I try and shape my thinking and therefore I guess, my definition of co-creation in terms of how the concept can help firms achieve their growth goals through innovating a product or platform into something of more relevance and greater sustainable value to the customer. This in turn will not only help the firm secure organic revenue growth but also, if executed correctly, deliver long-term returns in the form of continuous learning of customer needs, faster iteration towards enhanced value on existing platforms and path evolution towards repeated success at co-creation, which in reality is just a form of innovation.
I am not going to apologise for having a firm-centred view because after all, without the firm's investment in platforms and infrastructure for customers to meet their value-in-use goals, and to meet them in different space-time contexts, then it’s unlikely that, well, customers will meet their value-in-use goals, or in other words, get their jobs done. So for me, the role of the firm is central to facilitate the genesis of the personalised, co-created experience opportunity for the users of its infrastructure.
So my view of CC, connected into SDL, is that firms exist to build the service and knowledge infrastructure and capability to make co-creation platforms, or value propositions for their customers. These platforms consist of network partners, underlying technology, customer interaction mechanisms, learning mechanisms, brand drivers, value exchanges and human resources to support the potential for the delivery of unique value propositions for its customers, who use the firm's platforms to derive superior, value-in-use for themselves. We use Apple’s iTunes and iPod platforms because their combination as a platform and brand helps us derive superior value-in-use to get the manage a personalised music experience job done, and the emotions we deem important when getting that job done.
Therefore in terms of the relational perspectives on co-creation, the question for me is “what comes first?”. Customers cannot enter into a relationship with a firm unless the infrastructure or platform for co-creation exists beforehand, one that allows me to derive superior value-in-use. I couldn’t enter into a relationship with Apple before it created its personalised music experience platform. But then as it happens, although i use most of their services, I don’t actually feel I have a relationship with Apple. I may have a feeling of loyalty to Apple but only because it provides a very good platform or infrastructure for me to get my personal music experience jobs done pretty well. Sure, customers can self-organise into communities and derive co-created value from each other yet more often than not, such communities sit on an infrastructure provided by a firm that orchestrates and integrates network partners into an ecosystem for its users to derive personalised value. Facebook is a platform for co-creation to help us get our “stay in touch with friends” and related jobs done. But do I have a relationship with Facebook? Not really, they just facilitate me to maintain relationships with friends and family.... the relationship isn’t managed or designed actively by Facebook. Rather, it’s just a by-product of the co-creation platform, inherent in the value that is co-created.
In my view, a firm-centred perspective on co-creation is more practically useful as it illuminates the power of the co-creation concept as a new form of market and competitive strategy.
I would stop short of saying that “all value is co-created” because whilst true in the sense that all products are value propositions to get a job done, which is done to a greater or lesser degree by the customer, such a holistic perspective may blind us to the opportunistic and pragmatic aspects of co-creation as a new form of market strategy. Instead, I prefer to think of co-creation as a distinctive form of competition that requires new dynamic capabilities and deliberate firm investments in new resources to achieve greater value for customers and superior returns for the firm. In other words, we should focus on the distinctive aspects of co-creation that embody its practical usefulness now in an age of hyper-competition and diminishing returns from product-centred propositions.
My final point is to ask “do customers always intentionally enter into a co-creation relationship with firms”? I would suggest not. The long and short of it is that customers just want to get a job done. They (we) always have. The only reason firms have stopped short of delivering superior value-in-use (getting a job done) is because in the past they fixated on the efficiencies of a product – make – sell – buy – consume – break economic system. Now, by stepping into a co-creation frame of mind, which at long last is aligned with how customers actually perceive and seek value, firms can move closer to supporting the customer to achieve their ultimate goals. Co-Creation is therefore just a natural way for organisations to help their customers meet their goals in the lifetime of use of their products. But they can only do so if they embrace a different view of value and start building back from the customer’s view of value, not the firm’s.