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Posted by Mark Davies 22 February 2017 Workshops

Organisations are always looking for new and more effective ways to build a culture of innovation into their business. There are many tried and tested techniques which deliver results, but have you ever tried co-creation? Not sure where to start? Then keep reading. 


According to The Financial Times, co-creation is best defined as ‘the process by which groups of people from across boundaries come together with a shared purpose to create value through improving or developing services and products. 

Business Dictionary puts forward a further definition, suggesting that co-creation is ‘a business strategy focusing on customer experience and interactive relationships,’ pointing out that it ‘allows and encourages a more active involvement from the customer to create a value rich experience.’

U.S publishing house IGI Global also has a fantastic selection of definitions in its dictionary section, one of which suggests that ‘through co-creation, organisations can unleash the creative energy of people — especially employees and internal stakeholders, but also customers, suppliers, and related external stakeholders and communities — to create mutual value.’


While the idea of working collaboratively and with the general aim of being ‘creative’ sounds appealing, asking what benefit this brings to an organisation’s capacity for innovation is an important prerequisite to embracing the technique.

Co-creation can generally be divided into two categories – co-creation which gets customers or consumers involved with the idea generation process or product development phases of innovation, and co-creation which sees organisations from across sectors and seemingly unrelated industries cooperate on problem solving, with the aim of challenging traditional methods of working.


Customer co-creation has been seen as a popular method of spurring innovation, with Forbes contributor and US-based business strategist Christine Crandell calling it ‘The Secret Sauce To Success.’ Crandell suggests that ‘the more customers realize their vendor is committed to listening, embracing and delivering their precise requirements, the more they want to be involved in that organization,’ a willingness that should be capitalised upon to add value for both parties.

Crandell points to the case of DHL as a successful example of the rewards that customer co-creation can bring. Chief Commercial Officer at DHL Bill Meahl told Forbes that one of their key ‘critical success factor[s] was teaching employees how to ‘walk a mile in customer shoes, so they intimately understand the dynamics of working with customers’. By using hands-on workshops, scenario planning and specially-built innovation centres, a number of innovations have been launched as a direct result of customer co-creation.

With ‘490,000 employees around the world producing $57 billion in annual revenue’, that DHL is able to implement such an agile and innovative policy should be an inspiration to organisations of all sizes looking to start their co-creation journey.


Although there are clear and tangible benefits to customer co-creation, sometimes co-creation which involves competitors, organisations from outside your sector or experts in the field can open up avenues that go beyond the capacity of interaction with the consumer.

This is exactly what was argued in a recent whitepaper by Mash Strategy Studio and distributed by Marketing Week. Mash suggests that though being a consumer-centric brand is more important than ever before, ‘brands need to look beyond consumers for the knowledge, experience and inspiration to stretch their thinking outside of the world they know today and get to new and inspiring places.’

Working from the premise that by ‘open[ing] our minds to the full range of people, experiences and areas of expertise that can inspire us to look at our consumers, brands and categories in new ways,’ Mash argues that co-creation can challenge convention and lead to true breakthroughs by ‘bringing the outside in’.

The key here is diversity, with no industry too far removed from your own as a potential partner for co-creation. Each of these experts has a different area of specialism, different experience, and a different outlook that allows them to address problems and challenges in a way distinctive from internal team members, who are accustomed to your brands messages and end goals.

An important piece of advice to remember is that ‘collaboration isn’t a linear, one-way process where each area of expert knowledge is kept in silos’, but instead should be embraced as a process which allows multiple organisations to be ‘constantly sharing thinking, combining ideas from these different worlds in an iterative process that gets us to exciting and fresh places.’

If you want to make a start with co-creation, why not take a look at our Power of Three workshop which brings co-creation to your front door.

As global innovation specialists we aim to help and encourage people and organizations to become more nimble, boosting their ability to generate ideas. We bring pace and focus to your innovation initiatives using our unique innovation techniques, which are constantly being developed by our professional licensees. If you’re interested in becoming a licensee for the think team, contact us here.

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