Companies Should Look Within When Developing New Products

group of employees talking
Topic(s): creativity, organizational performance
Publication: Harvard Business Review 
Article: Building the co-creative enterprise
Authors: V. Ramaswany, F. Gouillart
Reviewed by: Liz Brashier

We all know that companies try to cater to their customers – especially when it comes to the customer experience with products. After all, where would any company be without customers? However, researchers (Ramaswamy & Gouillart, 2010) challenge us to consider other stakeholders (e.g., employees, distributors, etc.) who have a tremendous impact on the customer experience.

The traditional process of creating a new product focuses solely on meeting customer requirements while streamlining the existing process; it saves time and money. It also ignores the interests of everyone involved in that creation process except for the company and the customers. But by ignoring the “internal players” in the product creation process, companies are inadvertently missing out on opportunities to create a new experience for the customer. When internal players don’t have a say in creation, their experience isn’t necessarily optimal for them – and that is where the problem lies. A less-than-optimal creation experience for an employee could mean that customers end up missing out.


The authors coined the term “co-creation process,” which revolves around internal stakeholders benefiting and having a say in the product development process. In this situation, stakeholders are expected to maximize their creativity and performance, and will be most willing to contribute new ideas.

Below are the four principles of co-creation, as offered by the authors:

1) “Stakeholders won’t wholeheartedly participate in customer co-creation unless it produces value for them, too.”

2) “The best way to co-create value is to focus on the experiences of all stakeholders.”

3) “Stakeholders must be able to interact directly with one another.”

4) “Companies should provide platforms that allow stakeholders to interact and share their experiences.”

In a climate when the focus is entirely on a streamlined, fiscally-conscious process, the experiences of stakeholders are often ignored. However, these experiences could lead to the development of a new competitive idea or product. By focusing exclusively on the company, failing to ask how all stakeholders can “win,” and assuming that strategy must be completely decided at the beginning of a project, traditional thinking fails to achieve the innovative power of the co-creation process.


Ramaswamy, V. & Gouillart, F. (2010). Building the co-creative enterprise. Harvard Business Review, 12, 100 – 109.