One innovation method is to invite customers (in a B-2-B situation) or consumers (in a B-2-C scenario) into the creative process with you. Here, they will ideate, workshop concepts that arise in the session, augment concepts provided for them, and create some new product or service ideas that do not yet exist.
There are several forms of co-creation, and I will sketch out two here, as demonstrations of the method.
Category co-creation is where you explore categories and have a team explore and solve a problem from the widest frame possible, such as how do things in nature carry water. While it may sound unwieldy, such an exercise can unfetter the minds of engineers and product managers in the beverage, lotion, or other related industries, resulting in a game-changing design.
Another form is concept co-creation, where you provide very crude (i.e., hand-drawn) concepts of new ways to approach an old problem and allow people to dialogue, and draw what would make this a better solution for them. This exercise can be used not only for hard products, but also for service experiences. In fact, Mayo Clinic used this method to great effect when redesigning their patient experience.
The premise of co-creation is to break the force-feeding “I like” and “I don’t like” ratings of traditional market research. By inviting real users to create with you – and by often making real-time feedback on prototypes, companies can keep their hands on the pulse of what moves and inspires the people who use their products and services.
The real value of co-creation is the difference of having people rate a good idea and inviting relevant users into the alchemical process of working together to make a good idea into a breakthrough market opportunity. Co-creation helps to refine the working assumptions and hunches in the product design process, and the method also helps weed out pet ideas of the internal stakeholders, before they bomb in the market. By collaborating with the people for whom the solution is being designed, you get to a solution faster and often with more elegance.
While a lot of ideation work happens before the co-creation session, you also need to know that you may not get “the answer” in the session; however, you will gain deep insight, get real market feedback, and reframe the problem you are trying to solve.
Co-creation sessions add multiple points of value. Often, they unlock the code of growth that can make your company a category leader.
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Michael Graber is the cofounder and managing partner at Southern Growth Studio, a Memphis, Tennessee-based firm that specializes in growth strategy and innovation. A published poet and musician, Graber is the creative force that complements the analytical side of the house. He speaks and publishes frequently on best practices in design thinking, business strategy, and innovation and earned an MFA from the University of Memphis.