'Customer-Made' is Lead User on Speed

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by: Chris Lawer

I read Trendwatching’s beautifully presented summary of the Co-Creation trend, which they call Customer-Made.  It’s terrific that Rainier and his team are putting co-creation right at the top as their most important business and innovation trend. I’m bound to agree with that.

Customer-Made as TrendWatching define it is essentially about three areas of customer involvement with firms:

1. Customer-Made Stuff  – Involvement of customers in product design and development through the submission of their ideas and suggestions
2. Customer-Made Media  – Consumer-generated advertising content, mostly enabled by brands wanting to experiment with the value of open-source contributions. Their main goal is to use user-content to generate more attention and eyeballs
3. Customer-Made Suggestion Schemes – One-off large-scale, more sophisticated (digital) customer suggestion schemes, sometimes incentivised.

All very well and good. But effectively, these forms of co-creation amount to little more than lead user approaches on speed – they’re the old lead user customer involved innovation method just faster, more real-time, net enabled and therefore more likely to be “on the nose” in terms of the quality and value of the ideas. We’re all more savvy anyway so that helps too.   

My beef is that co-creation is much more than the above. And to get to its higher significance, it is important to look beyond stuff, media and suggestion schemes and instead touch upon what customers – you and I – really value from our interactions with companies. And that , as we all know, is found in the experience. Let me explain. Consider the following statements:

1. Value-creation is not embedded in stuff but rather it is found in experiences – that is, the whole intangible sense, emotion, feeling and meaning consumers get and derive from their interaction with products and services

2. Because these experiences are felt only we consume stuff or when we interact with companies and their products and services, then the firm’s emphasis on value-creation should be concerned with how to provide the best personalised experience for an individual customer. That is, because you and I have our own unique view of value.

3. Our own unique view of value varies in time and in space and also in context to what we need. We choose a company’s products and services on the basis of their ability to meet our experience expectations. We choose a product or service on the basis of the quality of the experience it might provide for us and we assess its value during and after its use. 

4. Therefore, co-creation is concerned with how a firm and its products and services can help me to access and co-create my own personal experience from active involvement with the firm’s products. In other words, we co-create personal value from each experience – the product is subordinate to the experience. 

Consider Medtronic  – the pacemaker guys. This week they announced FDA approval for their new wireless pacemaker devices. This means that when at home, a customer’s pacemaker can be automatically monitored by remote physicians, wirelessly. When a defect from the patients norm is sensed by the in-home monitoring device, the system auto-detects the patients condition and then diagnoses the problem by remotely adjusting the pacemaker.

In essence, the pacemaker product (the stuff inside the patient) adapts to the unique circumstances and conditions of the patient. In doing so, it co-creates unique value, value that is embedded in the experience interaction between the patient and Medtronics.

I would suggest therefore that in addition to TrendWatchings Co-Created Stuff, Media and Suggestion Schemes, the real potential of Co-Creation lies in personalised (unique) experience innovation where the emphasis is on the intangible value exchanged or felt between the firm and the customer .

Anyway, here’s my own suggestion scheme, if there is enough demand, I will happily co-create a TrendWatching like article on this form of experience co-creation. Please drop me comments, let me know..

Original Post: http://chrislawer.blogs.com/chris_lawer/2006/05/customermade_is.html