A few years back, trying to explain co-creation was like describing an oasis in a desert. You had to get the other party to envision water, palm trees and the restful experience that might come with it. Today, establishing what co-creation is involves hacking at luxuriating vegetation with a machete. The jungle of co-creation has become so dense it’s hard to tell what’s what. So let me attempt to play jungle cartographer.
The word “co-creation” is everywhere:
Sony just announced a co-creation platform.
Michael Dell says that “co-creation is a big opportunity” for his company.
A.G. Lafley, former CEO of Procter & Gamble says “you have to innovate with the customer, (…) and keep her involved, co-creating and co-designing with you throughout”.
The City of London is inviting its citizens to “co-create London.”
Copenhagen just hosted a Copenhagen “co-creation summit” on design.
If you’re into spiritual healing, you’re invited to “co-create your life and be in charge of your own reality.”
So what the heck is co-creation? The glib answer, of course, is “all of the above”, since one should have the right to co-create everything, including the definition of the word co-creation.
But since you insist on a more scholarly definition, co-creation is a theory of interactions. It involves changing the way the organization interacts with individuals, including employees, customers or any stakeholder. More specifically, co-creation involves setting up new modes of engagement for these individuals – platforms, in the jargon – that allow these individuals to insert themselves in the value chain of the organization. These platforms can be physical things such as a meeting or a store, or virtual things such as a web site. The idea of co-creation is to unleash the creative energy of many people, such that it transforms both their individual experience and the economics of the organization that enabled it.
Defined in this fashion, you can co-create anything involving an interaction, and there are all kinds of interactions. You can co-create a process. In that sense, co-creation is making a bid as the new reengineering. For example, Dell started its co-creation journey by redefining its customer service process – admittedly under pressure from Jeff Jarvis and other bloggers – by making it two-way.
Opening up the product development process to co-creation will lead you to co-create products. This is what A.G. Lafley did when he put in place the so-called Connect & Develop co-creation platform at Procter & Gamble, or what Sony is doing by inviting software developers to develop new applications for its Sony platform.
A city administration can co-create with citizens and invite them to imagine how they’d like to experience the city, as London does. And ultimately, you can attempt to co-create the entire world order, and Copenhagen is as good a place to start from, since the Vikings did it once before already.
Now, that’s co-creation from the organization’s standpoint. From the individual’s standpoint, co-creation suggests each of us can engage differently with businesses and organizations, as employee, customer or citizen. If each of us is a co-creator, this may even lead to a redefinition of our interaction with God, but I’ll leave spiritual healing for another blog entry. This organizational co-creation thing is hard enough as it is.