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In Leading the Revolution, author Gary Hamel said, "If you want to see the future coming, 90% of what you need to learn you'll learn from outside your industry." Indeed, in a heavily networked world - a world with ever-shortening product and service lifecycles - both small and large companies are beginning to see the need to involve people outside their organization in an effort to remain relevant.

Download: The Agile Product Team’s Guide to Innovation. 

The need to tap into the collective insight of people outside your organization is fueling the coming of age of one research discipline: co-creation. Because of its potential to bring innovative ideas to organizations faster and in a more cost-effective way, co-creation is becoming more popular with Fortune 500 companies and smaller organizations.

If you've ever thought of embarking on a co-creation project—or if you've never heard of this term before—here are some basics you need to know:

What Is the Definition of Co-Creation?

At its core-co-creation is about involving a community outside your company in the ideation phase of the new product or service development. With co-creation, the participants—which may include customers, suppliers or the general population—are made aware that they are contributing towards the development of ideas and concepts. Through a series of steps, people are invited to contribute, evaluate, and refine ideas and concepts.

What Is the Business Value of Co-Creation?

Collaborating with customers offers many benefits for your company. Here are some reasons co-creation should be part of a company's innovation arsenal:

  1. Increased innovation capacity. Because you're tapping into the creative and intellectual skill sets of people outside your organization, you can get more ideas without hiring a whole new team.
  2. Increased innovation velocity. When done right, and if you're using the right technology, you could go from need identification to reviewing innovative ideas and concept within days - something that used to take months to do.
  3. Reduced innovation risk. People in a co-creation community are typically pre-screened to make sure that they are familiar with the category. These people then vote for submitted ideas. As these people are already familiar with the product and category, you can be more confident with the ideas that the community votes for.
  4. Increased flow of quality ideas & concepts into your development pipeline. Involving a wide assortment of consumers and stakeholders can help give you a consistent flow of ideas and concepts that you can use for new product development.
  5. Accelerated time to market with new products and services. Co-creation's feedback process weeds out misfit ideas quickly so that only the most promising ideas make it to the next steps. This iterative filtering works more quickly than it normally takes during new product development.

Which Parts of My Business Can Benefit from Co-Creation?

Co-creation is relevant in business contexts where customers can help generate ideas the company may not have thought of

  • New product ideas
  • Service concepts
  • Brand development ideas
  • Promotional ideas

From coming up with new pre-mix tequila drinks to ideas for your next Super Bowl ad, co-creation can play a role. With co-creation, you don't always get concrete details, but you'll get themes and ideas that your company can further develop.

How Is Co-Creation Different from Crowdsourcing?

Much has been said about crowdsourcing, the collaborative technique of obtaining ideas by distributing tasks to a large group of people. While crowdsourcing shares a lot of similarities with co-creation, the two are not exactly the same.

Co-creation is a collaborative initiative that operates like crowdsourcing by seeking information and ideas from a group of people. But there is one crucial difference: With co-creation, the call is not put to an open forum or platform but to a smaller group of individuals with specialized skills and talents. The result is less crowd noise and less chaos. With co-creation, companies can automate and track some processes while still getting creative ideas.

What Are Some Examples of Co-Creation?

Many companies are already using co-creation to collaborate with their customers. From Microsoft to Lego, brands large and small are increasingly turning to their customers to generate and refine ideas quickly, capture customer feedback sooner and eliminate non-viable ideas faster. Check out this blog post for some real-world co-creation examples.

Where Do I Get More Co-Creation Information?

Hopefully we've provided some valuable information about the discipline of co-creation. If you'd like to do more reading about this subject, here are some resources to check out:

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