The Co-Creation Myth

It’s Time to Limit Who Gets to Participate in the Creative Process

When it’s time to reshape a brand, dream up a new product or develop a breakthrough in customer experience, many companies invest heavily in co-creation. In recent years, it’s become one of the most common ways to get new ideas. In theory, it’s hard to argue with — new outputs require new inputs, right? So we apply interesting and fun techniques to push people past their comfort zone and into the realm of inspiration.

But most of the time, the results are mediocre.

What goes wrong, of course, is the people. The exercise might be fun, and often participants genuinely enjoy and appreciate the journey. And that’s OK, if the primary objective is to shape organizational behavior or build team spirit. But if the point is to come up with ideas that break new ground, it’s likely to be highly frustrating. Face it: Most of your company’s talent is not creative.

The key to finding ideas that are truly exceptional is making sure the right people are in the room, and excluding those who get in the way. Who to invite:

The True Creative

We’re not necessarily talking about the one with “creative” in her title, or the guy who walks around barefoot because he studied design. We’re referring to individuals who can solve day-to-day business problems in a different way. Creative problem solving exists in every department, especially in sales.

The Curious

Inspiration cannot be confined to the time and space in which co-creation happens, so each individual needs to bring his or her life experience to the meeting. In that context, the wider — and the wilder! — those experiences, the more unusual and diverse their ideas.

The Millennials

No one likes to think of themselves as getting old, but the world’s biggest, most affluent and most transformative consumer group is Gen Y, those born after 1980. And the ones with the freshest ideas? They are the Digital Natives, born after 1990.

And who to kick out of the room as soon as they show their colors:

The Consensus Builder

Agreement is important, but it has no place in a co-creation process. “Buy in” is something that comes much later in the adoption process, and people with a strong need to find agreement and common ground jeopardize the early stages of creative exploration.

The Skeptic

They come in many forms — the one that knows that the idea is not feasible, the one that reminds everyone why that idea has failed in the past, or the one who hates everything but can’t come up with anything. They, too, kill ideas too early in the process and prevent those with potential from getting the attention they deserve. Their negativity usually sucks all the energy out of the room.

The Impatient

Co-creation takes time; you can’t get to the best ideas in the first minute. The team needs to engage an iterative process. It’s not only inspiration, it’s transpiration. You’ll know who these people are because they question the process right away.

So, now you know. Go get the right people and co-create something good.

This post originally appeared on Prophet’s blog.

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