What, exactly, is co-creation?

The first time I had hear the term co-creation was when I read How Customers Think by Professor Gerald Zaltman.  The idea seemed to me so simple, so intuitively obvious.  But I was wrong.

I discovered this as I tried to tell others about co-creation.  

I tried to explain that a brand is not simply the words and actions of a company.  And it does not exist solely and completely in the minds of customers.  Co-creation describes the process where the two intersect. That came across as clear as fog.

Soon my attempts to describe co-creation began to sound like a forum for people from a company to sit together with consumers in the same room and together draw up new product designs or  have a joint brainstorm on new names.   

I had lost my ability to see and say things clearly.

I am glad to say that another writer found the words for me.  It was Jorge Luis Borges.  Not only a great writer but also gracious, funny and charming in person.  I had the great honor and pleasure of being one of the MFA graduate students invited to his week long lecture series at the graduate School of the Arts at Columbia. 

The taste of the apple is neither in the apple itself — the apple cannot taste itself — nor in the mouth of the eater.  It requires a contact between them.”

Yes, exactly.  

Co-creation is such a clumsy word, a much less poetic way of describing that contact.  

So I’ll leave you with a final thought.  In 2004 the Harvard Business Review ran an article predicting that the MFA (Master of Fine Arts) degree will become the new MBA.  It has not yet come to pass.Perhaps we can try to convince the MBA programs and the MFA programs to swap students for one semester.  We’ll have the fiction writers studying marketing and the marketing majors studying poetry.  And all of us would be richer for the experience.

2 Responses to “What, exactly, is co-creation?”

  1. 1 Ivan Nizgoraev May 1, 2009 at 2:58 am

    What is co-reation, at list? Do you know any exact methods to organize co-creation? Or may be you know people, companies who could help to co-create? I mean consulting and marketing firms.

  2. 2 rringer May 1, 2009 at 8:25 am

    There are several firms that have specific methodologies for co-creation. The best known and pioneer in this field is Olson-Zaltman Associations. Promise in the UK has another variation on the process. And Verse Group also has a structured methodology for this. Perhaps other readers have suggestions to add.

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