A co-creation story: The Wizard and the Manager

Chapter One – Cooking Soup

“How do you create value?” the wizard asked.

“I make and sell good soup for the peasants around my castle,” the manager answered. He smiled proudly. This was going to be easier than he thought.

“How do they interact with your product?” the wizard asked. “What’s their experience like?”

The manager could not repress a smile. “We’re all about experience,” he said. “In fact, we delight our customers through the experience we provide. They love our soup. We make sure it’s salted, creamy, hot, and delivered in an impeccably clean bowl.”

“Do they get to create their own experience?” the wizard asked. “For example, can they one day create one type of experience? Then come back the next time around and create a different one. You know, depending on mood, context or circumstances.”

Now it was getting a bit annoying. “Why would they want to do that?” the manager asked. “They love our soup as it is, salted, creamy, hot and delivered in an impeccably clean bowl.” The wizard smiled enigmatically.  An uncomfortable silence ensued.

“But then, I’d have to be prepared to respond to their changing moods or desires” he shrugged. “And I can’t do that.”

“Why not?” the wizard asked.

“Because our soup servers would not know what to do with their requests,” the manager said. “They are professional sloshers trained to serve four hundred peasants an hour, not soup solution agents. My cook is equipped to cook leek and potato soup in 400-gallon cauldrons. He’s not in the tapas business. That’s why it’s so cheap and peasants can afford it.”

“What if customers themselves did some of that work of personalizing your products or services to their own need?” the wizard said. “Could customers become part of your value chain?”

“That’s a funny thought,” the manager answered, considering for a second the possibility. “But these guys are peasants,” he said, catching himself. “They just consume our stuff. What do they know about designing, making, marketing or selling our product? We’re professionals of the soup business here.”

“Are any of those amateurs passionate and knowledgeable about your business?” the wizard asked. “Maybe even more passionate than you and the other managers? Could you channel these customers’ energy and get it to work for you…maybe like in co-creation?”

“Perhaps, I suppose, maybe,” the manager said. He seemed disturbed. “We have a few soup freaks out there who gather at night to talk about soup. Some of them even make experimental batches, with weird new ingredients like cauliflower and fish. What’s this thing you’re leading me to, wizard?”

“I am not leading you anywhere,” the wizard said. “It is for you to discover your own path. But there are forces in the forest you may not yet recognize. Armies of customers coming to you with new expectations.”

“What am I to do if these customer hordes shop up at my castle, wizard?” the manager asked.”Won’t I sell them leek and potato soup and send them on their way, as I always do?”

“This time, you may have to do a bit more,” the wizard said.  “Engage them into building the meal with you. Maybe invite them into your kitchen and let them cook for themselves. Who knows?”

“This is enough for now, wizar,d” the manager begged. “My head spins. I’m disturbed by those visions of customers designing their own value propositions and becoming part of my value chain. I’m just a manager trying to sell soup. Let me catch my breath.”


5 Responses to “A co-creation story: The Wizard and the Manager”

  1. Carmen says:

    Inspirational! Some of that soup already exists -check out chocri where you can design your own chocolate bar (http://www.createmychocolate.com) or Blank-Label where you can design your own dress shirt (http://www.blank-label.com). Enjoy!

  2. Hi Francis,

    I agree with Carmen inspiring.

    Inspired so much that I added pictures to your story and turned it into a presentation. Hopefully this will help me to better explain Co-creation.

    You can check it out here. http://www.slideshare.net/michael.batistich/a-cocreation-story-the-wizard-and-the-manager.

    Let me know if you are OK with this up.

    Best Regards

    Michael Batistich

  3. Francis Gouillart says:

    Hi Michael,

    The presentation is very cute. My colleagues and I had great fun with it. In the spirit of co-creation, you should feel free to use our collective work as you see fit, and we will do the same. Ain’t this co-creation stuff fun? I originally developed several of these short parables of co-creation as a (now discarded) concept for the book Venkat Ramaswamy and I will be publishing in October with Simon & Schuster Freepress. I posted another chapter in the adventures of the wizard and the manager last night.

  4. […] (Continued from Chapter One -- Cooking Soup) […]

  5. Thanks Francis. Yes, co-creation is awesome.

    I’m looking forward to adding the next chapter to the presentation. I’ll let you know when I get a chance to update it.

    Cheers and thanks


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