Do you have a colleague with the word “co-creation” in their title? Chances are, your answer is no. A year from now, however, that could be a very different story.
For the uninitiated, co-creation is a collaborative design process in which companies seek continuous input from a community of customers. Starting with the initial discovery of problems, customers are engaged at multiple points to share feedback throughout the delivery of new market-facing products and experiences. It’s a concept that turns the traditional product development model on its head by prioritizing consumer feedback early and often to generate the next steps.
Brands that co-create gather consumer pain points, ideas, and feedback, long before a new product’s design is fleshed out or a prototype is fabricated.
Before the concept of co-creation was born, brands developed new products in a very insular way. Consumers were engaged often at the end of the development process to see if the innovation tested well. If it passed, the product got the green light and made its way to store shelves. Unfortunately, this method is far from perfect and according to Harvard Business School professor, Clayton Christensen, up to 95% of new products fail in the market.
Brands looking to improve that failure rate have embraced co-creation as a highly effective method to deliver better products by validating at every step.
Meet the VP of Co-Creation
While not a job title many, if any, companies boast at the moment, the VP of Co-Creation will be the driving force for brands that truly want to reshape how new products and ideas are brought to life. This individual will be tasked with helping their company make a fundamental shift from internal-focused R&D towards community-driven product design and development. The fundamental shift is based on a key insight that high-growth start-ups already embrace– build a community first, then create products.
A successful VP of Co-Creation will need to be a champion of forward-looking strategies that take a customer-first approach to product creation. These big operational changes will transcend business functions, merging community-building, research, design, development, and marketing. Responsibilities could include:
- Implement and manage the co-creation process for innovation with clear business milestones and consumer checkpoints at every stage
- Implement platforms that help facilitate simple and scalable ways to gather feedback and guide design and development teams
- Transition social ‘folllowers’ and customer lists into a thriving community of creators who can become a proprietary and strategic advantage for growth
- Establish “digital first” approach to concepts and product design that embraces 3D/AR prototypes
- Foster a culture of community building and collaborative problem solving
- Deliver innovation that improves the success rate
Have What it Takes?
A day in the life of the VP of Co-Creation is one filled with focusing the creativity of your company around the most compelling business problems. Instead of feeling like the answer is inside of you, your focus shifts outward. You design ways to engage customers to identify and prioritize for your team. Feedback loops that inspire the design and development teams to iterate features versus internal debates. From creating a defined roadmap for rolling out a co-creation strategy to inspiring the team with new campaign ideas and partnerships to run with consumers, it will take a dynamic and adept person to lead the charge.
A background in strategy, consumer insights, product portfolio management, and/or marketing is a must. As not only a senior role but a newly established title within the corporate hierarchy, a brand’s first co-creation leader should bring plenty of experience and be equipped to provide a great deal of counseling, motivation, and strategic direction.
The Time is Now
The data speaks volumes – according to a 2017 Hitachi study, 61% of companies said that co-creation enabled them to produce more successful new products and services and more than 50% of companies surveyed said co-creation directly improved their financial performance. That doesn’t even account for the COVID-driven shift in consumer behavior, where 81% of consumers say they believe brands are more authentic when they collaborate with their customers.
With Consumer Experience management forecasted to grow from $10.3B to $39B by 2030 (yes, that’s almost 4x growth over the next 8 years), the need for Co-creation leaders is quickly approaching. Brands open and willing to adopt new methods of product design and development will be the first to appoint a strong executive in charge of co-creation and reap the benefits.
Significant mindset shifts away from the status quo take time to replace the old way of doing things. Once early adopters have proven the advantages of how co-creation can yield better business results, others will quickly follow.
Every day more brands add co-creation strategies to their approach and it’s only a matter of time before we see jobs related to co-creation become mainstream.
If you’d like to collaborate on what this role might look like at your company, we’d love to help get you started.