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The overview of the article
The article at hand analyzes the issue of co-creation in the context of the innovation process. The authors highlight the influence social media exerts on customers fostering their desire to involve in collaboration with various companies to contribute to the improvement of goods or services. Co-creation is understood as voluntary participation of customers in the development process (as compared to economic exchange relations that presuppose incentives provided by organizations). The authors claim that social media can make the interaction between customers and firms more social in some cases but in others – bring them down to purely financial interests. Their objective is to provide theoretical explanations of this impact.
As far as methodology is concerned, the researchers adhere to the qualitative study providing an extensive literature review that helps them create a typology of all the existing forms of co-creation (distinguishing between financial- and social-exchange models). The typology serves as the basis for discussion of social media influence. The description of each type of co-creation is followed by several possible questions that could be used for future research on the topic.
As a result of the literature analysis, the authors single out four types of co-creation:
- lead user method;
- toolkits for user co-design;
- technical solution contests;
- ideation contest.
Their findings of the social media impact on each of the identified types can be summarized as follows:
- Lead users tend to share their innovative ideas without any commercial interests. They assist in the development for the sake of improvement, not for getting benefits. Social media help such users establish interactions and exchange their ideas, which lead to larger outcomes with minimum resources. However, the use of social media may prompt these users to skip collaboration and co-creation and start their own business using their ideas for improvement and innovation.
- Toolkits that allow non-lead users to choose the parameters of the products personalizing them according to their needs can also be affected differently by social media. On the one hand, social networking allows including other people in the process of co-design, receiving inspiration from others for creating a unique product of your own. On the other hand, social media can result in the establishment of economic exchange relations. There are now a lot of users who sell their co-design toolkits to other users thereby discouraging the process of co-creation.
- Solution contest (or broadcast search) is based on economic exchange from all possible perspectives. Social media aggravates competition among the contestants as broadcasting attracts a greater number of participants. However, the positive impact on co-creation consists in the fact that the highly competitive environment brings the quality of solutions to a higher level. Social media may also contribute to the collaboration of solvers, which could be very beneficial for companies that organize the competition (however, it leads to the reduction of the individual investments in the problem-solution).
- Ideation contests feature rewards or licensing contracts for those who propose the best ideas for innovation. This is a strategy that uses incentives for encouraging co-creation. Thus, the influence of social media, in this case, is rather similar to its impact on technical solution contests: they can benefit company-customer relations (as the motivation of the customer is increased through the company recognition); however, the downside is that the organization may lose control of its initiative if the customer prefers non-monetary rewards offered from the outside.
All the above-mentioned findings lead the researchers to the conclusion that co-creational activities may be enhanced as well as hindered by social media. Besides, the authors suppose that the tremendous popularity of co-creation can make innovative customers disappear in the nearest future making the firms compete for them.
Piller, Frank T., Alexander Vossen, and Christoph Ihl. “From Social Media to Social Product Development: The Impact of Social Media on Co-Creation of Innovation.” Die Unternehmung 65.1 (2012).