Chris Anderson (of the Long Tail) recently articulated an interesting metaphor regarding social media and driving a project/organization forward. In his post Open source is a company; social media is a country I would call particular attention to his take on successful open source projects:
Many people mistakenly think that open source projects are emergent, self-organized and democratic. The truth is just the opposite: most are run by a benevolent dictator or two. What makes successful open source projects is leadership, plain and simple. One or two people articulate a vision, start building towards it and bring others on board with specific tasks and permissions.
Remember this concept if you ever decide to run a crowdsourcing, idea generation, or co-creation system with your customers — or anyone, for that matter. Simply making the tools available will do not good. Nor will a vague sense of who is in charge. Central leadership is still necessary. Enterprises shouldnâ€™t believe that putting a project out in the wild without definitive leadership and support will produce anything of value. Everything needs a champion to drive it forward.
Simple enough, but the real value I see created in what I write about here has sprung out of a â€“ sometimes hypothetical â€“ balancing and blending of external inputs or votes or intellectual property or funding or designs with a strong plan, leadership, and vision. That includes rejecting bad ideas. Saying NO to your customers when you feel strongly about it (37 Signalsâ€™ favorite past-time.). Retaining focus on what is important and getting rid of the extraneous.
Essentially: co-creation doesnâ€™t take the work out of what you do but it can enhance it and help you more deeply understand the people you serve.