The importance of the interactions consumer-producer

The  interactions consumer-producer

There is a majority who agrees that interactions between consumer and producer (co-creation, collaboration, participatory design, etc.) are a source of increasingly important value. Consumers, traditionally considered as “exchangers” of value, are now considered a source of creating value and competitive advantage. A growing proportion of consumers are seen not only as passive or simple subjects “consumers”. Multiple cases of open innovation success, between company and consumers, are showing us how some can be very creative, bringing important value to the innovation process.

Consider for a moment all the potential for innovation and creativity that exist around 3D printing technology, used for the manufacturing of a wide range of items – from tools and personal gadgets, till prosthesis and organs. The creativity of consumer is becoming an increasingly important part of the model of production in the global market capitalism. Every day, in fact, greater importance is given to the new cultures of consumption, (some of them emerging as the DIY/ 3D) and creativity, as a new model for innovation and production. This is the main reason why companies are inviting consumers to help and collaborate on the next generation of products and services. In addition, co-create with consumers is not only useful as a practice of innovation, but also as a strategic method to strengthen brand value and positively influence the perceptions of the product. Also, provides other benefits in terms of resources and value adjustment, because in comparison with the projects or products result of internal research and development they are developed in shorter time and with less investment. Once in the market, there is also a much higher chance of alignment with a concrete objective target or niche.

Although all seems positive, it must be said that collaboration and co-creation also involve certain difficulties and potential problems. The involvement of consumers and/or customers in open innovation is not an easy task and may not fit well in all companies, depending also on the type of culture and organization. In addition, not all customers or consumers are suitable for participation in an open innovation process. In fact, this type of process requires some effort in both parts, customers’ and organizations: know how, methodology, good management, the right organizational culture and tools…etc.

The true value of co-creation for society

Beside the impact, the difficulties and the benefits derived from allowing the involvement of users and customers in the company processes of innovation, there is a clear value for society and individuals. From my perception, co-creation allows for mediating human aspirations and motivations of a large group of people; something very important at the present time of crisis, unemployment, disorientation and disillusionment. In addition, it facilitates that these new “productive” actors in the innovation process are able to transfer and acquire new knowledge and learning throughout their lives. It is important to stress the fact that good collaboration between the company and the users or clients also brings value that goes beyond economics as they are also contributing to the role of the organization as an important social agent. Promoting co-creation enables the integration of the satisfaction of the customer’s needs in the company, allowing the alignment with the purpose of the company; facilitating the creation of products and services that provide real value, generated from the people and for the people.

From an anthropological point of view, we must not forget that collaboration and cooperation among groups of individuals, teams and organizations produce mutually enriching results. On the one hand, it stimulates growth in the collective consciousness with the organization and culture and, on the other hand, transforms this collective contribution in to a constant and growing source of innovation.

It is important to remember that throughout our evolution and material progress, innovation has been characterized as always being a process primarily of learning and collective creation, and both activities (learning and co-creation) grow exponentially through the co-creation process, producing a culture of learning. In addition, when we develop collaborative methods, we allow people to bring meaning and value to their daily lives, a value that comes from the meaning.

published in spanish last october 2014

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