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Three Keys to Co-creation

Co-creation was a big topic at today’s Innovative Marketing Conference, and David Sutherland of the Launch Institute provided a useful framework for thinking about how and where to involve customers (and others) in the offer development process. The premise, of course, is that collaborative development sparks creativity, ensures a closer fit with customer wants and needs, and improves the success rate for new offers.

Co-creation was a big topic at today’s Innovative Marketing Conference, and David Sutherland of the Launch Institute provided a useful framework for thinking about how and where to involve customers (and others) in the offer development process. The premise, of course, is that collaborative development sparks creativity, ensures a closer fit with customer wants and needs, and improves the success rate for new offers.

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According to Sutherland, there are three common platforms to developing new products and services within an organization: Insight into new opportunities, Creativity in putting together compelling offers to meet those opportunities, and Value Capture to bring those offers to market in a profitable way. In thinking about co-creation, the issue is how best to engage with customers, partners, and potentially even competitors in each platform.

Insight is the easiest. Most companies work directly with customers and others to assess new opportunities, although they usually can improve the process. Conference participants put a lot of stock in social anthropology and ethnography as a way to get deeper insight compared with typical survey research and focus groups.

Creativity gets a bit tougher. Tech companies actually co-create customized solutions with individual customers every day, but moving from those one-offs in the field to a more systematic approach to broader offer development is still more theory than practice. As Sutherland noted, it’s really hard for companies to get past their product-based approach which runs counter to the more collaborative, start-with-the-problem ideal of co-creation.

Value Capture can be the toughest. When customers and others are literally present at the creation, figuring out intellectual property rights, revenue sharing, and other shared concerns can create all sorts of problems — unless it is clear from the beginning that the lead organization retains all ownership.

Not surprisingly, conference participants tended to fall back to the Insight phase, stressing all the great listening initiatives to help figure out the requirements for a better mousetrap. It’s not really co-creation in the fullest sense, but may at least be a decent step forward.