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.