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Social Innovation

Interview with Maarten Pieters

Maarten Pieters is the head of co-creation and people insight at Philips Lighting – and is tasked with turning the company into a fully co-creative business. Here, he talks about the common traits of companies that excel at collaborative creation, and some of the mindset changes that need to be made to foster strong ecosystems.

How would you define co-creation, and how should it be distinguished from simple partnering?

Co-creation is about relevance with your customers and partners. If you want to stay relevant, you need to connect as closely as possible with your target group. Complete co-creation is bringing all of these stakeholders together and giving everyone a central role. It's important to remember, especially in B2B companies, that the chain doesn't end when you sell your product, but can continue several links down to an eventual end user.

What stops businesses from putting together a co-creation ecosystem that brings all these people together?

We can put the two principle reasons down to ego and inertia. Ego is the assumption that the management of a company always knows everything about their product, and therefore knows best which direction to take, without having to consult other stakeholders. Inertia is a variation on this – rather than assuming that they will always be right, the company just feels like innovation can be carried out quicker without consulting other stakeholders.

Co-creation requires a different mindset. It means putting your ego to one side, to listen to different perspectives and open your business up to new ideas.

What are the characteristics of an advanced co-creator, in your opinion?

One of the more common traits of an advanced co-creator is the drive to add value for everyone involved in the project – something where everyone wins. Advanced co-creators also have a very good understanding of the best way to work together with stakeholders, and actively find new ways to improve these relationships.

An advanced co-creator is also able to take groups of stakeholders and lead them from A to B. This is about making stakeholders feel comfortable expressing their opinions and perspectives. There's definitely a perception out there that customers and consumers don't really know what they want until you show them – this is nonsense and the advanced co-creator understands this. They know which questions to ask, and how to interpret the information they receive and the way their stakeholders behave. People are always showing what they want and what they like – the key is learning how to see it.

the Future

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