Thursday, February 10, 2011

Co-creation and value co-creation

Conversations that I had with some of my students revealed a certain amount of confusion in the understanding of the concept of co-creation and value co-creation especially when the terms are looked from the perspective of the service dominant logic (SDL). Since SDL did not differentiate between services and products, this post will refer to service to mean both.

Co- creation in the literature has been used to mean that users/customers 'come together' with the providers of the service ( subsequently termed providers in this post) to co-create a service. Participatory methods, ethnography, contextual design, personas (see earlier post) and even living labs are examples of the techniques of co-creation (there are many more with differnet levels of complexity). In fact co-creation is sometimes replaced by the terms co-production or co-design to differentiate the stages of the service life cycle. It is obvious that not all users/customers will be involved with co-creation. In my opinion these activities were undertaken by the providers so that they can present a value proposition to future users of their service.

Now, the term value co-creation in  SDL has a different meaning altogether. In the explanation on SDL by the reknowned authors on the subject, it was stated that although the users/customers might not be  involved in co-creation (as expalined above) they do not have that option in value co-creation. Value co-creation is something that is experienced in the users/customers' space. They are the ones who will ultimately co-create the value of the value proposition. That is the reason why value co-creation is synonymous with value in use.

The fact that value co-creation is determined absolutely by the user presents a certain amount of ambiguity and variability. Obviously different users/customers will have or experience different value in use of certain products because or several factors like availability of resources, situational and environmental conditions (see post on value in use). This variability is difficult to anticipate and obviously it is quite impossible to cater for all of them in all value propositions. This presents a difficult problem for the designer of the service. This problem is elaborated by Ueda et al (2008) in his paper on the relationship between value-co-creation and the class III problem of emergent synthesis. A similar sentiment is expressed by Patel and Heckney (2008) in relation to designing information systems that will cater for emergent processes.

However, there are frameworks in the literature that can be deployed to aid in the design problems mentioned above. For example, Prahalad and Ramaswamy's DART model can be operationalized to aid value co-creation and so do the models provided by Gronross (2008) and Payne et al (2009), to name a few.

Once we have the service in place, the next question that boggles some of the researchers is how do we evalute or measure the value in use. That is another area worthy of research. Perhaps we can refer to Macdonald et al (2009) as a starting point.

Macdonald et al (2009), Towards the Assessment of the value-in-use of product-service systems: A review, Proc for PMA Conference, Uni. of Otago, NZ.
(The rest of the ref can be easily googled :) )

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A difficult journey indeed----- a note to research students

Doing research in whatever area warrants a few things from us. Some are given below:
1. Understand the terms, terminology and vocabulary that is related to the research area: It would help if we could insert the use of certain words in our everyday banter with family and friends. Actually I find explaining it to someone (usually my 25 year old son is my victim) who does not know anything about the area proved to be very helpful. Formal presentations and discussion among fellow researchers also contribute to the understanding of terminologies and concepts. Always having a dictionary close by is also necessary so that we can look up the meanings of certain unfamiliar words that we encounter.

2. Understand the history of the area: This might not contribute directly to the current research area but it is nice to know how and where everything came from. It will help us appreciate the area more and who knows it might uncover certain things that could prove valuable to our current research area. I find that wikis provide a fast way of doing this. Of course we cannot cite wikis in our academic work, but wikis help in providing us with a starting point to finding out more about a research area. Some good entries do provide good references that we can look up on our own.

3. Look for parallels of the area that you are researching in with other 'similar' areas: Usually an area of research is related to other different areas of research. "No area is an island" so to speak. So, during literature review, always keep an open mind and try to see the parallels and intersections of the your area of research with other areas. This is especially warranted for those doing masters by research or PhD. It will prove valuable in the early stage of research when you are still groping around to find your research problem.Finding good review papers in the area would be a place to start.

4. Seminal papers in the area must be read and cited: Sometimes examiners specifically looked for this and with Google it will just take them a second to find out what these papers are and whether you did read and cite those papers. If you did not and it was found out that a particular paper was cited 2,000 over times by everyone else doing research in the same area, then it will throw some doubt about the depth and breadth covered by your research. We definitely do not want an examiner who doubts our work during viva.

5. Keep notes: I have mentioned this before in my post on writing and research. The value of keeping notes on ideas and summaries of the literature that we read cannot be underestimated.

6. Taking ownership and responsibility: The supervisor does not know all. Research students must take ownership and responsibility for their own learning and research. Research students must be aware that the supervisor's role is to facilitate and to point them in the right direction if and when they seemed lost. The supervisor is also someone that will make sure that you are on the right track. However it will be a grave mistake if the research students think that the supervisors know the answers to everything. In fact it is the student researcher himself/herself that will ultimately be the expert in the area.

So, you see, doing research is hard work. It requires a lot ( I mean, a lot) of reading and some serious thinking and reflecting. Not to mention a lot of hours doing development or analyzing loads and loads of data. It also requires major personal sacrifices and understanding from family and friends. After all it is a journey of jihad fisabilillah.

Value in use.....again!

An important observation from the 10 foundational premises (FP) of SD logic is the fact that there is no value until the customer or user incorporates the firm's offerings into their lifes. This means that there is no value until the offerings are used. If and when they use the offerings then only then they will get the value in use. Now, relating this to today's question of  "can you give me an example of value in use in SPIN?", it is no wonder that Nazul took some time in answering it. If we look at SPIN as a product (or goods) then according to FP3 it is just a distribution mechanism for service provision. This means that it derives its value through use. The value in use on the other hand is determined by the user (FP6, FP10). My value in use is definitely different from another person value in use. Since SPIN is not really popular in terms of usage (it is only enforcement that made it 'usable') it implies that the value in use of SPIN is quite low amongst users. This may be due to several factors. It can be usability factors as mentioned by Dr Dalbir or it can also be that the users are not able to unlock the value due to some lack in (or unable to integrate) resources (operant and/or operand)  or it might be that the value propositions offered (FP7) are not well defined. So, getting back to the give a particular example that exhibit value in use in SPIN is I think no as easy as it first seems. Looking at it from an instructor point of view (that is me), the only value in use that I get from SPIN ( this means that I co-created this particular value with SPIN) is communication with my students via e-mail (since SPIN provides me with a one stop e-mail facility). The value this gives me is some peace of mind, since I know that if I go into SPIN then I can look up the students' e-mail with ease and thus I can communicate with them at any time regarding urgent matters.

Today's presentation uncovers an important fact. To explain the meaning of value, value in use, value co-creation to an uninitiated audience is both challenging and enlightening. It forces us to think about the issue at hand and it will make us question our own understanding. That is part and parcel of academic discourse. At the end of it everyone learns and everyone benefits. It will definitely makes us intellectually matured.

To look up the meanings of the FPs mentioned in the post you can look up:
Vargo and Akaka, (2009) Service Dominant Logic as a Foundation for Service Science: Clarifications. Service Science 1(1), pp: 32-41

Friday, October 29, 2010

Experience of one

very funny or maybe offensive for some
In days of yore, businesses considered people as operand resources. Just like gold or crude oil. The more you have them the better off you are. Hence people are considered just like a commodity to be owned and segmented according to all the different criteria be it demographics or psychographic. People from marketing will conduct customer surveys to tap into our likes and dislikes so that they can deliver the correct product according to our age group and income distribution. Or as in the case of hair shampoo, you can go into a supermarket and discover for yourself all the different types that is most 'suitable' for your hair type and maybe lifestyle! For me, that is an example of market segmentation at its best. But in the end, for some people, the value in having a multitude of choices for hair shampoo will lead to much confusion and lost value. ( I had spent countless hours thinking in-front of shelves of shampoo bottles, figuring out whether my hair is greasy, normal or dry or combination/ with or without dandruff/ should I buy the one that is suitable for people with tudung or without/should I stick with the menthol one or not/ with or without conditioner/ two in one/three in one/ etc.etc----after all that I usually migrate to the section that sells panadol!)
The shampoo example illustrates how the goods dominant logic works. In years to come companies who still operate from this kind of logic will certainly be left behind. These companies must move on to the new service dominant logic*. Under this logic customers are responsible to extract the kind of value from the goods or service that they consume. It puts the companies in the rightful place as facilitators of value creation. It will create a unique experience for every one of the customer. The experience of one.

* don't ask me how the shampoo case can be redesign under the new SD logic...go figure :-)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Meaningful research....meaningful life

Meaningful conversation
 This is going to be one of those posts that might be viewed as morbid or backwards for some. I am going to write about something that is very close to my heart. For quite sometime now, I have been wrestling with directions of research, purpose of research, purpose of life etc. As a muslim I cannot get away from the fact that what I do now will be questioned in the hereafter. I knew about this ever since I was old enough to understand about religion and life. However the gravity of the issue just hit me only recently. As muslims we believe that when we die (all of us will, eventually), there will only be three things that will be of benefit to us: 1. Pious (soleh) children that will pray for the parents, 2. Meaningful knowledge 3. Our charity ( I hope I translated those correctly) . Since we are on the subject of research I am only going to elaborate on number 2. Knowledge can be so many things. It can be as simple as a cooking recipe shared with others so that they can also savour yummy dishes or it can be as complex as the theory of relativity (which looked simple on paper) and the discovery of DNA. Meaningful knowledge (which are results of meaningful research), however must be viewed and evaluated with respect to a certain framework. Examining it from the islamic point of view (as I must, because after all I am muslim) knowlege or research must be meaningful in the islamic way. This means that I must ask questions like: Is the knowledge or research beneficial to the ummah? How can we make it beneficial to the ummah? How can we share (among us and the rest of the population) the knowledge? Will it bring us back ultimately to Allah? The last question is important because I really believe that knowledge seeked and gained through meaningful research will and should lead us back to Allah. It should increase our iman and takwa. It will make us realize how great the Almighty is and it will make us realize that we are just humble servants always seeking Allah's grace and mercy.

I will end this with a beautiful doa taken from Nazul's blog I hope Nazul won't mind :-)
Ya Allah sesungguhnya apa jua yang dilangit dan dibumi serta di antara keduanya milikmu yang abadi. Aku bersyukur di atas segala nikmat yang kau pinjamkan pada ku, keluargaku dan seluruh kaum kerabatku. Di atas keberkatan mu, rahmatmu, pemurahmu, kasihmu dan sayangmu, aku memohon agar kau sempurnakan penyelidikanku ini dengan ilmu yang manfaat untuk aku sebarkan bagi memperkasakan Islam dan menyelamatkan umat Muhammad yang lain. Berikan kejayaan dalam pengajian untuk ku, rakan-rakan yang seperjuangan denganku. Peliharakanlah kesejahteraan keluargaku, rakan taulanku, pensyarah-pensyarah yang membimbingku, limpah kurniakan segala kemurahan rezekimu kepada kami semua, dan jadikan kami terus bertaqwa padamu mengikut sunnah Rasulmu.Amin Ya Rabbal Aalamin"


( I am sorry I cannot translate the doa ...I might not do justice to it)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Writing and research

Writing is obviously harder than reading. That is the reason why some students do get caught in the reading process and read loads of literature with nothing to show for. However, I have read somewhere that, in life  we sometimes have to choose to do the harder thing as opposed to the easier alternative ( you know, like sleeping is easier than waking up and coming to 8 o'clock lectures : -) ). So, as a research student we have to start to write. Writing is important because the act of writing itself requires us to think. It also requires a lot of practice just like any other skill. We have to decide on the message, structure our points and then string one sentence after another so that it makes some sense.

Actually, writing and research are like two sides of the same coin. Personally for me, I will write a little piece everytime I finished reading a few articles. The piece of writing is usually for my own consumption, not to be confused with writing for jounals or conferences (that requires a different level of detail and the objectives are different). For me writing gave me
i. Clarity on the issues presented by the authors
ii. An indicator of whether I understood the papers that I read
iii. A collection of anecdotes/ideas/summary to fall on when I want to write the literature review (which will also come in handy once we decided to write papers)
iv. A record of the trail of ideas that I had during the whole research process (which can become starting points for discussions with supervisors)

I have my PhD supervisor to thank for this habit, because he was the person who urged me to keep a notebook ( the paper one---not the electronic one) of the ideas, summary of papers etc during my PhD journey. It was very useful and the method worked for me ( caution here: it might not work for someone else---value in context (?) )

However, context aside, I personally believe that if we cannot sit down and articulate what we have in our head onto paper either in the form of diagrams or (own) words then our understanding of the whole thing is suspect. If we do not understand what we read then how can we build upon it and produce new findings? [Of course we can all sit under an apple tree and discover gravity....hmm that is another story ;-) ]

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Unlocking value

I had an almost embarassing experience while using microsoft word. I was supposed to prepare a report that involved representation of data collected from a survey. My experience in using microsoft word thus far is just using the editing functions, copying and pasting, changing fonts and paragraphs and maybe inserting mathematical equations. All of which I had learnt on my own, through trial and error. I knew that I had not really deployed the software maximum's ability but I was happy. Up until two days ago, that is. I had to figure out a fast way of inserting graphs and charts directly into the word document  (without going to excel and copying and pasting ----that I knew how to do). Time was running short and I had no choice but use my charm (my operant resource) on my operand resource*, which came in the form of my daughter Sakinah. I knew she had the knowledge ( which is her operant resource*) because I had the opportunity of printing her folio report for school ( one of the things parents do for their children). It was beautifully done complete with bar charts and histograms ( I remembered did she do this all on her own? I knew later that it was knowledge that she got from her ICTL class). So, anyway to cut a long story short, I swallowed my pride and asked her to show me how to do "the insert a chart thing, complete with data, percentages, legend, labeling etc".
The whole episode with me and microsoft word and the very easy (as I found out later) task of inserting charts demonstrates an important idea in service science which is known as 'unlocking value'. I was not able to unlock the full value without resorting to available operand and operant resources. It is also interesting to note that in Microsoft Corp. they do have people in charge of finding ways and means of unlocking value of their products as can be seen from this 2007 report in Bloomberg Business Week
The article reports on the experience of an employee at Microsoft whose job is about unlocking the value of Microsoft office products.

The value of a cake lies in the eating and sharing. Thanks
to my students, it was an experience I will not forget :)
* knowledge is an operant resource as are many other intangilbles like skills etc; operand resource are tangible resource like raw materials, people etc; operand resource  are usually acted upon maybe by operant resource to produce something useful (of value)
Ref: Lusch and Vargo : The service dominant mindset