Researchers are getting used to hearing about the opportunities afforded by agile research and customer co-creation. Often the terms are used almost interchangeably but, to me, they are distinct, with the latter being a subset of the former.Agile Research is a derivative of the agile development process. For definition, I’ll use Jeffrey Henning’s recent “beg, borrowed and shoplifted” version from the GreenBook blog:
Agile research is a type of market research in which the requirements and solutions evolve through collaboration between researcher and sponsor. It is not phased research but is iteratively open-ended, refining the research until all key questions are answered.
Co-Creation describes an agile, structured environment for infusing customer creativity at the onset of the product/service design process. The process is inherently iterative to allow for collaboration among all contributing stakeholders.
Co-Creation requires the agile research process, as the infusion of customer creativity needs to be parceled on an iterative basis. It is a sub-set of the agile research universe. On the other hand, agile research does not necessarily imply a co-creation scenario. It can be done via traditional surveys or online qual techniques. It applies to any research objective that is best served via iterative reevaluation.
Agile research and customer co-creation share the idea that customer inspiration is best portioned asynchronously so that the proposed offering/solution (e.g. concept design, product prototype, etc.) can systematically evolve.
The following diagram shows the relative position of agile research and customer co-creation in the product development universe. Co-Creation, as a subset of Agile Research belongs to both the Agile Development & Market Research circles, but is governed by the rules of Agile Development that require multiple waves of collaborative interaction.
What makes Agile Research and Customer Co-Creation so exciting is that they are born out of the Internet era. The idea of fast iterative development infused by customer inspiration belongs to Agile Development. The fact that they are powered by structured customer insights allows them to overlap and also belong to the world of Market Research.
And while Agile Research and Customer Co-Creation currently represent only a fraction of current MR revenue, they are clearly aligned with 21st century product development principles of collaboration and iterative, rapid development.
It’s a bit humbling to constantly reassess how much we don’t know at each step of the Agile Research / Customer Co-Creation process. But it’s a distinct improvement from thinking we know the answer after a single “snapshot in time” survey.