Posts Tagged ‘co-creative’

Why demographic segmentation is bad for democracy

Sunday, November 11th, 2012

It is a bad outcome when the main lesson learned from the recent US Presidential election is that future political leaders will win through a better understanding of demographic segmentation. The conventional wisdom emerging from the recent victory of Barack Obama is that Republicans lost because they failed to understand that the United States is becoming more diverse, and consequently over-relied on older, white votes. Conversely, Democrats are deemed to have won the Presidency and gained seats in the Senate by energizing the vote of Latinos, African Americans, women and younger voters.

The problem with this argument is that it represents a static view of the situation (yes, the numbers are as advertised in the re-election of President Obama), but fails to recognize the dynamic role of political innovation in electoral success (no, there wasn’t any of that in the recent election). Like in business, political innovation does not reside in the ability to activate one’s traditional segment by honing in messages specifically crafted for them (the proverbial “red meat” for the equally proverbial “base”), but in rearranging the segments and building new creative coalitions among them. The name of the game should not be to grind out electoral victories through micro-segmentation and predictive modeling of votes county-by-county or citizen-by-citizen. The role of a political leader should be to engage a large electorate of diverse people in not only redefining their relationship to the candidate, but to each other. There is room for operational micro-segmentation processes as a second implementation step, but it is hardly a substitute for the broad democratic engagement process a candidate should orchestrate. In the election, both candidates had a lot of the former, and precious little of the latter (particularly if one compares Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign to 2008).

Successful campaigns are those where demographic frontiers get blurred and new relationships develop among supporters of widely varied ethnic, gender, sexual preference or age backgrounds, triggering new electoral coalitions. A campaign platform should be about drawing as many people as possible to become active members of the system and co-create with the candidate what he or she stands for. Voting is but the tip of the democratic co-creation iceberg, with day-to-day life in the community its underwater part.

Political campaigns should start in wide open form, not as manifestos. The pressure put by pundits on candidates to define their programs very early, down to the specific tax deductions they will eliminate and the energy programs they will support, is a negation of democracy, not an enhancement thereof. In a co-creative electoral system, there ought to be room for the much derided “listening campaign” of Hillary Clinton in her first senatorial run, or for the highly ridiculed etch-a-sketch views of Mitt Romney. Thinking that candidates should state their views once and for all, then execute them flawlessly once in office under penalty of becoming flip-floppers is as ridiculous as would have been to ask Steve Jobs to define the Apple strategy down to the scroll wheel of the next iPhone, all the while testing whether Latinos or women respond favorably to it.

The new leadership we need is not about ideas, but about process. It is not about reconfiguring party lines, or even bipartisanship from the top-down. It is about democratizing democracy at the community level, and reconstructing it piece by piece.

 

 

 

Top Ten list of excuses not to engage in co-creation

Saturday, October 17th, 2009

1. We’ve always done focus groups. We’ve done user-testing, customer-centricity, collaboration, customization, and personalization. Somewhere in there, I’m sure we ‘ve also done co-creation.

I’m sorry you suffer from methodology fatigue. But have you ever invited your customers to insert themselves into your value chain and do some of the work for you? I’m not talking about YOU adding endless variations to your product line, guessing at what they will buy from you. Put THEM to work. Give THEM tools that allow them to do some of the work instead of you. Get THEM to hold the pen. This is what defines co-creation. Maybe you’ll feel less tired after that.

2. We’re in a boring industry. We ain’t exactly Nike or Apple, you see.

You will find successful co-creators in industries such as post office systems, local community banks, manufacturers of coated film, pulp and paper, chemical companies, utilities, technology services companies and hospitals. Can your industry really be more boring than these?

3. Customers want simple, affordable products and services that are ready to use. Co-creation makes things uselessly complicated.

I see. You don’t want to engage, do you? Well, a nice thing about co-creation is that you can turn it off. If you want a standard, off-the-shelf product offering no co-creative interaction, don’t use any of the interactive capabilities. Feel free to use your iPod as a boon box.

4. If customers come up with the innovative ideas, what’s our role? Don’t customers pay us for our expertise? I don’t see what we’re here for in co-creation.

You do ask deeply existential questions, my son. Søren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche would be proud of you. But not to worry. There is corporate life after co-creation. You role just needs to move from “doing yourself” to enabling interaction with others. You’re now a double-barreled expert. Still an expert in whatever content you were good at before, plus now you’re learned to engage others in connecting with you. Congratulations. You’re now a content platform, rather than a content vessel. Are you now reassured about your purpose in life?

5.  We’re a science-driven industry. What could possibly be the role of co-creation there?

I understand, Herr Doktor Professor. Now we want you to not only be brilliant in your lab, but we want you to start teaching the customers what you know. Of course, they’ll never discover new molecules or create new composites for your fuselage.  But draw them into your kitchen, show them all the cool ingredients you’ve got, and get them to bake a casserole with you. You’ll both have a lot of fun, and the casserole will be cheaper.

6. It would cost too much money to co-create our products with customers. We’d lose our shirt.

Darn right, you are. As long as you’re geared for production of standard products, any co-creation attempt will represent an engineering “special” and be prohibitively expensive. But dear Henry Ford, please let go of mass production and think in terms of mass interaction. If your design and production system is geared toward allowing personalized interactions on a large-scale, you’ll create another type of economies of scale. Think eBay. Interactions between buyer and seller are both co-created and extraordinarily cost-effective because of the volume handled.

7. There’s no wisdom of crowds. Blogs and chat rooms generate only junk.

Crowds, like people, are both wise and stupid. Co-creation is a bit like advertising. You know one half is wasted, but never know which half. Accept a certain messiness, tolerate some mediocrity. The valuable stuff will emerge from the swamp. And then, you’ll not only have valuable content. You’ll have the people who develop and carry that content for you. Then, it won’t matter that this valuable stuff emerged from a lot of garbage.

8. If you open to co-creation, you’ll lose control of your brand.

Yes, this has happened. For example, GM offered for people to co-create some ads and contributors made fun of the Hummer – now in Chinese hands – as a huge gas-guzzler that destroys the environment. But these things occur anyway, whether you sanction them though an official platform, or whether these ads are placed on YouTube. Most large companies are skewered in a largecompanysucks.com site. Whether you recognize it or not, your brand is already co-created. It’s like when your spouse cheats on you. You’re often the only one not to know it. You might as well socialize the nasty input on your site. In the end, your fans will weed out the bad on your behalf, if your brand is worth its salt.

9. Many of your co-creation examples are about technology. It’s an IT thing, isn’t it? IT has other priorities at the present time.

Technology is often required in co-creation, but there are other ways to implement co-creation. Stores can be co-creative. People can be co-creative. There’s a wall on a chart at the French post office where employees co-create their schedule. But in many cases, the sheer volume of interactions requires some electronic intermediation, and IT is needed. If your IT is busy implementing infrastructure programs, tell them this is a good thing to do to catch up. But if they don’t learn to engage customers and other parties rapidly, they’ll soon be looking for a job.

10. You can’t defend your intellectual property if you do co-creation.

O yes, the “co-creation breeds socialism” argument. If I co-create with someone, does this someone de facto own a part of the idea, and have I diluted my intellectual property from the start, such that I cannot make money off the idea? The trick is to define a priori the terms of the IP that will be created. Some co-creation sites like Innocentive or Procter and Gamble’s Connect and Develop state what they’re willing to pay for solving a given problem. Other organizations get their lawyers to co-create the arrangement as part of the process – that’s a novel idea, isn’t it? Believe or now, even lawyers can learn to co-create.