Posts Tagged ‘market research’

Top-ten list of sponsors for co-creation efforts

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

Periodically, I ask myself: “who are the most effective change agents when it comes to implementing co-creation inside a corporation?” Here is my list, in descending order of effectiveness:

1. Chief Financial Officer (CFO)

  • Good news: The CFO’s source of power comes from controlling financial resources, often including IT money required for the development of co-creation platforms. They are often frustrated line managers who see co-creation as a means to gain influence over the operational side of the business.
  • Bad news: their analytical bias can overpower the human side of co-creation.
  • Good first step: issue cost reduction challenge to one of the businesses; suggest co-creation may be the way to reach that goal (get external people to do work for free that was previously done inside).

2. Chief Information Officer (CIO)

  • Good news: CIOs get to co-creation through the funding of engagement platforms. The role of CIO in co-creation is legitimized by the app store phenomenon (co-creation with third-party developers).
  • Bad news: CIOs often struggle with developing the human community part of co-creation (they can be too tool-focused).
  • Good first step: find a few APIs and open up some aspect of your customer-facing sites to third-party developers. Start connecting customers and developers.

3. Chief Purchasing Officer (CPO), Directors of Supply Chain

  • Good news: There is a new breath of fresh air with procurement departments; they increasingly recognize that they should be developing supplier networks rather than consolidating them. Supply chain people are often pushed to co-creation through the need to create transparency in their emerging country plants (often due to labor and sustainability issues).
  • Bad news: Supply chain people can get confused on the difference between collaborative supply chain tools that have been around for several years, and the actual development of co-creative supply chain communities that allows the constant reinvention of those supply chains.
  • Good first step: pick a particularly risky part of your supply chain (e.g., Chinese plant with labor issues), and demonstrate that you can remove some operational and reputational risk through co-creation.

4. Research and Development (R&D) Managers, Heads of Product Development

  • Good news: Many product development people know that co-creation is coming to product development and product design (also often referred to as open innovation, or crowd-sourcing).
  • Bad news: They often do not yet know how to involve their own people in co-creation and avoid the NIH syndrome. They often jump too fast to third-party platforms to generate product ideas, but fail to engage their own people in the dialogue.
  • Good first step: start inside.  Assemble your R&D people and see where they would welcome the engagement of external people. Only when you have their views will it become meaningful to engage external contributors.

5. Chief Experience Officer

  • Good news: more and more companies have experience officers.  Experience officers are natural sponsors for co-creation.
  • Bad news: many of them focus on measuring “as is” experience rather than trying to change it.
  • Good first step: pick a narrow segment (a single customer in B2B), engage the mini ecosystem involved in serving this narrow segment/single customer and see what co-creation can bring.

6. Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), Head of Market Research

  • Good news: CMO and market research people understand experience.
  • Bad news: they think of themselves as experience experts, and therefore see no reason to co-create any of that experience with anyone (since they know better).
  • Good first step: open up one of the brand management processes to customers and employees, e.g., advertising, and see what you get.

7. Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO)

  • Good news: sustainability is one of the best fields of application for co-creation because of the multi-stakeholder nature of the problem.
  • Bad news: CSOs don’t typically have access to senior people and may not know how to engage them.
  • Good first step: team up with the sales force to embed sustainability in the sales message.

8. Performance Management, Quality, Reengineering, 6 Sigma, Lean, Transformation Officers.

  • Good news: Performance management people naturally gravitate toward co-creation as “the new tool kit.”
  • Bad news: The concept of process can be so engrained that moving to platforms and self-configured interactions can represent a mental challenge. Many struggle with the notion that the transformation path can/should itself be co-created, rather than established by experts.
  • Good first step: pick a customer-facing process, e.g., sales or customer service, and show how moving from process thinking to co-creation changes the outcome.

9. Strategy Officers

  • Good news: A few strategy officers understand the power of human experience in generating insights.
  • Bad news: most prefer an information-gathering and analytical approach.
  • Good first step: pick a self-contained strategy issue, and ask customer-facing people and a few customers how they would frame and solve the issue. Compare to the answer an analytical approach would have provided.

10. Human Resources Officers, Diversity Head

  • Good news: Of course, senior HR development people should be major players in co-creation.
  • Bad news: In practice, they rarely have access to the proverbial strategic table.
  • Good first step: co-create HR processes (e.g., training, hiring, career development) rather than tackling line processes.


Co-Creation from A to Z, Continued

Sunday, November 1st, 2009


More entries in the continuing series of company-centric buzzwords and their co-creative alternatives.

Experience: Something pleasurable you design for your customers because you’re perceptive and know what they want.  As a result, customers come back and you deliver more of that experience, ideally several times a day. Make sure this great experience is delivered in exactly the same fashion every time, because the more often people get exactly the same experience, the higher they rate their experience, and then you get rich.

The co-created alternative: Customers are like children – they don’t want to simply play with your toys. The little girl wants to kiss your stuffed koala, give him a name, invent stories about him, pull his eyes out, use him to club the little boy in the sandbox who annoys her, and trade what’s left of it for a new Bratz. You’re not really designing or controlling that little girl’s koala experience, are you? Think of this toy as a platform that allows the little girl to co-create her koala experience, complete with detachable eyes, weapon transformability, and second-hand koala market.

Innovation: A CEO incantation, typically supplemented by an arm-waving process controlled by a headquarters czar who reads Harvard Business Review and has a consulting budget. The czar relies on a large network of virtual resources who commit 5% of their time to attend PowerPoint meetings, during which they respond to their bosses’ e-mails coaching them to focus on real things if they want a bonus at the end of the year.

The co-created alternative: Pick the dirtiest process in the dirtiest plant you can find, and see if you can convince actors in that process to connect to some kind of customer experience in the real world. You may have to dress up Joe the Scheduler before sending him to customers, but be prepared for a new vocation as facilitator. Let Joe talk his manufacturing buddies into doing the same when he comes back from the customer workshop. Then hire a corporate czar to document the corporate innovation process proving that Joe the Scheduler is in compliance.

Market research: The art of observing unsuspecting customers or prospects in their natural habitats, or interrogating them in a poorly lit room with a window to nowhere, for a fee and the vague promise that what they say might one day reach some executive who didn’t care enough to be there in the first place. The quantitative data is then directed to PhD statisticians who build elaborate models featured at market research conferences while the qualitative data gives otherwise unemployable English majors a chance to use obscure words they learned in their Jungian philosophy class.

The co-created alternative: Smash the one-way mirror and start poking at customers. See if you can get a few of them to poke back until a massive brawl ensues. Select the fighters who care enough to duel with you late into the night and get them to volunteer as scouts for your army from there on.

Net Promoter Score: A silly question asking customers whether they like the stuff they just bought and are willing to recommend it to their Mom. From there on, customers evaluations enter an algebraic whirlpool where some votes get added (sometimes), subtracted (more often), and ignored (most of the time), ultimately producing the blinding insight that you’re more likely to be successful if people like your stuff.

The co-created alternative: For sure, liking your stuff is a good thing. But it ain’t the same as being engaged. For example, I like Gouda cheese and would highly recommend it to my friends, but I’m not that engaged with it. Conversely, I’m quite engaged with the Arsenal Football Club because I watched them cream Tottenham today and I love to read and write about their amazing coach Arsène Wenger who’s the greatest genius that ever was and is virtually from my home town. I also want to complain about the referees who are so absurdly biased against those wonderful young players who will undoubtedly win the Champions League this year if there’s any justice. I guess I’m a net promoter for both Gouda cheese and Arsenal, but somehow Arsenal seems more important in my life than Gouda cheese…

Patent: Scientific trophy aimed at recompensing ego-driven scientists pretending that what they found will one day matter to a customer in the real world.

The co-created alternative: Remember Bell Labs, long number-one in the patent charts, and now peacefully resting in the great corporate cemetery reserved for irrelevant innovators? Your scientists will undoubtedly threaten you with fire and brimstone if you open up your innovation process to the outside, but remember that they don’t have a monopoly on cleverness. Other nerds out there in China have figured out stuff that is more customer-ready than your own developments. Also be prepared for the “we’re all about IP” speech by your lawyers. Remember they’d rather deal with the overworked guy at the Patent Office than with other lawyers who are as smart as they are at these other firms that innovate with you.

Process efficiency: The art of identifying the lowest common denominator in customer expectation, and training customers to accept the unilateral standard of mediocrity you’ve just set. The best practice in process design is called “straight-through processing,” which involves the eradication of any human involvement. If people  insist on being involved, talk about “knowledge process” and dismiss it as an exception.

The co-created alternative: Processes are to interactions what, uh, solitary pleasures are to sex. You need an excellent process to handle your half of the latter, but it tends to be quite different from your best-practice process for the former. Your experience also tends to be different, not to mention your partner’s. We highly recommend co-designing the two halves of the process in the context of the two-way interaction. It’s more fun that way.

Shattering the one-way mirror

Sunday, September 20th, 2009

The market research profession offers a variety of reactions to co-creation. At the negative extreme of the spectrum, some market research professionals reduce co-creation to a customer workshop technique close to ethnographic, observation-based research. Damning co-creation with faint praise, they’ll offer comments such as: “We’re all for co-creation; it’s like prose and we’ve been doing it for years.” We might call this the “defensive expert” attitude. Because the training of most market research people involves an expert paradigm – the PhD density can be quite high in the market research functions of large firms — it is hard for them to let go of the idea that they must “own” the science of market research.

At the opposite, positive extreme, co-creation is rapidly gaining ground inside the market research profession. In the early days of co-creation, say five or six years ago, market research departments were never sponsors of co-creation initiatives inside organizations. In the last year or so, though, some powerful agents of corporate change have emerged in market research departments. So how do these aficionados of co-creation describe the role of co-creation in market research? (By definition, co-creation is wider than customer market research, in that it also involves an economic point of view on the cost of interactions, or applies to other interactions than the interaction with customers, but we will limit ourselves in this blog entry to customer market research). These early adopters of co-creation usually point to four areas of difference.

The first difference has to do with who is targeted in the research. A co-creation workshop focuses on the interactions between at least two (and often more) populations. You cannot co-create by having in attendance, say, only the customers or prospects of a bank– which, by the way, is exactly what a traditional focus group does. Like for tango, it takes two to co-create. A bank co-creation workshop will have at least bank advisors and customers, possibly also call center agents who speak on the phone with customers. Participants will not be random customers with random advisors and random call center agents. They will be people who deal with each other in day-to-day live, i.e., real people who have interactions with each other. In other words, we want twosomes (or threesomes, foursomes, etc.) and want to start from their existing interactions, rather than proceed from an intellectualization of their future experience.

The second difference deals with how attendees participate in the workshop. The philosophy of traditional market research is to be as protective as possible of the customer’s natural habitat, “so as not to bias the answers”. This is where the one-way mirror concept comes from, as well as anonymous surveys and hidden camera filming. The basic assumption of traditional research is that experts should design those interventions, manage them to minimize the dangers of intrusion, and generate the insights which will then be communicated in distilled form to business users who will (hopefully) act upon them (some business people, usually quite junior, may attend the session behind the one-way mirror, or an occasional executive may be invited, but both are instructed not to say anything).

In co-creation workshops, we want to have as many company participants as customers, and we want them to be actively involved. The idea in co-creation is to shatter the one-way mirror. We don’t want company employees to be flies on the wall. We want them engaging customers all over the room. Co-creation involves having two parties share their experience and come up with new ideas on how to improve their respective experience. The experience of the bank adviser is as important as the experience of the customer, and customers can contribute as much to the bank adviser’s experience – once it is explained to them – as the adviser can contribute to the customer’s. For example, customers can do more than generate views on their own experience. They will for example routinely offer insights on how bank advisors could earn more commissions with their help, once they understand the bank’s performance measurement system. In fact, a significant portion of co-creation workshops involves sharing the inner workings of the company, a process called “making the company into a glass house”, to invite customers to imagine new experiences for themselves. As one can intuitively understand and mathematically prove, the quality of experience is deeply correlated between the two populations, hence the need to work on both simultaneously.

The third difference is one of analytical vs. analytical/emotional philosophy of change. The paradigm of traditional market research is an analytical one. Insights are meant to be powerful new views of the customer experience coming from an observed, documentable, and ideally quantifiable fact. Co-creation also builds a strong analytical case for the ideas identified, but generates a much richer set of new ideas through a deeply intuitive, emotional territory. The passion for a new customer experience comes from the excitement of one or two company executives participating actively in a new dialogue with customers. It originates from the sheer excitement of company managers being asked to “make up new stuff on the fly” with customers. Transformational ideas start from the enthusiasm or pain felt by one or more managers connecting with a single customer or company-facing employee. This emotional endorsement of an idea by internal managers is what produces sustainability in co-creation, not the brilliantly articulated PowerPoint presentation that may accompany it. Arguably the most distinctive characteristic of co-creation research is not in how it approaches the customer, but how it engages the internal organization.

The fourth and final difference is one of discrete vs. continuous process. Typical market research involves trying to generate insights through a one-time investigation. Most focus groups, customer surveys, and anthroplogical observations are one-time affairs. As my colleague Venkat Ramaswamy likes to say, “there is no feedback on the feedback”. Some advanced research departments conduct longitudinal studies and use permanent panels of customers, but they often limit themselves to tracking simple satisfaction measures over time, rather than engage customers in co-creation (with some notorious exceptions such as Procter & Gamble’s VocalPoint and Teen Tremor communities, for example). Co-creation is a continuous process where the external customer is made over time into an extension of the company’s staff. Not only does the company learn about customers, but customers learn more and more about the inner workings of the company, enabling them to contribute more. The first co-creation workshops typically do not lead to killer insights – co-creation is as much a journey as a destination, to use the cliché — but the longer the customer remains engaged in the process – usually this involves a series of workshops, followed by the putting in place of an electronic platform of some kind – the deeper the insights and their value.

Of course, all this requires a personal transformation of market research people themselves. Abandoning an expert view of oneself and moving to a “broker of co-creation insights” role is no easy task. Those who embark on the co-creation journey have a unique chance to make market research into a new force inside their organizations. The cards are being dealt as we speak.

Co-creation in the fish tank

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

“I’m not like them” this attractive young branch advisor tells one of her customers. “I’m much more like you than I’m like them. I invested in the same shares you did. I too have lost 40% of my assets.”

The “them” is the management of her French bank. Or any bank for that matter, for she hates them all. “They” are the ones that took excessive pay, invested in subprime and derivatives and caused the global financial crisis. That she might be lumped with these high-fliers galls her no end.

The bank has become concerned about this Stockholm syndrome for advisors. Advisors and customers are increasingly co-dependent and advisors are progressively distancing themselves from the bank. In its desire to reengage advisors and customers, the bank has decided to start with two test regions. In the North, the regional marketing manager is in charge: he’s a classically-trained person. He’s eager to offer his region as the test bed, but wants it done classic market research-style, with no management interference. He wants a well-lit aquarium and a comfortable chair from which he can observe the fish.  In the Center region, Raphael, head of the region, has decided to come to the workshops himself in order to engage directly with advisors and customers. He wants to dive in the tank and swim with the fish.

“But we want unfiltered data” the Marketing Manager of the North states, upon hearing what Raphael, the Head of the Center Region, wants to do. “If I or any of the senior managers come to the workshops, our advisors and customers will be intimidated and their responses biased. I’d rather come to one or two focus groups and observe what’s going on behind the glass. Or maybe I’ll look at the films.”

A few days later, Raphael and his team find themselves involved in a passionate discussion with advisors and customers. It’s about midnight and they’re still going. Advisors challenge him openly in front of customers about the incentive system that occasionally drives them to push products onto unsuspecting customers at campaign times. Raphael pushes back by outlining the economics of the retail banking business, the need for campaigns to create the volume effect required to maintain branches in smaller towns and villages, and the fact that these campaigns pertain to products people happen to need. So where is the conflict? Paradoxically, customers start reassuring advisors that there’s nothing wrong with what Raphael just explained. They’re cool with the fact that the bank has its own economic imperatives, as long as they’ve been made transparent.

The customers in attendance are young people who would typically never come to a bank branch. They have a cynical view of banking, no particular loyalty to any brand, and simply do not care much. There are many yawns in the early part of the conversation. When Raphael starts talking about the community he wants to build in each town, though, chins come up and SMS texting under the table mysteriously stops. He shows them a project he’s doing, restoring one of the stained glass windows of the Chartres cathedral. They deem the project “awesome”. He then lets them see how the mutualist structure of the bank could allow them to participate in its governance and promote their own community projects. Now, they’re positively enthusiastic. They start building with Raphael what the process could be like. that would draw young people to the bank’s mutualist activities.

“But you’re leading the jury” the Marketing Manager of the Northern Region utters one last protest, looking at the film of Raphael interacting with advisors and customers in Chartres. “You’re interfering with the process.”

“That’s the point” Raphael tells him. He has a broad smile on his face. You can tell he’s fully energized by the encounter. “And I’m going to get back together with these kids as soon as we have a concept of that new community process” he announces, almost giddy. Straight back to the tank, swimming with the fish.