Featured Research: From Social Media to Social Product Development: The Impact of Social Media on Co-Creation of Innovation

For our series of featured research on open innovation and mass customization, today — in another act of shameless self-promotion — a new paper from our group at RWTH Aachen University in which we discuss the impact of social media on co-creation of innovation.

Dieunternehmung2From Social Media to Social Product Development: The Impact of Social Media on Co-Creation of Innovation

By Frank Piller, Alexander Vossen, Christoph Ihl (RWTH Aachen University)

Published in: Die Unternehmung – Swiss Journal of Business Research and Practice, Volume 66, No 1 (March 2012), pp. 7-26.  Free download at nomos.de


In this paper, my fellow researchers Alexander Vossen and Christoph Ihl discuss with me the impact of social media on customer co-creation in the innovation process.

Customer cocreation denotes an active, creative and social collaboration process between producers and customers (users), facilitated by a company, in the context of new product or service development. We propose a typology of co-creation activities in order to develop conceptual arguments how social media can impact the relationships among customers involved in co-creation as well as the relationship between customers and the hosting firm.

Interestingly, the impact of social media on customer co-creation may be two-sided: Social media can make economic- exchange relations more collaborative and social, but may also turn relations formerly based on social-exchange into “money markets” with strong competition among actors.


As a result of this paradox, we develop a set of questions that can lead future research in these regards. Read the article for our full argument.

About the Author:

Frank T. Piller is a Co-Director of the MIT Smart Customization Group at the MIT Media Lab, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA, and a chair professor of management at the Technology & Innovation Management Group of RWTH Aachen University, Germany, one of Europe’s leading institutes of technology. Before entering his recent position in Aachen, he worked at the MIT Sloan School of Management (2004-2007) and has been an associate professor of management at TUM Business School, Technische Universitaet Muenchen. Frequently quoted in The New York Times, The Economist, and Business Week, amongst others, Frank is regarded as one of the leading experts on strategies for customer-centric value creation, like mass customization, personalization, and innovation co-creation. His recent analysis of the crowdsourcing business model “Threadless” (co-authored with Susumu Ogawa), an innovative crowdsourcing business model in the fashion industry, has been elected as one of the Top-20 articles in MIT Sloan Management Review.