New management ideas and practices, especially those on a hot upward trajectory, are like drugs. They produce unwanted side effects. As their adoption and usage becomes more widespread, so do the misconceptions and mythologies surrounding them.
Take the case of Co-creation. With words like crowdsourcing and wikinomics accounting for ever-increasing air time, an interesting misconception often heard is that a company can outsource its customer-value creation activities, like R&D and innovation, to the crowd. Not true. It’s not a question of customers vs. internal resources; it’s about customers and internal resources. Co-creation in its modern incarnation (the concept is as old as the oldest hills) was never meant to replace internal R&D and innovation capabilities; its role is to augment and turbo charge them.
Some of the best companies like Hallmark, Pitney Bowes, and Boeing understand this instinctively, which is why their employees are an integral part of their co-creation programs, from start to finish. Two other organizations that do an excellent job of making employees an integral part of their co-creation programs are MasterCard and Oslo University’s Clinic of Innovation.
MasterCard recently invested in MasterCard Labs, a Dublin-based global R&D and innovation hub, because Ajay Banga, MasterCard CEO, and Garry Lyons, their Chief Innovation Officer, believe in the value and importance of employees shaping and sustaining the company’s co-creation efforts. Which is why a few weeks ago MasterCard Labs gathered a diverse group of employees from around the world to participate in “Innovation Express”, a two-day, round-the-clock competition aimed at developing new product prototypes based on inputs received from customers. Naturally, MasterCard is reluctant to share specifics, but early indications are that future editions of Innovation Express will most certainly be sold out!
The Oslo University of Hospital is a classic, but not very well known this side of the Atlantic. Being a hospital it understands the value of clinics. To encourage innovation and co-creation with employees, two pioneers, Dr. Kari Kværner and Dr. Andreas Moan, created a clinic of innovation, much like an outpatient clinic. Except that this clinic did not treat sick patients, it treated employees ideas - where employees could have their ideas diagnosed, tested, treated, and brought to market in the form of new products and/or improved services. The Clinic of Innovation has had several successes, like nurse Astrid Skreosen, who developed a super absorbent sheet for maternity wards, to expedite cleaning and moping between deliveries.
Nicolas Mirzayantz, Group President, Fragrances at IFF says it best – if you can’t collaborate and co-create within your own company, with your own employees, you are going to have a tough time doing so outside the company. He is right. So, if you are embarking on a co-creation journey, take your employees with you.