GreenBook Blog recently featured a fascinating short article by Anna Peters, co-creation director at our sister agency, Bright Young Minds. We republish it in full below.

10 years ago hardly anyone had heard of co-creation, but now it is de rigueur to invest huge amounts in running big innovation programs in this methodology and it has become a profession in its own right.

So where did co-creation come from, and where is it going?

1st generation co-creation: “everybody can be creative”

Back in the early 2000s the first co-creation agencies came into being – based upon the ground-breaking article by C.K. Prahalad and Venkat Ramaswamy in the Harvard Business Review, Co-opting Customer Competence, and further built on in their book The Future of Competition, Co-Creating Unique Value With Customers.

These new agencies operated on these two assumptions that consumers want to be involved with brands and everybody can be creative.

Drawing from the psychoanalytic tradition, co-creation 1.0 threw the stiff formalities of traditional market research out of the window and used more fluid and iterative techniques to connect with willing consumers to develop creative solutions for brands. is a good example of co-creation 1.0 – a hugely successful platform which invites everybody to become involved with developing product and brand solutions.

Critics argue that the assumptions that everybody wants to be involved with brands and everybody can be creative are challenging. Indeed, organizations which operate with the 1.0 model of co-creation often face huge amounts of ‘wasted potential’ – of a 300 person online community only 50 members would be truly active, and of those an even smaller proportion are developing great ideas.

 2nd generation co-creation: “the rise of the 1%ers”

Co-creation 2.0 was born from a backlash of this wasted potential, and so began the rise of the 1%ers. Co-creation 2.0 is based upon the belief that only a tiny proportion of the population have the ability to be co-creative, and it is only this very small proportion of population that organizations operating on the 2.0 model of co-creation ever engage with.

The 1%ers help brands to innovate because they bring switched on, smart and articulate people together as an extension of the marketing team – and brands such as Heineken have tapped into a ready and willing pool of creative sorts to define some truly impressive ideas.

Engaging the 1%ers in sexy brands or groundbreaking challenges is easy – these creatives are turned on by the idea of defining a big solution for big brands. But what about brands that aren’t so sexy? These brands may face challenges when it comes to co-creation 2.0 because they just don’t have the ability to capture the hearts and minds of the 1%ers – meaning the return that they get from their explorations into co-creation don’t return as much as promised.

Co-creation 3.0: “the future of co-creation lies in using skilled consumers at the right point in the process”

Co-creation 3.0 uses skilled consumers at the right point in the co-creative process, and offers a compromise between the extreme positions ‘everyone can be creative’ + ‘only 1% of people can be creative.’

The benefits are clear for brands and consumers alike: by identifying the specific skills of co-creators at the beginning of the process, you can make the most of their abilities throughout the process.

At Bright Young Minds, we use academically verified proprietary psychometric testing to define the skills of our panelists. It is designed to identify the five skills most vital for the co-creation process to be successful which are named as follows; The Connecteds, The Creatives, The Curious Minds, The Market Mavens, and The Civic Activists.

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