Monthly Archives: August 2013

Co-Creation Applied – Are You Ready?

Transformation by Co-Creation

Why would you tap into consumer wisdom before you tap your internal experts for advice about how to transform?

For a number of reasons… not the least of which is that your organization may not be ready for the depth of engagement required to transform. Past attempts to mobilize internal wisdom for innovation may have met with crippling ambivalence, or perhaps the imperative for digging deep enough to bring about transformation lacked clarity or may not have been compelling.

Stated in other terms, engaging your consumers in co-creation activities is in part a strategy for breaking though comfortable competency in the status quo, and the associated beliefs and assumptions held in support of the current organizational paradigm and hard-won past success. Consumer co-creation is a way to acknowledge the reality of the consumers’ increasing ability to influence market trends. Managed co-creation can leverage the commitment of your people to dig deeper and apply their wisdom and expertise in new ways toward transformational objectives.

The practice of co-creation has two primary outcomes:  Seeing Value in a new way, and Creating Space where none existed before.

Your customers are ready to co-create… Are you?


Co-creation efforts are aimed at getting to the heart of your relationship with your customers.  In capturing the essential elements of consumer thinking the organization must move on to seeing the intention and intelligence behind them to begin to define ‘value’ anew.  In every sense of the word, the business’s focus must be shifted to understand the value of the consumer-expressed ideas so that they may be internalized by the leaders and makers of transformation. Only then can the ideas be tested against the current organizational paradigm to see what must change in order to align consumer demand and product/service.  And as importantly, to align consumer-expressed value and the way in which the product/service is delivered.

Once the elements of value are seen and understood they can be used to reshape and reorder; embellish, replace and renew the product/service and the systems, processes and human competencies that support their delivery.

This work is more difficult than it sounds as each level of the organization sees the emerging ‘value’ in a different way and all of the perspectives together form the necessary mix for transformation to occur.  You can start anywhere with co-creation as a practice: with the C-Suite, with the customer, with middle management, with staff.  But for co-creation to yield benefits it must eventually be felt by all of these groups in an aligned way.



Ingenuity is a function of pressure, and pressure felt in one corner of the organization but not felt in another will result in little traction. As such, efforts to increase customer engagement through co-creation will fail to translate into ‘transformation’ without a corresponding effort to engage staff in the co-creation journey. Like almost anything else we do to grow business, it is best to take an iterative approach to co-creation, so that internal co-creation informs customer co-creation, which in turn, informs and presses internal co-creators to dig deeper, find a new edge.

With support and management, iterative co-creation work forms a part of an ‘ingenuity engine’ between corporation and customer and, under skilled leadership, ignites a synchronized internal ‘ingenuity engine’ that pumps new thought up and down the organization, continuously opening new space for transformation from staff through middle-management to C-Suite, from C-Suite through middle-management to staff.



Making the internal shifts necessary to spark and sustain co-creation requires a good deal of support.  In-flight translation of consumer-expressed concepts demands the ability to leave behind what feels clear, natural and normal in favor of a murky emerging context that is at once individually owned and shared by all participants: a shared presence in design and development (creation), a shared knowledge generation, and a shared value alignment.

Preparing leaders of transformation and the internal participants in co-creation to take in and bring about understanding of foreign-seeming value expressions and then act upon them a way that creates the space for the value to be realized is the challenge that co-creation presents to the organization. A challenge that, when met, mobilizes the organization to deliver newly defined value in a way that can be readily taken up internally, and capitalizes on the consumer interest generated by co-creation.


–          Dr. Linda Miller
© iMind Transformation. All Rights Reserved

Co-Creation – A Primer from the Harvard Business Review

What is co-creation anyway? Depends who you ask.  For us it most often means adding the voice of the user into the innovation process, not as passive respondents, but as active participants.  Of course, CK Prahalad author of the co-creation manifesto “The Future of Competition: Co-creating Unique Value with Customers,  got first dibs at defining co-creation by popularizing the concept back in 2000 as creating value through collaboration with partner companies and with active customers

In a more recent article in the HBR, Edelman’s Stefan Stern outlines the top Do’s and Don’ts for successful co-creation.

Everyone says they are in favor of open innovation and co-creation. We have all heard about the wisdom of crowds, bringing the outside in, and have bought the t-shirt which states that “none of us is as smart as all of us.”

But what is co-creation, really, and how do you do it right? Co-creation involves working on new product and service ideas together with the customers who are going (you hope) to buy them. It turns “market research” into a far more dynamic and creative process. (The term co-creation was of course popularized by CK Prahalad.) It’s easy for the C-suite to sign up to co-creation. But very often it goes against the grain of how they built their careers in the first place. This does not come naturally. Where to start?


I had a great conversation about co-creation recently with the people at Sense Worldwide, a London consultancy. Well — I say “conversation.” Mostly I was listening. The content of this conversation was not really co-created. But Sense’s chief executive Jeremy Brown and director of strategy Brian Millar gave me some terrific pointers on co-creation, which I want to share with you here.

 “When you need to transform a brand or product, you can’t just do the same things better,” Brown said. “You need to do something new. You tap into the creativity of your consumers.” Brown and Millar told me that Sense has been running co-creation, both in global online communities and in workshops around the world, for over a decade.

 They have established some co-creation Do’s and Don’ts.


  1.    DO forget everything you know about recruiting people for research. Traditional research looks for the typical user and avoids extreme users, those professionally involved with the category, or in product design.  These are your prime co-creators; the designers, the professionals, the bloggers, the rejecters, the extreme users, and the hackers.
  2.   DO have an open mind on who you bring into co-creation team. Diversity drives creativity.
  3.   DO create a community, co-creation is a process and works best when there is a sense of community among co-creators.
  4.   DO meet face to face – even if your co-creation team is online, do get the team together at least once a year at a co-creation summit.
  5.    DO look beyond the ideas – the art of co-creation is in looking for the big themes that underpin individual ideas.
  6.   DO get your top people involved in the co-creation team workshops.
  7.   DO co-create for someone – have a target user in mind, and focus on co-creating for them.
  8.  DO prototype – prototype, prototype, prototype; make your ideas real with prototypes.


  1.   DON’T run a ”make us an ad” campaign – it isn’t co-creation, and will almost inevitably be won by advertising professionals doing a bit of moonlighting.
  2.    DON’T make your team to big too fast.
  3.   DON’T underestimate the work required in keeping an online team energized.
  4.   DON’T present co-created ideas to your design team as a fait accompli. Nothing will alienate the team faster. Get them involved in the co-creation process. Get them to think of co-creation as a way to get better briefs and new places to explore.
  5.    DON’T criticize stupid-sounding ideas. They’re often attempts to solve an intelligently-defined problem.

 That’s it. Simple. But not easy. 


– Stephan Stern, 2011