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Observation before co-creation

February 21, 2012

Challenges to successful co-creation

As discussed in previous posts, there are many challenges companies face in putting co-creation to practice. In order to be successful in developing new products together with them (or other stakeholders), innovation processes needs to become more flexible. Unfortunately, some companies don’t see co-creation as an innovation process but as a marketing tool or a method to generate new product ideas and campaigns quickly and cheaply  (see interviews). In the latter cases companies might overlook how essential it is to gather insights and analyse  the market before marching into co-creation. Making an effort of observing and analysing your target group will help to tackle some key risks:

  • Market failure for lack of product relevance
    When developing new products and concept in co-creation there is a risk of biases and groupthink. Developing a truly creative and unique new product does not equal developing a relevant product.
  • Serving only a niche market
    Co-creative consumers are often highly involved lead-users that make up only a small percentage of your total target group (the majority is more passive). It is important to monitor that newly developed products don’t only match expert user needs, but also suit the needs of the majority of your target group.
  • Ineffective co-creation process
    Co-creation is a joint effort and companies should share the insights and market information with the partners they are co-creating with. Consumers might put too much emphasis on their individual needs, but as a co-creation partner you can inform and feed them insights on the general target group.
  • Unclear objectives
    What are you developing and why? Are you satisfied with a set of new conceptual ideas or are you looking for a product improvement? Map where you are going based on what you know and learned.

Listen and observe

In a previous post I described the different roles consumers can play in new product development (see here). The first role in NPD starts were consumers are  ‘Insight Providers’.  By observing behavior and interactions in real life or on the internet, firms can get a sense of what consumers are experiencing and talking about. It allows to uncover abstract issues such as symbolism, meanings and lifestyle patterns. Every type of consumer can be valuable as an ‘insight provider’: from intensive users, to occasional users and non-users. New technologies enable observations and analyses as information is often right there for the taking. 

Continuing along this path, more companies are establishing a constant source of dialogue and insight provision via online consumer communities (De Ruyck). Here they not only observe but also moderate conversations to gain richer insights, feedback and evaluations.

Unfortunately, companies are lagging behind consumers when it comes to using modern social technologies for observing and listening (see infographic on the right)

Inspiring cases

Nivea Invisible for Black and White

For the Beiersdorf brand Nivea, HYVE conducted netnography research around deodorant use before engaging in co-creation. They analysed consumer conversations in online communities firstly to identify problems, relevant needs and opportunities. This information showed why and how deodorant stains are big issues for consumers. HYVE and Nivea experimented with the stains to identify the problem and reflected on this with consumers. Fully immersed in the topic, Nivea and consumers explored and developed solutions.

PHILIPS Sleep Well Community
Before entering China as a new market for their sleeping solutions, Philips wanted to understand their potential new consumers thoroughly. InSites Consultancy helped them by shaping an online research community consisting of 50 Chinese with sleeping problems. The consumer community helped to illustrate the problems and discover insights on behaviour, culture and the role of the Philips brand. Some community members even functioned as co-researchers and helped interpret the findings. This would be an ideal base for Philips to embark on co-creating the solutions with these consumers. The Sleep Well community is well informed and connected to the problem, as they explored it together with Philips. View a summarised video below or view the presentation on Slideshare
I think doing research and observation is key to making the co-creation process more profound and successful. Sharing and discussing these insights constantly during co-creation collaborations will make the process more effective. What do you think about this? 
One Comment leave one →
  1. February 24, 2012 10:48 pm

    Time and again I’ll read a list of ‘top 5 ways to be social’ or ‘to 5 co creation innovation methods’ which completely blank over that most important point – LISTENING. Absolutely great post, thanks for sharing – the infographic especially, hadn’t seen that one before and it’s a gem.

    Luke Winter
    Community Manager

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