Monday, April 16, 2018

The Process Is the Product

I participated in a SURGE Spring 2018 session on co-creation. Don't know what SURGE Spring 2018 is? It's an online, virtual conference put on by Association Success. Sessions have been recorded and are being posted the week of April 30. Mine will be posted on May 4. Go here for more info.

Don't know what co-creation is? You're not alone. In planning for our session my fellow panelists and I decided that we needed to start with a definition of the term -- and then discovered that we all had a slightly different one.

Here's mine. Co-creation is when an association and one of its members work together to create something that has value to both the association and the member.

The session was a fairly free-wheeling discussion of that topic. I think it was a good one, but I won't try to recap it here. What I'll do instead (now and over a few more posts) is highlight some of the new thoughts that occurred to me as I listened to the comments of my fellow panelists.

Here's one. The process is the product.

It might be best to explain by way of example. In my association we do something called technology roadmapping. It is a process by which we identify the needs of the customers that our member companies serve, and then identify improvements to the technologies our member companies produce that are necessary if they are to better serve those customer needs. It is a process that requires the involvement of a broad cross-section of our membership, hence the co-creative element to it. It is something the association and its members work on together, and it has value to both.

But there is another value point in this relationship. The end product, the technology roadmap that we create, has value. But the process by which we developed the roadmap may have even more value. We use the process to develop an industry-wide roadmap, but the same process can be used by an individual member to create a roadmap for their own company. Relying on the industry-wide roadmap to benchmark and position their company's technology is important. But using the same process to identify the specific needs of their own customers and then identify the technology development objectives that will help them better meet them may be even more important.

I do not believe that these dual value points -- the product and the process -- are unique to our roadmap. The same dynamic exists in many co-creative exercises between associations and their members. But, too frequently, the value of the process is not recognized and promoted by the association. They tell their members all about the products that they create, but hardly ever stress the value associated with the co-creation process itself.

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This post first appeared on Eric Lanke's blog, an association executive and author. You can follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at

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