I have just finished writing the paper for the Forum on Markets and Marketing - the meeting in Cambridge with Bob Lusch and Steve Vargo entitled 'Value Co-creation in Complex Engineering Service Systems: Conceptual Foundations'. Don't be put off by the word 'engineering' in the title. the paper is intended to integrate the engineering service research and the management service research streams. In the paper, I had 5 propositions and I thought I'll expand on each managerially in my blog because my blog would probably explain it better than a dry academic paper. (and it IS dry - starts with philosophy and ends with engineering design.... enough said). Also, I do think the 5 propositions set the stage for innovation that is value based.
So... on to proposition 1
Proposition 1: A perfect system for the co-creation of use-value makes endogenous all co-creators use-values.
Yikes...where do i start.
If you've been following my blog, you should have read all about co-creation and use value (http://value-basedservicesystem.blogspot.com/2010/02/value-in-use.html) and (http://value-basedservicesystem.blogspot.com/2010/01/value-co-creation-and-service-systems.html). You would need to read those to understand this post.
lets say, very simply, a firm is in the business of producing cups. so the CEO will say, what do customers want from cups? lets do market research. needs analysis. requirement analysis. focus groups. dance the salsa...la di da..
you come up with a spec list.
1. cups should have handles
2. it should hold x ml of fluid
when you brainstorm on the research you realise - wait, some people want hot beverages, some people drink a lot, some people drink very little, some people want it pretty, some people want lids/covers etc. etc. so you go to the marketing department and say - find me the segment of market i should target if I made cup type A, cup type B, cup type C and so on.... and tell me which should be my target market segment...so the clever marketing chaps do their rocket science and comes up with ta-da! cup type A would give you £A in revenues, cup type B gives you £B revenues and then you sit down and make a decision on which cup types you can make, how many types and how to make them as efficiently as possible. That was how the world worked.
Marketing folks like to match the type of person with what they buy. so you buy a pretty cup type B and they say - aha... woman age X of this type of behaviour and lifestyle would buy cup type B because they are concerned with selling to you. Actually, I would like many types of cups for many different uses and different contexts. So, mr marketing, my cup-using behavior is actually more important than my myers-briggs score (not that you use it)...also, my cup-using behavior is driven by whom i'm with, what time of the day etc. etc. so .....could you go design and make a multi-context cup please?
firms don't, and i'll try to explain why.
My training now tells me I have to use a mathematical word so forgive me. What that whole process above says is that value has been determined exogenously. This means it's OUTSIDE the use and co-creating system. it means the firm has decided to determine what the value is, make it and then deliver it. it means that when the cup is used by the customer, it can no longer be changed (its exogenous remember?).
but wait. how do i really value my cup? when i take my cup to the garden, i want a lid to keep the bugs away. when it holds water, i want more of it and when it holds expresso, i need less of it. so what I value about my cup is use-value i.e. a cup that understand my context of use which can change but if my use-value is not endogenous to the firm's, how would they even think of designing a cup for my ever changing context?
they don't. instead, it's easier to exogenously determine use-value for many contexts and construct their value propositions around them. so they produce many different cups. of course they go through the whole process of determining value. they call it a 'value-driven approach' (*irony*) and its step one in the lean handbook - 'first determine what the customer values'......(i will blog about about this in the next post)
its the world that has existed because we don't interrogate our assumptions. because its just easier to make different cups to fit different contexts. but by doing it that way, the determination of value will always be exogenous to the use of value and when use-value is co-created, which is contextual. firms are fixated on the idea that one has to come first. so value determination and specification is exogenous to use. So when I co-create value with a cup i.e. use it to drink stuff etc. etc. I am actually co-creating with a value proposition of a firm that have already decided and determined what I wanted from this cup and in what context and I, as user of cup, would then co-create value when I am in the context that has been predetermined... meaning, I make sure I, in my own world and own system 'fit' the cup context that has been predetermined. that is why i buy many cups. because i have many contexts of cup use. and dont even get me started on contextual emotional value-in-use.
but it doesn't have to be like that. especially if you're thinking of innovation. .
why dont firms look at use value as endogenous? because traditional marketing looks at exchange value and choice and once you choose, they aren't really very bothered with the different contexts on how you use the thing (because you paid for it already). So they push the problem (and risk) of contexts to you. Let you decide what your most common context is and let you choose which cup to buy.
but that's a little unfair. in return for my use-value of a cup, i give you, the firm, money. so you get money, i get cup. but my use-value of the cup is limited to the contexts you predetermined whilst your use-value of the money is... oh wait.. infinite in context (don't you just lurrve the acontextual use-value of money? ha ha..). So mr firm, i am actually probably quite happy to give you more money if you could give me greater degrees of contextual freedom of my cup. In fact, we could design a perfect system of co-creation where you give me different cup for every context i might want a cup and I could pay you a lot of money for it. let's just call it a multi-cup carrying butler.
a perfect system for value co-creation is when every co-creator's use value is endogenous in the system. the firm's use value (money, which has use-value across infinite contexts) and your multi-contextual use-value of the thing. It probably is too expensive but hey, a great starting point to think about innovation and its a great way to think about the role of technology. and it's starting to happen as well.
take a good look around you. there are some companies out there who no longer make value exogenous to use. simplest example is the phone. it used to be a phone. to talk, to communicate. today, its not a phone anymore. yes yes they call it a smartphone or somethingphone but it's become a platform onto which you can use it for whatever you need at the context you wish to have. so my iPhone can be a compass at the context where a compass suddenly became necessary. its not just technology driven. its a mindset change in understanding use-value and contextual co-creation in design and delivery - the understanding that value is always use-value within changing contexts and value propositions do not have to be exogenous in the co-creation process.
so where's my smart cup?