Co-creation - ToolsHero

This article describes the Co-Creation, developed by C. K. Prahalad and Venkat Ramaswamy in a practical way. After reading you will understand the basics of this powerful strategy tool.

What is Co-Creation?

Consumers are gaining the upper hand, demanding that organisations work in a customer-orientated fashion and provide a high level customer satisfaction.

More and more producers see the benefit of this, giving consumers the opportunity to influence part of the production process and involve them by listening to their ideas. This way, consumers are able to print an individual stamp on the products/services they consume. This is known as Co-Creation; an intimate form of cooperation with customers. The supplier/ producer listens to the customer and takes on their ideas and creative involvement. The consumer plays an active role in the final product by doing so. This productive cooperation leads to a rise in value.

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C. K. Prahalad and Venkat Ramaswamy developed this concept and published a scientific article in the Harvard Business Review (2000) which directly became a worldwide hit.

They developed this concept together with empiric research and published their further developed concept in the famous book The Future of Competition (2004).


Co-Creation is a form of collaboration, with all participants having influence on the production process and final product. The consumer is able to contribute in the development of a product. Co-Creation adds extra economic value to businesses, especially young consumers have evolved new habits and want more involvement towards the final product. Continuous contact and dialogue between consumer and product is important. An element commonly found in co-creation is consumer dialogue, for example through social media. In order for Co-Creation to be fruitful, there must be equivalence, reciprocity, openness and trust in the relationship between producer and consumer. Co-Creation is also very useful in solving complex issues and realising change.


Different forms of co-creation can be distinguished, based on collaboration type and consumers participation:

1. Developer

The producer presents product ideas to the consumer from which a choice can be made. This way the consumer takes over parts of the production process. For example, uploading photos to create an individual photo album or online tickets for the theatre where you can book seats and print tickets yourself.

2. Customisation

Tailoring: the producer offers a standard product and the consumer is able to customise certain components. This is often a matter of colour or style in which the consumer is able to personalise their product. Take Dell for example where consumers can assemble their own computer.

3. Co-innovation

Creative innovation: by means of a contest, consumers can send their ideas/ designs to producers. The winning concept is then usually developed and taken to production. Examples include fashion chains that allow consumers to design their favourite cocktail dress.

4. Integrator

Integration: the consumer is involved in several stages of the development process by the producer. Different producers are brought together on 1 website for the benefit of the consumer when making a choice. Consider a travel agency website for example; different locations, accommodations, flights and insurance possibilities are all shown so the consumer has a better overview and can easily put a package together.

5. Facilitator

Facilitating: the producer offers consumers a platform for developing their own products. The possibility then arises that the producer further develops, produces and markets certain products. The consumer is the co-creator of the product. The Joomla websites are great examples of this.


Co-Creation not only provides more support, but also a long-term collaboration with consumers. Manufacturers and producers hereby also gain a better understanding of the wishes and needs of consumers. The snowball effect that happens as a result is that consumers then share their positive experiences of the company with others. When manufacturers/producers come into contact with consumers and enable them to influence the production process, it becomes a win-win situation for both parties.


There are however four fundamentals to be taken into account if co-creation is likely to succeed:

1. Dialogue

Producer and consumer must be equal partners, tackling problems and finding appropriate solutions together.

2. Stake

The producer, in essence, has more stake in the product compared to the consumer. The producer is the one who develops the co-creation because he owns the product. For consumers, value is generated by having somewhat of a say in the production process. Should consumers have access to an information system or producer software for example, they will feel even more involved.

3. Risk

The decision making process in co-creation is not entirely up to the producer, but rather shared between producer and consumer. The consumer can then better measure the potential risks themselves.

4. Transparency

As knowledge and power is now not only in the hands of the producer, he has to ensure that this is also shared with the consumer.

Think differently

Organisations that focus on Co-Creation will have to think differently. It is unwise and unrealistic to let consumers engage in a one-way adventure. There must also be ample opportunity for consumers to actively engage in the different stages of development. As a result, external parties have a major influence on decisions and developments within the organisation. The ultimate decision making process is not required to be shared with the end user, the organisation is after all ultimately responsible. Organisations do however have to be open in receiving critical information, ideas and advice. Co-Creation must be a continuous process involving the consumer and other relevant target groups in different production phases.

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It’s Your Turn

What do you think? How can you apply Co-creation in today’s modern business world? Do you recognize the practical explanation or do you have more additions? What are your success factors for good collaboration and value creation?

Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.

More information

  1. Prahalad, C. K., & Ramaswamy, V. (2004). The Future of Competition: Co-Creating Unique Value with Customers. Harvard Business School Press.
  2. Prahalad, C. K., & Ramaswamy, V. (2000). Co-Opting Customer Competence. Harvard Business Review.
  3. Ramaswamy, V., & Gouillart, F. (2010). The Power of Co-Creation: Build It with Them to Boost Growth, Productivity, and Profits. Free Press.
  4. Vargo, S. L., Maglio, P. P., & Akaka, M. A. (2008). On value and value co-creation: A service systems and service logic perspective. European management journal, 26(3), 145-152.

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