Innovation Consulting for technology innovation often sounds strange to development managers, developers and engineers. Aren’t…
New products and services pursue the goal of exciting as many customers as possible and convincing them with real added value. That is why it is important for businesses to orient themselves to target customer needs and ensure that their products are fundamentally interesting to potential buyers. But how exactly does a business design a new offer and how do companies become better at understanding their customers? Co-Creation helps.
What is Co-Creation?
Co-Creation is an approach to innovation whereby customers and other groups of people develop ideas in a shared format, usually a workshop, and discuss implementation options and obstacles. The aim is to gain insight into the perspectives of customers and all other stakeholders so that your business can develop better solutions more quickly. But can you really understand the customer at all?
What is really behind Co-Creation?
Co-Creation means just that: “creating something together”, and it involves integrating many different perspectives, people, and even customers into the development of new products and services. In the past, market research was the most common process for determining what drives customers and recognizing which factors matter to them. In the modern, Co-Creation process, however, the customer’s role goes far beyond answering simple questionnaires.
Co-Creation works by integrating the customer as completely and actively as possible into the development of new products and services so as to optimize the innovation process. In this way, modern companies are able to align development with customer desires and demands and effectively collaborate with them. When it comes to customer-specific and progressive innovation, Co-Creation offers a modern and flexible approach. It is an approach that increases the chances of success like no other!
Innovation Success with Co-Creation
Too many cooks spoil the Goulash … unless you can keep them under control. We get the most out of your expert resources.
Who is involved in Co-Creation?
With Co-Creation, you can gather as many perspectives as you can identify. These perspectives are crucial because they enable you to identify and resolve conflicting goals as early as possible. That is why you need to bring participants together instead of speaking with them separately.
- What do customers really want? What are their pain points? This perspective is represented by the customer.
- Is it technically feasible? How can technical difficulties be solved? A perspective contributed by developers, product developers and manufacturing engineers.
- Will our company benefit from it? Can we develop a profitable offer? Business Development or Controlling often represents these issues.
- Do we as a company want to go in this direction of innovation? Does that fit in with company strategy? This is where the company and management leadership come in.
The greater the innovation you strive for, the higher the number of people who need to be involved to ensure success. In the smallest conceivable case, a company owner may only need to talk to his main customer. If a company wants to create an innovative private vehicle powered by hydrogen, many more parties will have to be involved in the Co-Creation process.
Further perspectives can be provided, for example, by marketing, trainees, production, quality control, external experts or human resource development, depending on the topic.
Why should you integrate your customers?
When developing new products, their development should lead to the solution of an existing problem. Right? And who knows best what problems there are? As a rule, it’s not the manufacturers of the new product or solution who know. It’s the customers. It is therefore essential to confront the needs of your own customers and consider their individual wishes and expectations when designing a new offer. In this way, the benefits for customers become increasingly clear, which makes it easy for them to make the right decision – right from the start.
This not only enhances your problem-solving competencies. The value for customers can also increase as a result of the direct participation of potential customers, which also allows you to strengthen customer trust in your company and product. In this respect, the customer provides clarity as to the needs and desires that you as a manufacturer must consider to ensure successful innovation. Direct approaches such as innovation workshops, which convey your appreciation of their issues as well as other exciting insights to the customer, offer perfect opportunities.
Over time, such an approach creates excellent tools for improving your offerings, as well as optimizing your marketing. Above all, enhanced quality will become noticeable as a result of integrating customers in the Co-Creation process, enabling you to do more than just meet your own quality requirements. By effectively analyzing customer issues, you will have an easy time meeting your customers’ requirements in advance and thereby minimize your risks.
Nuances of Co-Creation in Innovation Workshops
Influence, however, is not always influence. When implementing customer participation, a number of options are available. This allows you to decide on the appropriate approach. To this effect, Co-Creation can basically be divided into three levels.
- Passive Involvement
Those who opt for passive involvement engage their target group by collecting customer observations and conducting surveys. There is no tangible influence on the effectiveness and development of products, and the useful application of information received is not guaranteed. This approach is common, for example, in user acceptance testing or in the simulation of innovative services.
- Active Involvement
In active involvement, customers and their experiences contribute to the planning and design of new products. This practically leads to genuine cooperation between the company and its customers, even if the company can ultimately decide for itself how the product or the business model is actually designed.
- Active Participation
The highest level of collaboration with customers is active participation. Here, the customers themselves take on tasks involved in the development of new products and consciously contribute their own knowledge. This ultimately creates a product designed by customers for customers. A transition from this to a genuinely collaborative project is seamless, and of course, especially relevant in the B2B sector.
These three forms of collaboration apply not only to customers but also to other stakeholders.
Customer focus in various phases of the innovation process
Exactly when Co-Creation should be used in the innovation process always depends on your current state of knowledge. When employing it from the start, Co-Creation can help overcome new challenges in the development phase and convert ideas into successful prototypes more quickly. If all the details of a new product already seem evident and have been determined, then the involvement of new customers for new ideas can serve as a test of concept. In principle, the customer should be involved as early as possible, but not too early.
Even after the successful release of new products, the Co-Creation approach can be quite useful. It allows you to determine changes in customer behavior or expectations and recognize how a product can be improved. Digital services such as seminars or workshops are especially effective for involving customers in the improvement of a product or service, which also provide opportunities for you to gradually increase your influence and reach more people. Listening to your customers thus becomes a profitable detail and enlivens the development process.
Is Co-Creation possible without conducting a workshop?
There are various approaches for involving customers in product development, and the degree of involvement also varies greatly among them. But, beyond the workshop format, what approaches for Co-Creation are there?
- Active Observation – sometimes also called „Shadowing“, involves observing B2C customer behavior in public.
- Creating Communities – especially for digitally active, younger-generation B2C target groups.
- Integration of Customer Service or Complaint Management – already used by many companies, especially in B2B commerce, although not for purposes of innovation.
- Conducting Idea Contests – via open or closed platforms, but usually only with moderate success, considering the actual results achieved.
- Direct target group surveys – the classic, original market research method, it is often forgotten or underappreciated today, or the effort involved in implementation discourages its employment.
It makes sense to combine several elements into one concept and regard the workshop as the ultimate tool. This is because only a Co-Creation workshop promotes live exchange between participants and achieves knowledge gains that are not possible with sequential methods. Finally, it also enables you to gain knowledge while at the same time being informed about fundamental changes in your customer target group. It only gets really critical when findings have to be consolidated and critical decisions have to be made. Dialogue is simply the best approach for managing this because quick queries can only be productively conducted in dialogue between experts, users and customers, and inform decisions on issues that can otherwise end up steering a project in the wrong direction for weeks or months.
Co-Creation in Product Development
If you want to benefit from flawless project and product development, Co-Creation also offers numerous possibilities. Open cooperation with customers and experts affords opportunities for reducing negative impacts on the customer journey and identifying product drawbacks. In this way, you can work on the added value of your product in a manner that focuses on customer desires and involves your community.
Productive collaboration, therefore, makes it much easier for you to master the challenges product development pose. It is much easier not only to integrate your ideas for the new solutions, but also to meet the wishes and expectations of other users. In this way, you are always able to satisfy your target group and create holistic solutions. In effect, you combine development with marketing as early as possible and, in the process, avoid making errors in development that can turn out to be expensive and difficult to correct.
With Co-Creation toward modern customer integration
For enabling modern and reliable concept development, your customers are truly worth their weight in gold. This is because only they know, and in great detail, what they want from your products and what their most important criteria for buying are. Involving customers, therefore, spares you some of the torment of conducting complex analyses if your biggest questions can be answered by your own customers. This is true even if you know that a direct question like “what do customers want” will not provide a satisfactory answer. Involving and integrating your customers in development is always the best approach for acquiring necessary data quickly and in time. You can rely on the value of customer input to ensure profitable product development. Co-creation makes innovation easy and increases the prospects for innovation success.
What if I can’t/don’t want to speak with the customer?
You can’t always talk to the customer, for many reasons. The target group might be geographically distant, and access is difficult. Or company management might be afraid to talk openly with their customer. After all, they have been working for years on polishing their reputation of omniscience. You can’t go to customers now and tell them that you don’t know what they actually need! Sounds strange, but it’s also the reality.
Fortunately, you don’t always have to talk to the customer. First, there are procedures for identifying customer needs of which customers are unaware. An example of such a method is TOM SPIKE’S “Innovation Time Machine”. Second, it’s often worth working out well-formulated hypotheses before approaching customers and showering them with unstructured questions. And third, innovation doesn’t depend only on identifying problems customers want solved. Innovation also asks how such problems can be solved. And when it comes to that, customers are usually not very helpful.
Which Co-Creation formats does TOM SPIKE offer?
With TOM SPIKE Innovation Consulting as your guide, you benefit from established, successful formats and cross-industry experience, especially in B2B business:
- Base Camp – provides fields of innovation for future projects and the foundation for successful innovation in your company.
- Patent Booster – 10 patent-worthy ideas in 3 days for successful technology innovation.
- Design Thinking Workshop – Entry-level format for insights in customer focus, including motivation boosters.
- Innovation Time Machine- Get to know the product or business model of tomorrow – today, and in detail.
- Innovation QFD – Customer needs, prioritization, positioning and benchmarks in a compact format.
- Innovation Miracle – The entire innovation project in one package.
All these formats benefit from integrating customers, but they are also successful even if you are unable to involve customers directly. Call us, and we will talk about the best approach to mastering your challenges: +49 (0)30 – 89 64 72 09.