The unpowered customer: Co-creation as tactics of the weak

Gloria Appiah, Samuel K. Bonsu, David Sarpong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Co-creation has been lauded for the exceptional benefits it offers to engaged actors, with a particular emphasis on its ability to empower previously passive, and sometimes disadvantaged, customers. Drawing on de Certeau’s notion of the tactics of the weak, we problematize this romantic view, unpacking some of the often unarticulated, opportunistic motives and behaviours of firms in co-creation processes in practice. We develop our contribution in the context of a small software business and its clients, collecting data through semi-structured interviews, observations, and archival documents. Our findings provide insights into the organizing practices that reinforce the disadvantaged positions of business customers. We outline three stages of opportunism that unfold inadvertently in the assumed democratised value co-creation space. We conclude with a discussion of the managerial and theoretical implications, and directions for future research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)317-326
Number of pages44
JournalJournal of Business Research
Early online date17 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021

Bibliographical note

© 2021 Elsevier Inc. This is the accepted manuscript version of an article which has been published in final form at, made available on this repository under a Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND attribution licence (


  • Co-creation dark side
  • de Certeau
  • Opportunism
  • Tactics of the weak


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