shortest path from ear to mouth

As a last bit of advice, report as frequently as you can. Inform the whole company about your initiative progresses, as internal resources are also part of the co-creation process. Engage and inform your external stakeholders, as they are now part of your business processes.

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4 Responses to The Zen of Co-creation

  1. John Moore says:

    Great post providing some important insights into co-creation. In my writing about the use of social media in business, especially as part of social support communities (SSC) I have been thinking about and exploring the concepts of co-creation. Thanks for this great post which gives me more to think about.

    John More

    • Thierry says:

      Thanks John,
      there would be much more to be said about co-creation, notably on the fact that it blurs the traditional outside perimeter of enterprise, and challenges most foundations of hierarchy.

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  3. Jon Husband says:

    Re: co-creation and the “mass customization of (knowledge) work:

    I’ll Do It My Way – The Mass Customization of Knowledge Work

    The co-creation gets made useful with new / emerging tools such as this (une entreprise francaise assez interessant, d’apres moi):

    The Personall-ization of Knowledge Work – On Your Screen

    wherein sophisticated permissions and tagging functionalities can fuse individuals’ out put into useful aggregated “collective intelligence”

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