PDMA’s PIM 2012 Co-Creation Lab: Implementing Co-Creation

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PDMA logoThe key theme of the Co-Creation Lab I conducted at the recently concluded PIM 2012, PDMA’s annual conference held in Orlando, was Implementing Co-Creation.

Applauding co-creation is easy, but implementing it often poses interesting challenges. Based on our formal/informal research, my co-presenter Aric Rindfleisch (who unfortunately caught the flu and couldn’t participate) and I have identified three main reasons that potentially make implementing co-creation challenging.

What: Effective implementation requires an understanding of the entire ecosystem of collaboration, not just a few parts; incomplete and/or ambiguous understanding of the roles, requirements, and interactions of the individual stakeholders in this ecosystem can lead to implementation stalling or getting derailed.

How: Underestimating the effort and co-ordination required to implement. We find this to be a serious problem. Data and our opinion suggest that there is a widespread belief that co-creation just happens, as a byproduct of crowds, their enthusiasm, and the cognitive surplus that they carry, and which they can’t dump anyplace else.

Outcomes: Overestimating value of co-creation outcomes. A little introspection, and a truckload of honesty won’t hurt here. How many great ideas have each one of us come up with in the last 24 hours, in the last week, in the last month? I routinely visit a lot of innovation challenge and co-creation sites to stay abreast and continue learning, and always come away feeling petrified and totally inadequate. Thank God my livelihood doesn’t depend on winning those challenges, I would be living sucking air and drinking rainwater. Our research based on an analysis of lots of co-creation data shows that active collaborators and co-creators on average have ONE good idea, no more.

Using a large number of examples — British Airways, Dell, Electrolux, The Clinic of Innovation at Oslo University Hospital, MasterCard, Pringles, and Mountain Dew’s DEWmocracy, we offered the attendees a framework — which we called Co-Creation GPS, to help companies assess their readiness to implement co-creation — and several suggestions for effective implementation of co-creation in their organizations.

While it is impossible to compress a whole morning in 800 words or less, a few key takeaways are worth emphasizing.

First, believe in co-creation before launching into implementation. Companies that have genuine respect for their customers and their innovation-related contributions are likely to do much better than those that are not sure what their customers have to offer, or how they can help co-drive their innovation programs. Dell and Mountain Dew would be excellent examples here.

Second, approach implementation with an investment mindset, or don’t approach it at all. Implementing co-creation is effortful and requires both an organization and resources. In the absence of these investments, co-creation programs are likely to flop. British Airways has invested in creating a Future Lab, Oslo University Hospital in a Clinic of Innovation.

Third, the single most important investment a company can make is investing in developing ecosystems of collaboration, especially communities — of customers, employees, dealers, and other relevant stakeholders. In addition to the examples provided above, companies like Starbucks, Boeing, Whirlpool, Intuit, and Electrolux provide excellent examples of investments in communities.

Fourth, remember the rule of ONE: one good idea on average. Keeping that in mind, look for collaborators far and wide, not just among current customers, collaborate with non-customers as well, with employees, and those who are not related to your category, but are connected to it. Collaborate with experts. Companies like Pitney Bowes, MasterCard, International Flavors & Fragrances all provide excellent examples of collaborating with small and medium-sized businesses, employees, and flavor/fragrance experts.

Lastly, give a little to get a lot. Share the outcomes of your collaboration and co-creation programs with your collaborators. Recognition matters, rewards matter, money matters! Frito-Lay’s Doritos brand has been the darling of the Super Bowl ads for several years. In six previous contests, the company has distributed $5 million in prize money and won the prestigious No. 1 USA TODAY Ad Meter ranking three times.

For its seventh edition, the Doritos brand is going even bigger. In a DTFW (direct-to-fans-webcast), the company announced its boldest and grandest prize to date — an opportunity to work with famed Hollywood producer Michael Bay on the next installment of the “Transformers” movie franchise, plus a shot at a $1 million bonus.

Worth it, you ask? I am sure Frito-Lay has a large number of ROI experts. I am also sure that they have numbers to prove how both the fans and Frito-Lay/Doritos are benefiting from “Crash the Super Bowl” contest (video below). Not bad for a program that started seven-plus years ago with literally a fistful of dollars and a handful of entrants.

Moral of the story: Co-creation can significantly boost the outcomes of your innovation programs. But like the old adage reminds us — GIGO (“garbage in, garbage out”) — not before you and your company have put some real resources and organization into it.