Posts Tagged ‘engagement platform’

A great day

Saturday, March 26th, 2011

Yesterday, I went home chirping like a bird. As I started scanning the events of the day, though, I could not find what had made me so happy. I thought it might have to do with the fact that after many months, the snow is finally vanishing from the Boston suburb where I live and work, but this seemed like an insufficient explanation, particularly given that yesterday had its share of bad news. A major automotive manufacturer had to delay the start of a large project because of the disruption caused by the Japanese situation on the company’s supply chain. There is a translation problem with one of the foreign editions of the book I co-wrote with Venkat Ramaswamy. We had a review of the firm’s economics, and it had its usual cohort of cash-flow and performance management challenges. So what is it that made me so chipper?

It finally dawned on me that the smile on my face had to do with one of the day’s meetings. The meeting was about what software or “engagement platform” we should use to encourage co-creation on a global project for a major manufacturer of medical and scientific equipment. Our gathering had the usual attributes of a business meeting: PowerPoint report prepared by a team, projection on the wall, discussion of the issues involved. As you can see, this is intensely emotional stuff. You’re probably already imagining the treatment afforded such a dramatic event by John Grisham, or the movie Martin Scorsese would make from such rich material.

What made the meeting so engaging was the lead presenter, a young man recently hired by our partner firm. He’d been working hard to put the material together over the last few days and conveyed it with the enthusiasm of his youth. He was genuinely excited about what he’d found, and one could not help but share in the excitement. He was curious about everything, eager to get directions, and I found myself dragged out of my morning torpor and animated by an irresistible desire to share whatever wisdom I could conjure up. All of a sudden, my brain was in overdrive, examples and stories were colliding in my head, and new avenues for research were emerging. We could all feel the energy in the room and at that moment, we were all individually smarter, and collectively co-creative.

I also found the excitement caused by the morning’s meeting to linger in the afternoon. I started thinking of other applications of the research the young man had done, for example in approaching a large European high-tech company that develops software for engagement platforms and which had earlier expressed its interest in our co-creation work, but which we’d never gone back to. When I conveyed this idea to the young man at the end of the day – I am desperately trying to resist the urge to call him “the kid” – he told me he’d discovered new avenues of research for the project and couldn’t wait to show me what he’d got. I found myself trying to find wiggle room in my overbooked schedule, plotting late-night calls next week from Europe that my jet-lagged body will undoubtedly resent when they occur.

I’m not sure I even know how to describe the process through which energy gets generated in such exchanges. Very little is written about how human connections happen in business. All I know is that it feels unbounded and transformative when they occur. A great day indeed. Co-creation works in mysterious ways.

Personal road map to co-creation in six easy steps

Sunday, November 28th, 2010

I’m often asked at parties what individuals must do to engage in personal co-creation. It recently dawned on me that I only knew how to describe co-creation from the organization’s standpoint, producing quizzical looks from my relatives and friends who are not in the business world. After all, it is a lot easier for a consultant to generate fees from a large organization hiring you to make more money, than it is to sell co-creation one individual at a time. So let me pick up the gauntlet, try my best incarnation of Wayne Dyer or Steven Covey, and tell you how to get on the road to co-creation in six easy steps.

STEP 1: PEOPLE. Co-creation is about people, so start out by mapping out the people you interact with. This includes your spouse, your neighbor, your friends at work, and the kid with freckles who throws toilet paper on your lawn every Halloween. Depending on how social a creature you are, you’ll rapidly be able to define a list of at least 15 or 20 people (Ashton Kutcher has over 7 million friends on Facebook, which makes his network map a bit complex). Put yourself at the center of the map, draw three or four concentric circles to represent decreasing frequencies of interactions, and place everybody in those circles. You now have a map of your personal network.

STEP 2: INTERACTIONS. Starting with the people you deal with the most, list the main things you do with each of them. This defines the existing interactions you have with them. This will allow you to put together an integrated view of what interactions you have with everybody (typically something like 15-20 interactions typically drawn as columns, and 15-20 people you interact with, drawn as lines). This may include shopping with your daughter, attending meetings with your work colleague, discussing the existence of God with your spiritual adviser, or stealing hubcaps with that old college friend of yours every Saturday night in the city. You now have a map of the major interactions you have with members of your personal network.

STEP 3: EXPERIENCE. At the end of each interaction, describe the quality of experience you get from this interaction – good, bad, or indifferent. You may rate the experience of stealing hubcaps a 9 out of 10 (thrilling), the experience of discussing the existence of God exalting but tiring (say, a 6 out of 10), and the experience of shopping with your daughter a frustrating 2 out of 10, because you don’t really think the leopard-skin jacket and stiletto shoes she wants you to buy for her qualifies as business attire. Arraying these experiences in left-to-right fashion from low to high will yield an experience curve that describes your general dislikes and likes before embarking on the co-creation journey. Your job is now to lift this experience curve through co-creation, eliminating or reducing the negative elements, raising the positive ones, and inventing new ones altogether.

STEP 4: TRANSPARENCY. Now comes the action part. Assemble members of your network together in your living room and get them to start sharing their experience of life with each other in transparent fashion and help them imagine new interactions between them to produce a better experience for all parties involved, possibly adding new members to the network. How much visibility does member A have about the broad experience of life of member B, and how could they interact with each other in new ways? What do you wish A knew about B and vice-versa?  The more transparent everybody’s experience of life becomes, the more new connections are likely to happen, so your job is to structure, activate, and grow your network. If my spiritual adviser and I start sharing our experience of life with each other, he may be able to dispense more relevant advice after understanding that he and I are essentially in the same business of ministering to communities (OK, his ministering may be more altruistic than mine, but we’re both selling ideas we’re passionate about). This will constitute a new interaction for both of us (and the source of a new experience for both of us). I may learn a lot from hearing my wife describe the tour she gives at the Isabella Gardner Museum in Boston, get to know her work colleagues, and, who knows, dispense a bit of free business advice to the management of the museum and learn how the museum’s management model may apply to business. Ultimately, my job as a co-creator is also to enable new interactions between the spiritual adviser, my wife’s friends, and my daughter’s friends at the museum, independently of me.

STEP 5: PLATFORM. Beyond the one-off opportunities to create new interactions and new experiences between members of your network (including yourself), you will eventually have to set up a more permanent engagement platform linking everybody together. It may start as ad hoc conversations or meetings in your living room or by phone, but you will eventually have to utilize or build a larger scale, more formal engagement process tool between the members of the network. This will typically require a mix of a physical place and virtual technology platform. For example, I may have to invite my spiritual adviser to come on one of my business trips with me, or the spiritual adviser may have to enlist me in preparing a sermon for his congregation, but beyond the first event, we will need a means to continue engaging with each other. The platform may consist of a personal journal, a blog, or a social network platform such as Facebook or Twitter. It’s best to start live and move to tech enablement once you’ve gotten the live network going. If you don’t, you’ll run the risk of having nobody show up. Also bear in mind that you’ll need to structure the discussion along specific interactions if you want to avoid producing an oatmeal of unfocused ideas. You don’t necessarily want the spiritual adviser to interact with your old college friend on the details of how to steal hubcaps every Saturday in the city.

STEP 6: CO-CREATION. Once you’ve established your engagement platform and people start coming to it, you may find yourself having reached the true co-creation stage where the growth of the network becomes self-sustaining. At that point, the universe of your network starts expanding naturally. Your role has now become one of orchestrator, rather than generator of energy as was the case in the early stages. You now have more and more people joining in your network. The range of experiences being discussed is perpetually expanding, with members of the network continuously generating new interactions between them. You have now become Ashton Kutcher, attracting millions of friends, but with interactions that are less self-absorbed and more meaningful to you and your friends. Your wife, your minister, and your daughter all coach your friend into no longer stealing hubcaps on Saturday night in the city, and he talks to them about God.

You are finally at home in the expanding universe of co-creation. Co-creation in six easy steps…

What the heck is co-creation?

Saturday, March 27th, 2010

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.