How consumers co-create? by Nicholas Ind

Nicholas IndNicholas Ind is a writer and partner in Equilibrium Consulting. He is a member of the advisory board of Corporate Reputation Review, the editorial board of the Journal of Brand Management, and an Industrial Fellow at Kingston University.

Nicolas is an Associate Professor at Oslo School of Management and a Visiting Professor at ESADE, Barcelona and Edinburgh Napier University, and I had the pleasure to share with him a few learnings about the development of Imagine with Orange, Orange crowd-innovation platform, and launchpad for entrepreneurs.

In this post, Nicolas presents a short summary of an article on ‘The Emergence and Outcome of Co-creation’ by Nicholas Ind, Oriol Iglesias and Majken Schultz, which was published in California Management Review, Vol 55, No3.

How consumers co-create?

As co-creation becomes more widespread (Editor’s note: see masssive cocreation platforms post) so a need has emerged to explain how consumer participation works in practice. To better understand this, we established an online community comprising 236 consumers, who had taken part in previous co-creation communities. These individuals were selected because they had been active, not because they possessed any particular skill or were seen in any sense particularly creative. Over the course of 52 days (in which they produced more than 14,000 comments) this group reflected on their relationship with brands, their experience of co-creation and their expectations of a community and the organization behind it. We also asked people to define what co-creation could be in the future.


What became clear during the running of the community was that participation needs to be nurtured. You have to take the time for people to establish social connections and for their trust in each other to grow. When that happens they start to become more creative and engaged in the process. It is clear that people participate primarily for reasons connected to contributing to something in the world that has meaning for them and for the joy of connecting to like-minded people. As a sense of community develops, you can see people change. They say themselves that through participation both their sense of closeness to a brand grows and that they feel they more creative – something they demonstrate when they work together on new initiatives.

create meaning

With a participative approach to innovation, many of the barriers between the inside and the outside of the organization fade away. Consumers, with support and direction, can help build brands and contribute to product and service innovation. They even start to think and act like engaged employees – which also means that they do expect proper feedback on the ideas that they help develop. The implication for managers is that they need to adopt a more participatory leadership style that emphasizes sharing and supports consumers’ involvement. This means also exhibiting a degree of humility that comes with the acceptance that others may have better insights and solutions than insiders. Managers have to approach co-creation with an open-mind. They will still enjoy considerable influence, but as brands become more participative, decision-making processes will become more consultative and collective.


More on co-creation community management: read about ‘Open source management techniques; Motivation & Reward’ on ‘Let’s them hack your innovation!



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