Why many organizations find it hard to co-create (with customers)

How do you start a co-creation process? Does it also work for B2B and is there a way to include your distributors or resellers?” Yes (x2). The marketer I met at the conference was convinced of the value of co-creating with customers. However he seemed puzzled on how to put it in place.

Turns out the origin of is concern was his ‘established’ approach on how to get customer insights:

  1. “Asking the customer means market research.” Read: a representative sample, scientifically validated surveys. It often takes 2-3 months from scoping to the communication of the results. That is a whole quarter without seeing results on the field.
  2. “Market research means we ask the customer what he/she wants and what he/she might like in the future.” Lots of market research remains declarative, or rather: it lacks observation.
  3. “After the market research, we develop and crosscheck internally (“the innovation or the R&D pipeline”) and then we launch, supported by a campaign.”

This way of thinking makes most companies nervous for their first date with end users.


In fact, most of us were taught to work like this in (business) schools. However, in customer centric innovation, testing/co-creating and development intertwine as you evolve into a mature and market-ready end solution.

Do you have a first idea of a service? Can you explain (better: show) what it does in a simple way? Then start a first co-creation track with end users on a small scale.

  1. Prepare a set of assumptions you want to check: who are you users really, how do they think/speak/act, which aspects of your service represent value to them (willingness to pay?), how do they evaluate the different interactions with your organisation, what do they expect?
  2. Prepare a concise scenario in which you can simulate the service to customers. Make sure you can observe reactions and ask questions about them.
  3. Then use your internal network and motivate for instance 1 store responsible to participate to a work session, and to invite a handful of local customers. See here this small-scale test takes you. I’m pretty confident that 70-80% of your findings will be confirmed in other tests. This approach generally doesn’t need convincing. Asking “who wants to volunteer to test something new” often does the trick.

By the time you would be starting your innovation funnel in the established approach, you will have a first product/service on the market. With customers willing to pay for it.

About the author – Manuel Bollue loves ‘going on the field’ during innovation projects: “I found the energy of all stakeholders in projects was the highest whenever they could make their ideas tangible and discuss them with end users.”