Co-Creation Innovation

You have an idea—a really big idea. It could be for a new product. Or a new service. It even might be for a new way of doing business. The specifics don't matter. It's going be huge and make someone millions, maybe billions of dollars.

The day comes when you are ready to share your big idea, so you meet with the partners you believe should be most excited about it.

They pass.

We know why you have failed to inspire them. It's probably not the reason you think. Sure, they may say they already tried the idea in the past or that it's too expensive. They may say they don't understand the concept or that their customers won't get it. They may even say they just don't like it.

Our experience tells us that these excuses are actually symptoms that your process was wrong. You see, they're rejecting your idea because it isn't their idea. And it isn't their idea because you neglected to invite them to take part in the innovation process.

Building With a Synergistic Partner

There is a simple way around the problem: "co-creation innovation."

That's what we call the practice of finding a synergistic partner and creating something together. It is a 1+1=4 equation; win-win. It often creates unexpected unions and it's going to change our world for the better.

We see this as the second-largest innovation trend happening today, right behind sustainability. Next time we'll show you how to combine both trends for the betterment of your bottom line and the planet.

You don't have to be green or even for-profit to take advantage of the co-creation trend. You simply have to understand the innovation process and approach challenges with an open mind, humility, and trust.

Consider this billion-dollar example of what we're talking about. In 2002, Procter & Gamble (PG) and Clorox (CLX) decided to co-create. Although they are traditionally fierce competitors in the cleaning category, they created a joint venture. Because of a discovery made during a diaper project, P&G was sitting on some technology that could enhance the performance of trash bags—but it didn't sell trash bags. Meanwhile, Clorox owned Glad, a leading bag brand. The two got together and peanut butter met chocolate, so to speak.

Three Outstanding Benefits

Both companies have since been rewarded richly for the decision. How richly? Well, two years later, P&G paid Clorox $133 million to increase its investment in the joint venture from 10 percent to 20 percent. Here's what P&G Chairman A.G. Lafley said at the time: "The Clorox-P&G joint venture will be a win for consumers—and for both companies. We expect that the combination of Clorox's well-established Glad business and P&G's R&D expertise will provide consumers with important new products and outstanding value. We look forward to the opportunity to work with the Glad team to bring new innovations to the market."

Co-creating has three benefits that make it incredibly appealing to seasoned innovators:

You often have an instant channel to distribute your idea. For example, what do you think would happen if a large medical provider created a health-care solution with a company such as Wal-Mart (WMT)? The provider would have two million potential customers—Wal-Mart's work force—as soon as it launched.

Half the solution is already built. Many co-creation projects team partners that bring the other half of the puzzle to the party. A simple example would be a tire manufacturer producing green tires for an automaker's new green car. Tires without a car are as useless as a car without tires.

Pull instead of push. This is the biggest point of all. When people create an idea, they are excited about it. They are committed to it. They are going to make sure it actually happens. When you co-create, you get this benefit across two teams. That proves especially important in the face of an opportunity to bring together two groups with altogether different mind sets and missions, such as Big Oil and green companies.

Innovators want to invent stuff. They just love creating an idea and finding someone who will buy it. We challenge you to start thinking of your innovation efforts as a caboose. One way to make your caboose go really fast is to build a locomotive, which would take extraordinary effort and investment. Why not instead find a locomotive already roaring down the track, then hook your caboose to it? Identify a partner company—green or otherwise—that can add exponential value to the success equation. Now, move together through the innovation process. You will both support what you create.