“Well, she looked at me/ And I, I could see/ That before too long/ I’d fall in love with her”
— I “Saw Her Standing There” by The Beatles
It is so romantic to think of love as capturing that lightning-in-a-bottle, falling-in-love-at-first-sight feeling. The Beatles sang about it perfectly: giggles, laughter, and hearts going “boom” during the honeymoon stages of a romantic relationship.
It seems that businesses and customers seek to fall in love at first sight, too. This is most evident during creation and enjoyment of new products: shiny packaging, fantastic promotions, mouth-watering introductory prices, and top-notch quality.
But before long, reality kicks in, and the illusion breaks. We realize that love at first sight is untenable. We are biased and prone to misperceptions. To add, putting their best foot forward all the time is just not viable for both parties. Romantic partners begin to see flaws, businesses use lower-quality ingredients to save costs, and customers begin to expect more but feel disappointed. How do we learn from this?
Enter the “theory of value co-creation.” Drawing from research of other experts on this theory, Galvagno and Dalli, in a 2014 literature review, summarize “co-creation” as a collaborative value creation process between businesses and customers. This perspective rethinks what it means to create value. Previously, value creation was simply a business producing goods, then making customers fall in love at first use. But after much examination and research on business-customer relationships, especially in a service setting, scholars and practitioners have realized that value creation is not the same as production of goods. Rather, customers participate in reimagining how products can be used in ways that businesses may not have intended. Sticky notes came from failed attempts to create new adhesives, but both 3M and its customers found value in using non-permanent adhesives in paper. Bubble wrap failed as a textured wallpaper, but it gained enduring success when it was reimagined as packaging material for fragile goods.
Guided by this theory, we can also deepen our understanding of what it means to love. It is not anymore about loving at first sight, but loving through a thousand fights. Similar to the classic examples cited, co-creation is a collaborative process that is inevitably filled with tension, disagreements, and initial failures. This is challenging, yet beautiful. Although the old paradigm of loving at first sight is great at crafting first impressions, it is prone to fail in managing expectations and relationships in the long term. On the other hand, value co-creation iterates toward more harmonious relationships.
Love, both in business and personal relationships, should then not be about controlling the other. No single party can dictate value; rather, both parties can only craft value propositions that are jointly experienced and improved, similar to the technology and social media platforms we enjoy in this sharing economy. This idea may be uncomfortable for some, but perhaps it brings us closer to understanding true love. To love is to co-create.
“The love you take is equal to the love you make.” — “The End” by The Beatles
Patrick Adriel H. Aure is an Assistant Professor of the Management and Organization Department, Ramon V. Del Rosario College of Business. As head of the Social Enterprise Research Network of the Center for Business Research and Development (CBRD-SERN) and as co-chair for strategic directions of the Lasallian Social Enterprise for Economic Development (LSEED) committee at De La Salle University, he advocates social entrepreneurship.