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Co-creation: The future of innovation

The co-creating partners should be extensively engaged at every stage of important decisions - from research to value-reaping

SD Shibulal 

We live in an age where emerging trends in technology and societies are changing the way we interact with each other. Look around. More than 50 per cent of the world’s population is under the age of 30. There are close to 2 billion internet users globally and 87 per cent of the world’s population has a mobile phone. If Facebook were a country it would be the world’s third most populated, twice the size of the United States population.

Businesses across the board have always had consumer choices and preferences at the heart of all their strategies. However, what has changed in recent times is the fact that there is little room for blunders. Products and services are voted successful or failures, even before they hit the high street, by consumers actively conversing on the social media. Mobile internet has only exacerbated this trend. Enterprises seeking to leverage this enthusiastic and involved consumer to make more than just yes or no decisions, and collaborate with them, to create unique value, have led to the growing focus on co-creation. Indeed, customers are asking to be let inside company walls.

In a global social media study conducted recently, 44 per cent of the over 9,000 participants indicated that they were interested in co-creating products and advertising. A similar proportion had conversed with a brand or interacted directly with a company in social media; 33 per cent were fans of brands. And they were eager to share, with 52 per cent of all respondents willing to give active product feedback.

The above mentioned survey focused on individual buyers. I believe that the principal insight about the importance of co-creation also applies to co-creation with other key stakeholders such as businesses, vendor partners and employees. At Infosys, our experience has been no different. Over the past two years, we have partnered with our clients in over 100 co-creation workshops, to co-create products, platforms, solutions and services to help them differentiate themselves in the marketplace, spark growth and remain competitive. We have also engaged in extensive research with industry bodies, thought leaders and academia.

Our research and experience clearly indicates that the success of tomorrow’s enterprises will be strongly linked to the inclusiveness of their strategic ecosystem — an ecosystem which drives innovation through active co-creation with key stakeholders. At a time when businesses are struggling to adapt to complex market realities or to become more efficient or to develop a competitive differentiator or to simply survive, those who converge their innovation strengths are likely to have the edge.

There are many ways in which the co-creation model of innovation is superior to the traditional approach of closed-door innovation.

For one, co-creation creates co-ownership, and with it, a higher level of commitment from the stakeholders involved. Secondly, it is well known that co-creation enables hyper personalisation of products and leads to customer delight. Lesser known is the fact that it also helps potential customers to navigate a diverse and fragmented market by allowing them to get together with others like themselves to solve problems, commonly faced, on their own. In a way, it gives expression to customers’ need for independence and empowerment, not to mention their desire to influence.

Consider this example. Months before it launched a particular car model in the U.S., an automobile major started a marketing campaign which included getting 100 people who were influential in social media to drive on expeditions and describe the experience in multiple social forums and platforms. Among other things, the campaign generated 50,000 enquiries, mainly from people who drove another manufacturer’s car, and contributed to the sale of 10,000 cars in the first 6 days of launch.

Finally, co-creation also expands the canvas of creativity, such that organisations need not restrict their innovation endeavors to those core competencies they already have a proven track record in. If they lack the expertise to plumb the depths of a certain arena, they can “acquire” it by simply co-building such expertise and insight with the right organisations. It’s a win-win situation. To conclude we believe that co-creating products, services and solutions that cater to specific needs of the stakeholders is the only way we can build our enterprises of tomorrow. However, there is no ideal co-creation model and a ‘one size fits all’ approach does not exist. I’m certain that co-creation is neither a one-off opportunity, nor a short-term tactic. We’ve seen enough companies flirt with co-creation to launch a new variant or create quick excitement, and invariably disappear soon after. Co-creation is meaningful only in the form of deep, sustained exploration of opportunity, to be jointly undertaken. The co-creating partners should be engaged at every stage of important decisions-from research to value-reaping. That calls for a pretty big shift in organisational mindset. The time to make it happen is now.

SD Shibulal
Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director Infosys Limited

First Published: Mon, June 25 2012. 00:30 IST