Out of all of the trends that have appeared in the world of new product development in the last several years, the concept of co-creation seems to be the one that is having the most significant impact. Similar in concept to crowd-sourcing, co-creation is the idea that companies should be bringing their consumers into the fold when designing new products and services for the ultimate benefit of everyone involved. By letting customers have a say in a product as it is being developed, the theory is that the end result will be much more beneficial to your audience and therefore more successful.
As with all trends, however, the question becomes “Is this just a passing fad that will soon disappear, or will it change the face of business as we know it similar to the way that crowd-sourcing has?”
Co-creation in Practice
To get a better understanding of exactly what co-creation is, it can be helpful to take a closer look at a few key examples from recent memory. Perhaps the most pure example of co-creation at work is the hugely popular game “Little Big Planet,” which first appeared on the Sony PlayStation 3 home video game console several years ago.
In addition to the levels that were built into the game by developers, “Little Big Planet” also shipped with a tool that essentially opened the previously “behind closed doors” game creation process to the players themselves. You now suddenly had all of the tools that you needed to not only design your own levels for the game for you and your friends to enjoy, but to also upload those levels to the Internet for others to download all over the world.
Another example would be an experiment executed by Nike in the early 2000s, where they created a special sub-brand of shoes called NIKEiD– an online tool that allowed customers to design their own unique brand of sneakers.
These types of activities have led to a shifting mentality in the business community. New product development is no longer about product and service design, but is instead about engaging your core audience in an organic and meaningful way to unlock a bold new era of success.
Using Co-Creation to Your Advantage
Even with just these few examples, it’s clear that co-creation as a concept can put you at a competitive advantage in terms of new product development – provided that you approach things from the right angle. Nobody is saying that you have to let your customers design every last element of your product from the ground up, but where co-creation is at its most successful undoubtedly has to do with empowerment. You’re not only giving your customers a voice, but you’re showing beyond the shadow of a doubt that you’re willing to let that voice be heard.
As a result, if you want to use co-creation to your advantage in new product development, you need to proceed with those core concepts in mind. Consider Frito-Lay, for example. They run a promotion every year where they allow users to “Do Us A Flavor” for a new type of potato chip that will then eventually see production. People can both create their own chip flavors and vote on the flavors of others, allowing the most popular to rise to the top. Frito-Lay isn’t turning over the keys to the castle and letting their entire product line be defined by co-creation, but they are giving their customers enough of a voice to where even the flavors that weren’t co-created are seeing a significant uptick as a result.
Co-creation doesn’t even have to be as advanced as what Frito-Lay is doing in order to be successful. Consider the website MyStarbucksidea.com – coffee giant Starbucks has essentially taken the old concept of the suggestion box and brought it forward into the digital realm of the 21st century. By giving customers a place where they can go to give suggestions and voice concerns, you’re both letting them in on a process that was previously closed off to the public and creating a new generation of tech-savvy loyal followers as a result.
Is the concept of co-creation in new product development here to stay, or is it just a passing fad like so many others in recent years? I would love to hear your side and if you have considered any form of co-creation for your new product development process. Present your argument in the comments section!