Ward and Sonneborn (2009) and Rogers (2003) acknowledge that the emergence of web-based technologies has radically influenced the ways in which individuals around the world communicate, represent themselves, share ideas, and otherwise interact with one another. Virtual worlds allow users to engage in a very active and participatory form of co-creation which is impossible to replicate in other environments (e.g., blogs, social networking websites). An example of a virtual world is Second Life, which is a 3D world where everyone can see you as a real person and where you can visit places which were built by people like you. Second Life allows you to express yourself. You can design a 3D version of yourself or create a whole new persona. There are thousands of designer items designed and sold by other people which can be explored in the Second Life marketplace.
Due to engaging nature of virtual worlds like Second Life, it allows companies to engage customers in a new way of co-creation. In fact, the world of Second Life itself can be defined as a co-creation project as many of the worlds are created by Second Life users themselves. The motto of Second Life is:
“The largest-ever 3D virtual world created entirely by its users.”
Linden Labs (the developer of Second Life) provides users with a 3D building environment which is easy to use and allows users to collaborate with other users to create their world. Users can use scripts to add behaviors and animation to their creations and make them come to live. Creations can also be sold inside Second Life or on Xstreet SL.
Second Life can be used as a virtual shopping tool which many small companies have already realized as you can find many small businesses on Second Life. Some people have actually shut down their real-world businesses to open a business in Second Life (and are able to make a living out of it).
However, it is not easy to create a co-creating virtual world nor is it easy to participate in one. A study by O’Riordan, Adam and O’Reilly provides three recommendations:
The first recommendation for innovation co-creators is to ensure that sufficient time is taken to fully explore virtual worlds. Virtual world designers can make this process easier for innovation co-creators by ensuring that there is support for in-world exploration. For example, information about particular projects in Second Life is often shared in-world by word of mouth. The reason for this is that existing search and navigation mechanisms in Second Life are difficult to use (especially for new users) because the mechanisms have been created for particular purposes as necessary. One way to stimulate the diffusion of innovations and information through in-world communication channels would be to develop new community-level mechanisms which provide consistency and ease.
The second recommendation for innovation co-creators is to ensure that sufficient practical knowledge of virtual worlds is available. People tend to dislike to have to put in a lot of effort to acquire information. Virtual world designers should attempt to minimize the effort required to acquire practical knowledge. For example, virtual world designers could accelerate learning by developing and promoting high-quality in-world training courses for (potential) innovation co-creators. An interesting example of how a company uses Second Life to generate ideas is Xerox. The following video shows an avatar of Xerox introducing itself and explaining how Xerox generates ideas with the help of Second Life and explains how innovation co-creators can get in touch with them.
The third recommendation for innovation co-creators is to focus on tools and techniques that support self-reliance in teams. Virtual world designers should continue to ensure that individuals and teams can work effectively and autonomously because of the unique challenges associated with fully leveraging the collaborative affordances of virtual worlds (short term). Moreover, virtual designers must develop a robust understanding of the barriers preventing fully collaborative approaches to innovation co-creation in virtual worlds (long term).
Overall the study supports the view that virtual worlds are attractive for innovation co-creation. However, the authors acknowledge that more research needs to be done on how virtual world designers can leverage the collaborative affordances of virtual worlds.
The blog post is meant to provide an example of a new way of value co-creation. The key message of this blog post is that virtual worlds form the new frontier and, therefore, the affordances it has to offer have to be studied thoroughly by researchers AND by companies.
O’Riordan, Niamh; Adam, Frédéric; and O’Reilly, Philip, “INNOVATION CO-CREATION IN A VIRTUAL WORLD” (2012). ECIS 2012 Proceedings. Paper 191. Available at: http://www.academia.edu/5615764/Innovation_Co-Creation_in_a_Virtual_World.
Rogers, E., M. (2003) Diffusion of Innovations. , New York, Free Press.
Ward, T. B. & Sonneborn, M. S. (2009) Creative Expression in Virtual Worlds: Imitation, Imagination and Individualized Collaboration. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts, 3, 211-221.
Second Life (www.secondlife.com)