There has been a lot of discussion about the merits of ‘communities’ as part of a co-creation approach with new product development (NPD). Is it effective? Does it deliver better ‘ideas’? Does it deliver value for money? And how does this approach compare to a more corporate driven approach where the organisation develops ideas internally before presenting them to the target audience for a ‘vote’.

Co-creation and corporate ideas harvesting
At arnold&bolingbroke, our experience has shown that a hybrid approach works particularly well. That is – a small scale (qualitative) co-creation process allied to an initial embryonic corporate-sourced ideas development programme. We find it useful, timely and a very cost-effective approach.

How does it work? Many client organisations have an established new product ideas generation process – some formal, some more ad hoc.

Often this involves a fact based approach, featuring desk research and trade show ideas trawling. Here, where clever innovations and ideas created elsewhere are harvested and considered. Typically, suppliers also share innovations from their own R&D processes to add to the treasury of possible innovation directions.

This is an important part of the NPD process – not only does it garner ideas from within and beyond, but it pulls in the experience and special skills sourced from across the broader team. A key benefit is that it reveals what technologies are realistically possible, within the constraints of current manufacturing capacity, capability and capital availability. All of which are critical inputs and moderating factors for a later co-creation process.

Our approach acknowledges the value of our client’s current organisational ideation and new product innovation development processes and allies it with the power of co-creation.


NPD micro-communities
Co-creation essentially involves the end-buyer (e.g. the consumer), as part of the evolution of new product development. This is different to old-school thinking, which has the end-buyer as the final arbiter of fully developed new product concepts.

A research community is a group (often large, numbering hundreds or thousands) that has a connection through a category (e.g. love cats) or a brand (e.g. buy Whiskas cat food). The community is encouraged to communicate not only with the host, but also with one another; sharing ideas, solutions, offering support and entertainment.

For NPD, we prefer to work with small groups of people who share an affiliation based on category, brand, need and geography. They are formed to order, depending on the client’s specific need and target audience Our NPD micro-communities are thus essentially small groups of like-minded people (4-5) who share a common targeted behaviour or ‘need’ (e.g. a need to clean dirty BBQs, rid the house of vermin, keep a car’s exterior in ‘as new’ condition, etc.).

We form the group and encourage them to engage with one another prior to the main event. This process builds trust, familiarity and co-operation, and help to encourage the flow of thoughts that contain the germs of innovation direction.


Face to Face engagement with the issues
Unlike mass communities, which operate largely on a virtual, on-line level, our micro-communities engage face to face and work co-operatively to reveal need and want. Members of the client NPD team are actively included as part of the community; not just as observers but as roll-up-the-sleeves participants.

Typically, we convene the group at a volunteer’s home (one of the community team). We, client and recruited community team meet, engage, discuss the issue/task and ‘do’ the behaviour. For example, depending on the NPD thrust, they clean the BBQ, they prepare the flea bomb, they bake the cake and they weed the garden. During this time, the team essentially becomes a problem solving unit. They add “why not, have you thought about, we could try” ideas and solutions – i.e. pain point solutions and the ‘tipping points’ (“if only this bit was easier/faster/harder/softer/stronger”). In this very natural environment, we also discuss pre-conceived ‘raw’ ideas and work them through.

The revealed essence is the golden nugget
What do we get through all this? The secret here is in understanding what the essence of an actual or potential NPD idea offer is and could be – the revealed key building blocks of need or entrenched behaviour that we need to solve or assist with.

All too often in traditional NPD exploration and evaluation processes, ideas that are shown to target audiences are too fully formed, too soon (e.g. overseas product, worked up concepts) and the ‘consumer’ reacts to it (as stimulus) rather than truly working with us around the essence of the solution or opportunity. Our approach serves up the golden nuggets of insight that bloom into the roses of success.

The micro-community is not designed to feature true ‘experts’. Their job is to illuminate the pathway to success, not to be the designers of a better world.

pod people

What next?
This approach gives our clients the benefits of co-creation without the expense of full communities. It delivers the consumer language, the drivers and thus the way into a proposition. It helps you understand why an embryonic idea one may have conceived prior does (or doesn’t) have legs.

The next step after this is to a more formal concept development and measurement stage. arnold&bolingbroke has many measurement tools to identify the ‘winners’ among an array of competing concepts.

We believe that this overall approach means that less time is wasted on pursuing ideas that have little merit. It means clients can more effectively and quickly focus on developing ideas that do meet a need, thus getting out to market faster, at a lower investment and ahead of your competitors.

For more information please contact