You have no idea how happy I am to type these words: The Forrester Wave™: Co-Creation Contest Vendors, Q3 2011 has been published!

What's a co-creation contest? I'm so glad you asked. A co-creation contest is one type of social co-creation engagement that allows product strategy professionals to involve consumers directly in the product development process. Co-creation contests offer an innovative take on the generic crowdsourcing model to produce ideas, designs, content, or solutions that product strategy professionals can put to use. Typically, a challenge is posted to a community that works individually or collaboratively on solutions, with the best responses earning rewards. The community can consist of a variety of interesting participants, as depicted here:

The problem ultimately dictates the appropriate community to engage -- of which there are many.Vendors in this space generally offer three things to their clients: access to a community, a technology platform on which to interact with said community, and professional services to ensure a successful engagement.

For this research, we have focused on vendors that cultivate communities of Creatives, as this is an ideal group for consumer product strategy professionals to engage. Creatives are good at generating outside-the-box ideas, can think about old problems in new ways, and can envision the future. They are also motivated by more than money: The social rewards of participating and being recognized for brilliance are significant motivators.

In addition to having a ready-to-go cultivated community of Creatives, participating vendors were required to have the ability to help clients in both the US and abroad, as well as the capability of serving clients of any size.

In this Wave report, we evaluated the following vendors: ChallengePost (New York City), eYeka (Paris), Hyve (Munich), jovoto (Berlin/New York City), Napkin Labs (Boulder, Colorado) and Redesignme (Eindhoven, The Netherlands). As in other Wave reports, we assessed each vendor's current offering, strategy, and market presence across 34 criteria. We were struck by how well each vendor performed, despite the fact that each has its own strengths and weaknesses.

But perhaps most telling is the fact that the client reference interviews we conducted (two per vendor) were glowing. Not only were these clients happy with the vendor's product/service, but they were pleasantly (and in some cases, shockingly) surprised at the quality of the responses. All found co-creation contests to be a stimulating, quick, fairly priced, and surprisingly effective way to address their business problems. In the end, this new and innovative approach works! That's a key message for all product strategists to understand, and one that might not be apparent if one were to focus solely on individual vendor scores.

Over the coming weeks, I'll be publishing a series of Q&A blogs with the CEOs of the six vendor companies we evaluated. Their responses will shed some light on how each vendor helps product strategists with their business problems, how it can help you prove ROI, and how its product is evolving to meet their clients' future needs. Stay tuned!

(Product strategists unfamiliar with Forrester's Wave methodology should be aware that it is a starting point for evaluating vendors operating in a given market. The Excel-based vendor comparison tool is completely transparent, and gives product strategists the flexibility to adapt the criteria weightings to fit their individual needs.)