Maximizing your stakeholders’ experiences in product creation

Topic: Business Strategy, Creativity
Publication: Harvard Business Review (OCT 2010)
Article: Building the co-creative enterprise
Authors: V. Ramaswany, F. Gouillart
Reviewed By: Liz Brashier

We all know that companies care about their customers – especially when it comes to the customer experience with products. After all, where would any company be without customers? Ramaswamy and Gouillart (2010), however, challenge us to consider other stakeholders (i.e., 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.

Enter: the co-creation process. Coined by one of the authors of this article and a colleague, co-creation revolves around the idea that a creation experience in which internal stakeholders benefit and have a say means that those stakeholders perform at their best, most creative, and are most willing to contribute new ideas. Below are the four principles of co-creation:

1)    Stakeholders aren’t going to give their all to the creation process unless there’s something in it for them, too. Consider: if something is not in your personal interest, would you give it your best work?

2)    To best co-create value: focus on the experiences of all stakeholders.

3)    Direct interaction between stakeholders is essential. Whether it’s a chat board or a Facebook page, customers, employees, and other stakeholders must be able to interact with each other.

4)    Whether it’s a chat board or just a customer-accessible site, customers, employees, and other stakeholders must be able to interact with each other within a company-provided platform to share information and experience.

In a climate when the focus is entirely on a streamlined, fiscally-conscious process, the experiences of stakeholders – experiences that could lead to the development of a new competitive idea or product – are often ignored. 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.