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Book Review: The Power of Co-Creation
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Book Review: The Power of Co-Creation by Venkat Ramaswamy and Francis Gouillart

The Power of Co-Creation

Written by: Venkat Ramaswamy and Francis Gouillart. New York: Free Press, 2010. 276+ix pages.
Reviewed by: Teresa Jurgens-Kowal

The Power of Co-Creation

If you like learning case studies, then you will love this book! The Power of Co-Creation offers real-life stories across a breadth of industries where firms have demonstrated success by opening up product and service delivery to new players.

Defined as “the practice of development systems, products, or services through collaboration with customers, managers, employees, and other company stakeholders” (p. 4), the authors present a theme of ideas to encourage customer-centric value creation. As product development practitioners are generally aware, engaging customers leads to many innovation benefits, such as learning and the ability to generate new ideas rapidly. Co-creation can be applied to nearly any innovation or business growth effort.

In the introductory chapter, Ramaswamy and Gouillart present a compelling example of Nike expanding their footprint to the running community through a multitude of customer interface platforms. These platforms included Web-based tools for runners to log favorite music playlists and routes that can be downloaded to the users' GPS. Chapters Two through Six continue the stories of firms who demonstrated successful new platforms to add value.

The platforms of co-creation tend to be highly linked with the explosion of technology and anytime/anywhere connectivity. For example, three of the four core principles of co-creation (p. 36) involve higher connection with customers and other stakeholders: engagement platforms, network relationships, and context of interactions. Many products and services even deploy significant technology via the fourth co-principle of experience mindset. Many of the case studies in the text show that Web-based platforms tactically facilitate these core principles.

In Chapter Three, the authors make a case that innovation within a co-creative environment must engage employee experiences as much as tapping on networks of customers and situations outside of the firm. Chapter Four, “Engaging People Among Business Networks,” describes the two key elements for co-creation as learning and choice.

Part Two of The Power of Co-Creation, called the Management of Co-Creation, presents even more detailed case studies in Chapter Seven through Eleven. In particular, Chapter Nine, “Going Beyond Processes to Co-Creative Engagement” makes a striking analogy between innovation and an everyday activity. Companies that fail to engage and interact with stakeholders are like a person dancing with a rag doll, while firms that carefully engage with and involve customer employees in new product and service delivery are like a tango—two fabulous dancers incorporating the dance floor, the music, and the shared moves to create something more wonderful.

A question that many business leaders have—”if we open up, how can we protect ourselves from competitors?”—is addressed through yet another case study in Chapter Ten, “Opening Up Strategy.” The authors offer the conclusion that co-creation is a competitive advantage in and of itself.

Finally, after an exploration of case studies in the banking industry and governmental institutions, the epilogue presents a 25-point co-creation manifesto. This co-creation manifesto summarizes the learnings from the multitude of case studies investigated in the earlier chapters.

While The Power of Co-Creation will leave the reader feeling inspired about the general philosophy of stakeholder engagement and the successes documented in the many case studies, those that seek “how-to” cocreate will also be looking for a sequel with additional guidance, offering tips and tricks beyond Web-based community interaction for product and service differentiation. After all, “co-creation relies on learning from actual people” (p. 199).

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