I’ve just come back from hosting an incredible conference in Phoenix, where I met some of the leading innovators who have broken down walls to collaborate with other companies to deliver innovation and customer satisfaction. Here’s  my newspaper column this week on how co-creation can work in organizations of any size:

This week I had the pleasure of participating in and moderating aspects of the first Social Product Development and Co-Creation Conference in Phoenix Arizona. The conference was focused on exploring new “co-creative” approaches to product development and innovation.

The way value is being created is changing dramatically. It isn’t just about new products and services delivered in isolation, but can also come about from new business models where companies partner, or “co-create”, with customers, suppliers, employees, and the communities or networks they operate within.

For the conference we were able to bring together a diverse group of organizations to explore how companies of all sizes and types are approaching innovation and creating value. The program featured representatives from companies such as American Express, Quirky, Threadless, Harvard Business School, Intuit Labs, Make Magazine, Kimberly-Clark, Microsoft Design Studios, Hallmark Cards and Wired Magazine, to name a few.

Local Motors and Hallmark for example are embracing social product development to get their customers involved. They are leveraging their target users to redefine traditional business models and even redesign many aspects of their business – not just product design. This is not to say that these companies do not still have internal resources focused on innovation and design, but the lines between the producer and user are blurring.

We have talked about Local Motors a few months ago – a company based in Chandler, Arizona that allows customers to design and build their own vehicles and passionately share the designs with other designers, engineers and automobile enthusiasts from all over the world. Local Motors is one example where co-creation is creating rich customer interactions through the growth of user-generated communities and networks.

Leveraging social media vehicles like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are just a few examples of ways to ignite collaboration among customers, suppliers and communities. These avenues can permanently change the relationship between an organization and its stakeholders. It allows organizations to engage end users much earlier in their processes and contribute in novel unexpected ways.

You can capitalize on this change in how to innovate by using co-creation to transform traditional product development into new mutually valuable experiences. Companies of many sizes are reaching out to consumers to empower them to create and build products and help them take their niche products mainstream.

If you what to explore how companies are designing platforms for connecting with customers and other stakeholders, look at company websites and search for where they are inviting people to contribute to their development efforts.

Hallmark recently had a great example at hallmarkcontests.com, a place where anyone could meet and interact online with the company and participate in card contests to win cash prizes. Visit it and check out the section where the cards created by consumers themselves are sold.

Customers have always had the final say on what gets bought, now thanks to co-creation they are getting to more directly participate in the process of deciding what gets sold!

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