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Design Strategy

Have you been thinking about trying out co-creation at your organisation, but don’t know where to begin?

Co-creation as an evolving concept can sometimes create a feeling of ambiguity. At its core however are a few basic principles around which the act of co-creation can be customised depending on need and environment.

In the first part of our series on co-creation, we explored what the concept was and how it is the optimum tool for developing solutions to complex problems. In the next part we examined companies that have been successful in their co-creation ventures. The third part looked at the inextricable link between technology and the ultimate goal of co-creation – innovation, for value creation.

This post looks at how to go about enabling co-creation. What are the key psychological and operational elements that make up a successful co-creation endeavour? We’ve narrowed it down to 7 principles.

1.  Unlock Minds

Effective co-creation requires a certain kind of mindset – an attitude that encapsulates humility, empathy and transparency.

At the heart of co-creation lies humility. A know-it-all attitude is not conducive to co-creation. The belief that there can be another and possibly better way of doing things is key.

Another vital element is the ability to empathise with the end user. This enables the development of solutions that actually solve the problem. The parties to co-creation must also be transparent with each other, which in turn means that a high degree of trust and integrity must exist.

Not all organisations (either intentionally or unintentionally) embody these aspects in their corporate culture. The first step would thus be to expose the people in your team to the synergetic potential of co-creation. Besides sharing concepts, sharing practical examples of co-creation, such as those we spoke about in our article Co-Creation: More Than Just a Buzzword is an impactful way to showcase the power of co-creation.

Clear directives and training, which explain the benefits of co-creation open up the mind to new ways of innovating, and state what the purpose of the endeavour is, without being too restrictive in nature, so as not to stifle creativity.

The idea is to empower, not overpower your team.

2.  Plan for Harmony, Prepare for Chaos

As with any successful venture, a good plan is essential. Besides setting clear objectives, the co-creation plan must also take into consideration how the initiator will go about infusing a culture of humility, empathy and transparency – if it doesn’t already exist – into the company.

This isn’t something that can happen overnight, but as the initiator you must work to foster such an environment, keeping in mind that co-creation requires a change in mindset and perhaps a change in organisational culture as well, which employees may not always take in their stride.

It can be demotivating when the required change isn’t forthcoming. You must thus always keep in mind that a change in mindset is a process requiring patience and persistence, and not a one time event.

Co-creation can be successful only if a spirit of collaboration is encouraged and nurtured. This could take the form of collaboration within the organisation, with outsiders, with the end user or with other stakeholders.

However, collaborating means that several parties from various backgrounds come together – a situation that if not structured properly, could lead to undesired outcomes, misunderstandings and chaos in general.

Having a plan and sticking to it alone isn’t enough. One must be prepared to handle change and the uncertainty it can bring. In fact, unpredictability must be embraced, for it is through unpredictability that one is able to discover new possibilities and explore their application and feasibility.

3.  Put People First

Any co-creation endeavour must put people first. This takes two forms.

First, your team must be clear that the end user’s requirements must remain at the forefront of their decision making and ideation processes at all times. This could be extended to include encouraging the end user to explore his creativity in discovering a solution. End users have the invaluable advantage of hands on experience, but they don’t always recognise this fact.

Secondly, you, as the initiator, must keep your co-creation team motivated at all times. Incentives, recognition and appreciation are key; people like to be valued for their contribution. Equally important is feedback and support, to nurture development of the concept, keep lines of communication open and to help overcome barriers, which are an inevitable outcome of a new way of doing things.

Co-creation should be looked at as a win-win for all concerned and must focus on value creation for all the stakeholders involved – this ensures enthusiastic participation.

4.  Connect Creativity

The trends and innovations of the past 10 years or so across industries and businesses appear to indicate a shift towards more creative, non-traditional ways of developing solutions. This ties in directly with co-creation, which encourages connecting diverse creativity.

For example, one doesn’t traditionally see an architect working with a psychologist. But what if the psychologist could help the architect to understand the behaviour patterns and motivations of the particular market the architect is designing for? Isn’t it likely to generate a more user-centric and effective design?

As an initiator of co-creation you should encourage and facilitate connections between the people who could be most effective to your particular projects. At large companies this could also mean letting go of traditional approaches to innovation and management hierarchies.

In order to solve complex problems, people should be allowed to to freely and rapidly exchange information. This could take various forms, from reducing red tape to facilitating online platforms for interaction.

5.  Pick Pertinent Partners

While Point 4 above indicates opening up the avenues of creativity by including co-creators from various backgrounds, it is important to understand that this must be balanced with choosing the correct people for your particular project.

For example, if attempting to achieve major breakthrough ideas, it makes sense to include technologically sound partners – the best if possible – sometimes even with a competitor, as our example of co-creation between Apple and Microsoft in Part-2 of this series showed. On the other hand, if co-creating something for the greater good, it makes sense to include people with similar values, interests and goals. Wikipedia is a good example, with the common goal of participants being knowledge sharing at a single point.

6.  Capitalise on Technology

Technology, as discussed in our earlier article, can be a big asset to co-creation. The idea though shouldn’t be to try to utilise every new technological innovation that is developed, but rather to examine which technologies could enhance your particular co-creation undertaking, in terms of speed, quality, reach and precision.

7.  Fail Faster, Grow Quicker

Finally, any co-creation endeavour must accept that not every idea that comes to light may be an appropriate one. The initiator must be prepared for this and be able to weed out the ideas that are not in keeping with the objectives.

Similarly, preparation must be made for what will happen post the idea generation stage – an action plan for how to practically apply a great idea. Once ideas have been shortlisted, it is important to rapidly prototype and test the practical feasibility of it their application. The faster you eliminate ideas or discover potential problems, the closer you are to finding the most effective solution.

Have you tried co-creation at your organisation? Share your experience with us in the comments below or on our Facebook page @zeitgeistdesignanddevelopment


Design Strategy, Trends

Technology has become cheaper and thus more accessible over the years. Low cost mobile phones, computers and the Internet, coupled with tools such as social media and data analytics have resulted in the following outcomes:

Shift in Power

The growth of platforms like Facebook, Google and Youtube, primarily enabled by low-cost Internet, has enhanced cyclical connectivity and feedback loops which enable transparency. The common individual’s access to information has played a major role in shifting where the power to influence lies.

Today’s potential customer is more likely to believe the reviews of an online community and less likely to be influenced by a company’s advertising efforts. Power now lies with social groups or communities. Customers are able to gain more knowledge about a particular product, as well as of its competitors’ and interact with each other quickly, giving them the power to demand customised products that better suit their needs. Today’s customer is motivated to play a key role in the innovation process. Ideas for innovation are also able to come from sources such as vendors, partners and other key players, and are no longer limited to the traditional internal source – the R & D department.

Global Collaboration and Enhanced Mobility

The World Wide Web has enabled a global civilization connected by an invisible force – the Internet. Information travels rapidly, and distances no longer feel intimidating. The world is literally at your fingertips.

Information Sharing and Analysis

Individuals can collaborate in an intangible environment enabled by high-speed Internet, social media platforms, inexpensive computers and mobile phones. People from different parts of the world, with different areas of expertise, can all sit at the same virtual ‘table’ and co-create.

Social media platforms allow for rapid two-way flow of information between creators of products/services and end users. Further, the information is no longer limited to just text, but also has visual aid. This means understanding problems or needs becomes much easier, potentially allowing for better solutions to be developed.

Because of technology, large amounts of information can be quickly shared and the same data set can be analysed by people with different areas of expertise. Big data and data analytics allow firms to better understand and segment the market, identify new trends and needs, and eventually help in developing mutually beneficial marketing strategies.

In short, technology today enables:

– Access to various problem solvers from different backgrounds and with diverse expertise

– Rapid communication and information sharing.

These features form the pillars of a successful co-creative endeavour.


With artificial intelligence predicted to take over large chunks of the workforce in the future, algorithms developed from repetitive human patterns will influence innovation.

Augmented collaboration will also enhance the experience and efficiency of co-creation.There are multiple innovators currently working on trying to directly connect our brain’s neurology to technology.The day we can share our thoughts and ideas just by thinking of a specific person may not be that far away.

Augmented collaboration will also enhance the experience and efficiency of co-creation.There are multiple innovators currently working on trying to directly connect our brain’s neurology to technology.The day we can share our thoughts and ideas just by thinking of a specific person may not be that far away.

Advancements in technology are setting up a platform that will allow for co-creation and innovation to take place at an unprecedented pace.

Will you be ready?

Perhaps our article next week – The Golden Principles of Co-creation – can help. Stay tuned.


Design Strategy

In the first of our series on co-creation, we explored in theory why co-creation is the most effective way to foster innovative thinking and design.

In this post we focus on the practical application of co-creation. We examine some of the forms it has taken in companies that have realised its synergetic potential:


Apple and Microsoft

Approach: Co-creation for improved efficacy and utility.

Method: Despite the differences and tumultuous past that exist between these two giants of the computer industry, Apple and Microsoft have been able to put the customer first in many instances and join forces to create products like Office for Mac users and iTunes for Windows users.

Value added: Users get the best of both worlds, without having to give up their favourite software on whichever platform they prefer. Choice and decision are thus left in the hands of the consumer, making this a great example of co-creation, even in the midst of intense rivalry.


Nike ID

Approach: Co-creation for personalisation.

Method: Nike ID is a feature that allows online shoppers to completely customise their pair of Nikes, from the style of the strap, right down to the colour of the lining inside the shoe. It even allows for personalised lettering (a name or word, for example) to be added on the shoe. Before making the final decision to purchase, the customer has the option to share the creation on social media for further inputs.

Value added: In an age where self-expression, customised products and the desire to stand out in a crowd are highly valued commodities, Nike has developed a platform to address those needs by putting a part of the product design process in the hands of the customer.


Ola Auto

Approach: Co-creation to organise markets.

Method: Ola has partnered with auto rickshaw drivers in some Indian cities to allow customers to book autos using the same Ola app that they use to book cabs.

Value added: The convenience of booking an auto ride without having to physically scour the area or haggle is a huge benefit to commuters. Once a driver has indicated his willingness to take up the journey via the app, the customer is intimated and picked up from his doorstep. Rides can also be tracked on the app and location details shared with others, improving the safety of the user.



Approach: Co-creation to empower individuals.

Method: In the case of AirBnB, multiple partners work together to co-create a unique product for the end user:
– AirBnB provides a platform for hosts to display their properties and prospective guests to view the same.
– AirBnB pays freelance photographers around the world to provide high quality photos of the properties, to aid in the guests’ decision making.
– Payment processors enable the financial transactions involved.

Value added: The unique experience of staying at a local home and enjoying the local culture at prices that are, more often than not, lower than those of hotels.


Apsara Drone

Approach: Co-creation for social impact.

Method: Start-up firm Otherlab, in collaboration with and funded by The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), is working on designing an entirely biodegradable lightweight drone, using transient electronics and material made out of a mushroom based substance.

Value added: The drone has the potential to effect large-scale social impact. It could be used to deliver food and medicine to disaster hit and war torn areas and then self-destruct, with minimal damage to the environment.

These are just a few examples to illustrate that co-creation can take many forms and isn’t restrictive in nature. It requires that the needs of the end user always be the focus and it requires an open mind, perhaps best summed up by Tim Cook…

“Apple and Microsoft still compete, but we can partner on more things than we compete on.
And that’s what customers want.”

– Tim Cook, at the BoxWorks Conference, 2015.

Have you come across any great examples of co-creation? Share them with us in the comments section below.


Design Strategy

At the root of good product, service or system design is the desire to create something of use and value to the intended end user. So if your goal is to create good design, keeping your focus on either solving the end user’s problem or enhancing his existing experience is key to getting you there.

In the past, when developing new products or improving existing ones, innovation, in general, was based on the interpretation of information gathered via market research. It was restrictive in its approach.

A more recent innovation technique that is particularly effective in today’s world is co-creation. About ten years ago, it was observed that: “Companies today are moving from just collecting customer reactions to actively inviting customers to participate in creating and developing new products. The traditional company-centric approach to product innovation is giving way to a world in which companies co-create products with consumers.” *

The concept of co-creation has evolved since then and today it has expanded to allow not only customers, but also other stakeholders and professionals to be a part of the innovation process. The Financial Times Lexicon definition explains the evolved concept well:


The problems and needs of people today are much more complex and interconnected than they were 20 years ago, requiring more innovative solutions than ever before. Co-creation, being multi-pronged in its approach, has the power to enable us to progress:

1. From Obscurity to Clarity

Complex problems can be difficult to break down. As opposed to many other approaches, co-creation often takes place at the beginning of the innovation process and involves the end user right from the start. This means that even before you begin the ideation phase, you are one step closer to creating value – by obtaining a true understanding of what the end user really requires. It’s like a doctor prescribing treatment for your ailment – the treatment will only be effective if a correct diagnosis has been made.

2. From Detachment to Empathy

Co-creation gives designers, business owners, researchers, vendors and other stakeholders the opportunity to get into the shoes of the end user. If you learn to empathise, you are more likely to approach the task at hand with greater compassion. In other words, you are more likely to create appropriate and valuable solutions.

3. From Alienation to Involvement

Co-creation encourages responsible co-ownership – when the parties involved in the process feel empowered to make a difference and have a stake in the outcome, they are likely to be more invested.

4. From Rigidity to Customisation

By enabling participation of the end user and offering customisation, co-creation allows you to do more than just problem solve; it provides you with a means to enable customer delight, a valuable element in building and maintaining brand loyalty in today’s highly competitive market place.

5. From Uncertainty to Cohesiveness

Complexity is fraught with uncertainty. By bringing varied expertise to the table, co-creation allows a complex problem to be examined from several angles. This cohesive approach allows you to transform fragmented ideas into robust, effective solutions.

Co-creation, like the Internet, empowers you to use the collective force of a group to enhance lives and the world you live in.

It is this intrinsic synergy of co-creation that enables us to deliver innovative solutions, even in the face of today’s highly complex and ever evolving environment.

*Peter C. Honebein and Roy F. Cammarano, “Customers at Work,” Marketing Management 15, no.8 (January-February 2006): 26-31; Peter C. Honebein and Roy F. Cammarano, Creating Do-It-Yourself Customers: How Great Customer Experiences Build Great Companies (Mason, OH: Texere Southwestern Educational Publishing, 2005).