Over the summer I read what possibly could be one of the most influential books in my life. It was about how in your life, weak ties are the ones that exert the most influence. It postulates that the people in your life who are not closely linked to you, either through family or friendship are less likely to help you out than the person you met on the bus this morning. There is even a great example of this being used by non-other than my favorite founder father, Benjamin Franklin.
During his time in the Pennsylvanian legislature he had to deal with hostility from another rival legislature. “Having heard that he had in his library a certain very scarce and curious book, I wrote a note to him, expressing my desire of perusing that book, and requesting he would do me the favour of lending it to me for a few days. He sent it immediately, and I return’d it in about a week with another note, expressing strongly my sense of the favour. When we next met in the House, he spoke to me (which he had never done before), and with great civility; and he ever after manifested a readiness to serve me on all occasions, so that we became great friends, and our friendship continued to his death.”
A full PDF of his autobiography can be found here: http://www2.hn.psu.edu/faculty/jmanis/franklin/a_b_benf.pdf
Just as it worked for Ben Franklin do we see it repeated over and over in the age of the internet. Sites like Kickstarter (which are crowd sourced) are where an aspiring inventor/entrepreneur lists his idea to potential backers who then vote, with their money, as to which ideas succeed. This co-creation that is built by having a potential to launch with a few thousand supporters who gave you money before anything is produced is spectacular. And the effect of loose ties comes in again because those who gave you money in the beginning are more likely to do it again, and again, and again.
It also works for Amazon who has amassed a billion dollar empire by selling books with reviews by ‘average’ people. Why do I put average in quotations? Because they are innovators and not necessarily average in their adoption habits. The non reviewing customer scours the site looking for possible books to read and happen upon a review written by someone in Georgia (who they do not know, or have ever even heard of). Yet, that review is so influential it is taken before that of a close friend.
Co-Creation has created an environment for consumers to feel as though they have a say on the company. Whether they actually do or not is an entirely different story. New sites are popping up (eBay, craigslist, yelp) entirely built off of co-creation by the consumers using company tools. And they seem to be some of the most popular sites on the web.
Co-Creation is the basis of social media. There is a platform that is used by users to build a profile of who they are, what they have to say and who cares. The company doesn’t sell anything, but rather use the co-created data in order to sell to the creator of the data.
I see co-creation as an opportunity for businesses to create products and services more oriented toward customer interaction. It will spur creativity and innovation for the years to come, and it might even be the go to business model in time.