[Summary Technology of the Week] Co-Creation: Next Level Collaboration


In the current world of digitalization, value creation through profitable growth can come only from innovation (Prahalad and Ramaswamy, 2012). However, the convergence of industries and the active role of consumers becoming essential in an increasingly networked society have called into question our basic conception of value and the processes that lead to its creation.

In our report we have provided a comparison between the business models of the company Threadless and WikipediaThreadless is an internet-based community that uses co-creation by bringing together its employees and customers. Designs are being created by and chosen by an online community, which indicates the crowdsourcing model of co-creation. Wikipedia is widely sharing digital knowledge. This open source movement of intellectual exchange uses co-creation in the form of user-generated content, since all participants contribute to the process and its results.

Both organizations are entirely different, however have one specific thing in common: co-creation. Co-creation refers to suppliers and customers creating value through customized, co-produced offerings. It can assist businesses in highlighting the point of view of the customers and improve the front-end process of identifying the customer’s wants and needs (Lusch and Vargo, 2006). Without their community members giving input to the content, the companies would not survive. Which makes it interesting to look at both companies and their business models.

threadless    wikipedia

We have found that the great strength of both business models is based upon a free of charge platform that is globally accessible to users and customers with a large amount of content available. The weakness of both however is the dependency relationship with their community members, when it comes to using the platform and providing content.

Wikipedia is a non-profit organisation that invests donations and funding into the company and its employees mostly work on a voluntarily base. This can be considered as a strength, as users will be more willing to donate to Wikipedia because it has provided the user good help. The advantage of the business model of Threadless is that because of the commitment of its members, it gets free designs of which they can sell their retail products. With this business model Threadless creates a win-win situation for the three parties: The winning designer receives a financial reward for its design, the community member is able to express and possibly purchase the design it loves, and Threadless sells the low-cost designs knowing there are enough buyers (Prahalad and Ramaswamy, 2004). Additionally, we have to acknowledge the weakness of the business model for the not-winning designers and the community members, investing time without (financial) results.

All in all, the future of co-creation lies in companies distinguishing the different goals of co-creators and by identifying the corresponding skills. Only then, companies can make the most out of the co-creators’ abilities. With companies learning to make smarter use of co-creators, we expect that co-creation will be a part of every business model in the future in many different forms. What do you think? Are you already participating in a co-creation co-creation (1)environment?

Group 3 

  • L. Oprel – 377095
  • M. Pieters – 420914
  • S.O. Sabel – 354240
  • N.T. Truong – 343320
  • N. van der Wolf – 355821

3 responses to “[Summary Technology of the Week] Co-Creation: Next Level Collaboration”

  1. lindatram7 says :

    I agree with the current strength and weaknesses you described but I would still like to share something regarding whether I think I am already participating in a co-creation environment.

    I think all of us are already participating in co-creation, and most of us probably don’t even know it. In case you don’t know: it is all the times you sign up or register for something on the web and you have to retype these squiggly words (a Captcha) so the website can recognize you’re human and not a robot. That’s basically a crowdsourcing project, founded by Luis von Ahn (ReCaptcha). You get 2 words, 1 word where you have to prove you’re human and the other one is a word the computer does not know and it ‘uses’ people to solve it for them. The goal of solving these words, what you and millions of other people do daily, is to digitize text (for example from (old) books).

    In my opinion that is pretty amazing, and without knowing, we do somewhat participate together in a project 🙂


  2. ninitruong2015 says :

    Hi Linda, thank you for your comment. First of all, awesome that you are part of that co-creating platform! If you love this, you could also take a look at this website, which displays several websites where co-creation is the core: http://www.boardofinnovation.com/list-open-innovation-crowdsourcing-examples/

    In my opinion IdeaConnection (http://www.ideaconnection.com/) is quite cool. Since it elaborates on someones idea and further solves it with the help of other people. Also similar to what you are saying about working together in a diversified team. Concerning this platform I love that it can possibly contribute to a problem and create an impact. Plus through this online digital platform you can of course learn a lot from other people on perhaps a subject you were uneducated about in the first place or learn new skills :)!

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