Driving Innovation through Co-Creation
By Uday Dandavate, December 8th, 2008 1.1 Background The real challenge for a future-focused organization lies not in just coming up with great product ideas, but in coming up with ideas that resonate with the “real” consumers. Additionally, a greater challenge that companies face today is getting multiple teams in the value chain to buy into the vision of the creative teams, and executing the vision with a passion and precision so that such an innovation translates into profit. Every year, global companies cumulatively spend billions of dollars on innovation. A very small number of ideas generated through voracious churning of creative minds actually hit the market, and an even smaller proportion of these ideas generate profits. The real challenge faced by companies worldwide is how to streamline the innovation processes in a manner that optimizes investment in innovation and maximizes the chances of success. 1.2 Evolution of design The field of design has reinvented itself with the purpose of keeping itself relevant to market realities. Traditionally, design was considered a domain of creative minds—of people who were trained to envision and execute ideas that could change the course of consumers’ lives. Designers had the power to manipulate everyday lives of consumers. Unfortunately, this power did not always translate into business success. The result was a typical tension between creative teams and the product planning teams on one hand, and the engineering and marketing teams on the other. Inevitable culmination of this tension was a lot of finger pointing for failed ideas and missed opportunities.

Designers were quick to recognize the benefits of a User-Centered Design (UCD) process to enhance the chances of design ideas succeeding. In the course of time, designers began to integrate creative teams with experts in anthropology and cognitive psychology, who could bring the knowledge of consumers’ needs and aspirations to the innovation process. Ethnographic research methods became popular amongst designers and innovation teams in global corporations. With the advent of UCD methods, designers had to adjust their internal conceptualization processes to the need for understanding, internalizing, and being inspired by information from and about the “real” users of their products. Another development affected the practice of design and innovation. With the popularization of PCs and various other digital devices, User Interface (UI) design (both hardware and software devices) became a critical consideration in product development. The UI design community recognized the need for inputs regarding “real” users in design. As a result, usability studies became an integral part of the innovation process within the UI design field. Usability studies helped designers to gain sensitivity to the user experience of their products and to make improvements before their designs were put into the hands of the consumers. Emergence of the UCD approach has helped move the onus of innovation from the creativity of a single designer to the information acquired from a systematic study of user needs and aspirations. While UCD helped increase the chances of making designers’ ideas more relevant to the consumers, the source of ideas still remained with the designers. The end users of a design were still used as a reference point. This is where Participatory Design (PD) came into the picture.

According to Wickepedia, “Participatory design is an approach to design that attempts to actively involve the end users in the design process to help ensure that the product design meets their needs and is usable. It is rooted in work with trade unions in several Scandinavian countries in the 1960s and 1970s; its ancestry also includes Action research and Sociotechnical Design. In participatory design end users (putative, potential, or future) are invited to cooperate with researchers and developers during an innovation process. Potentially, they participate during several stages of an innovation process: they participate during the initial exploration and problem definition, both to help define the problem and to focus ideas for solution; and during development they help evaluate proposed solutions. (Wickepedia 2006)” The main difference between UCD and PD is that UCD uses end users in a consultative role, whereas the latter users are included in the ideation process by way of having access to the tools and methods similar to the ones designers would use to conceptualize ideas.

Figure 1. (L) Even adults discover the freedom of expression when given the task of representing a complex experience in a collage form. (R) Velcro modeling, like LEGO, triggers the imagination of the participants. It helps translate the tacit knowledge they have about their own needs and aspirations into solutions.

The benefit of the PD process is that, when users are given the tools of conceptualization that designers typically use, they are able to translate their tacit knowledge about their own needs and aspirations into solutions. Wickepedia itself is a good example of PD. The solutions created by the participants of this process are analyzed to understand the motivations behind the solutions suggested by the participants.

The design field is now moving beyond the PD stage of evolution. While PD was focused on eliciting user inputs about the end product, it still did not address the need for moving the ideas efficiently and effectively through the value chain. Getting various stakeholders in the value chain to own the insights and ideas, get their commitment to execute innovation, required a new approach. This is where the concept of co-creation emerged. C K Prahalad, professor of Corporate Strategy at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business, University of Michigan, was the first to introduce the concept. In suggesting a shift from creating designs for consumers to developing experience platforms, Prahalad stated that “innovation” is not necessarily innovation in technology, but it comes from the ability to personalize an experience (Prahalad 2004). A key consideration in introducing the co-creation process in an organization is to recognize the fact that one cannot isolate the experience of an end user from the experience of the designer, the client, the marketer, the channel partners, and all the other stakeholders within the value chain. Each one of them has their own motivations and constraints within the value chain. Unless all of these considerations are taken into account while developing an innovative idea, it would be difficult to follow through with the execution of it. This is where co-creation becomes imperative for innovation. 1.3 Understanding co-creation The basic philosophical foundation of co-creation is similar to the principles of PD. In order to maximize the effectiveness of co-creation, some of the highlights of the process must be understood: 1. Innovation refers to the impact of your product (which includes service, retail environment, or a brand) on your consumer. It does not refer to just the end product.

2. The objectives of various stakeholders must be reconciled when an innovative idea is executed. Your product cannot succeed if it is only driven by the objectives of the CEO, the engineer, the channel partners, or the consumers.

Figure 2: (L) Co-creation workshop at BBC, London. (R) Co-creation workshop at Bell Aliant, Halifax, Canada.

3. Design is an act, not an artifact. It is an act of meeting unmet needs and executing dreams for an experience. The embodiment of design is only the culmination of the design process. 4. People choose products based on the experience they want to have with the products or because of the meaning such products hold for them, not just for their features and functions. 5. When given appropriate tools of visualizing and expressing their ideas, such as the tools used by designers, everyday people can tap into their tacit understanding of their own needs and aspirations and build ideas for future products.

Figure 3: “Capturing moments” through visual tools helps focus on miniscule moments of life that have a big impact on how people feel overall about new technologies that afford those experiences.

6. Verbalized and written methods of articulation have been the traditional mode of communication between a company and its consumers, especially in the areas where market research is meant to drive innovation. These modes of communication are not very effective in capturing the tacit dimensions of human experience, such as emotions, cognitive structures, cultural influences, and interpersonal relationships. These dimensions of human experience have critical bearing on the success of an idea. On the other hand, tools such as collage making, cognitive mapping, storytelling, Velcro modeling, etc., allow people to reflect over those aspects of their everyday experiences that are important to them. Therefore, the co-creation process engages multiple modes of communication between multiple stakeholders in the value chain.

Figure 4: The data collected from the fieldwork activity is organized to find patterns in user behaviors, needs, and aspirations.

7. Translation of market information into innovative, actionable, and meaningful ideas is more effective when the information is presented to the innovation team in a visual, immersive, and inspiring format. Reports, bar charts, and statistics do not inspire innovative ideas.

Figure 5: (L) Developing frameworks, use scenarios of the future, and tangible product and service ideas is the final phase of the co-creation process. (R) Individual members of the co-creation team are encouraged to draw quick visual representations of patterns they see in the information. These visual patterns help us arrive at a shared understanding of the findings.

1.4 Application of co-creation The co-creation process can be used in a variety of situations. For example: 1. Developing new products, brands, retail environments, services, user interfaces, or marketing messages. 2. Identifying emerging cultural, technological, behavioral, or transactional trends. 3. Educating an innovation team to innovate for new and emerging markets. 4. Educating an innovation team to innovate for new and emerging consumer profiles within familiar markets. 5. Developing a shared vision and a commitment for setting consumer-focused goals for delivering value within multidisciplinary teams within a company. 6. Identifying product diversification plans based on the perceived competence of the company amongst the consumers. 7. Extending the brand to new business opportunities. 8. Establishing shared goals for innovation between collaborating companies based on their respective competencies, aspirations, and brand equities. 9. Defining persona: An actionable description of target consumers and their archetypal behaviors and aspirations. 10. Creating relationships between product manufacturers and channel partners based on a shared understanding of the consumer, the point-of-purchase experience, and opportunities for adding value through innovation. 11. “Jouneys into the heartland of Consumer Experience”: Exposing senior management to the realities of the market and engaging them in in-field ideation. In the following sections I will provide a few examples of using cocreation for inspiring people-centered innovation in an organization: 1.5 Co-creation in action: Connecticut History Society A few years ago, The Connecticut History Society (CHS) approached SonicRim with a request for helping the organization develop a vision of how to develop a new history museum that takes into account the aspirations of the people of Connecticut, and what history and a history museum means to them.

SonicRim was selected by the museum because of its reputation in participatory design and for its reputation in co-creating actionable design directions. CHS had earlier hired Frank Gehry and Bruce Mau Design to collaboratively develop a vision for the design of a new museum complex. The board of the museum, while appreciating the vision presented by these two world-renowned designers, felt compelled to elicit the input of the local community. The idea was to integrate the vision of great designers with the aspirations of the local community. SonicRim recruited a small group of participants from the Hartford area for this project. The participants were asked to visit the museum and document (in a scrapbook) their impressions of their current experience at the museum. Later we met with representatives of the community in groups of six. Each group was comprised of people of similar age. (We conducted this exercise with people between the ages of 6 and 50.) During the group sessions, we engaged the participants in developing a collage that depicted their past experiences at museums, including their re-visit to the CHS museum, and their future aspirations for what experience the future CHS museum should offer. The focus was on the experience as opposed to the physical characteristics of the museum. The information collected from the workshop was analyzed to identify common patterns in what the museum meant to these people and what experience they desired for a museum that represents their state. SonicRim then presented the findings at a workshop conducted with the senior members of the CHS management, where we discussed and developed criteria for design.

Outcome: It was noticed that the vision of the local population was different (there were some overlaps) from the vision suggested by the design team earlier. While both visions were considered very exciting and worth pursuing, general opinion was in favor of implementing the vision that came out of the co-creation exercise. 1.6 Co-creation in action: Corporate Journeys into the Heartland of Consumer Experience Recently, a global technology company, requested SonicRim’s help in helping the senior members of their Emerging Markets team to understand the innovation opportunities in India. The project comprised three phases: 1. Immersion in the field; 2. In-field synthesis of observations; and 3. Co-creation workshops in the United States. We scheduled a visit with 20 senior executives from the company to one large city, one medium-size city, and one village in India. The team was split into smaller groups; each group had the opportunity to meet with local families and discuss their lives, routines, and aspirations for the future. We also conducted visits to local markets and led group discussions in each of the places visited. The immersion exercise occurred over 10 days.

Figure 6: (L) Preparing for an interview with a village milkman in (R) A designer from the client company riding a camel in an Indian village as a part of a “journey into the heartland of consumer experience.”

The morning after every visit, the team met at a makeshift war room set up at the hotel in Delhi. There we discussed our observations and implications, wrote down the observations on index cards, and then organized them based on themes and aspirations. On the last day, a full-day workshop was conducted where the themes and aspirations were organized into finer categories, and a preliminary brainstorming session was conducted to identify implications and opportunities. Later, the SonicRim team spent two weeks organizing the information collected from the field visit and the daily synthesis workshops. Then various stakeholders from the client organization met for a two-day cocreation workshop. During this workshop, SonicRim set up large panel displays that depicted visual information about the lifestyles, needs, and aspirations of the people we visited. On the first day of the workshop, the team deliberated over the observations from the field, and identified specific persona and their significant goals that were relevant to the client business. On the second day, the team developed unique scenarios of how, through the use of technology, each of these persona could fulfill their goals. These scenarios were then analyzed to develop a refined matrix of persona and their associated goals. Finally, the team participated in a brainstorming exercise where specific solutions (products, services, and marketing messages) were conceptualized based on which goals were relevant to which persona. Outcome: A multidisciplinary team of this client was able to commit to a framework for innovation that helped them relate their innovation targets to the goals of specific persona. Additionally, the immersive experience in the field and a collective co-creation exercise helped them build a shared memory of the user experience—past, present, and future. Overall, the client organization was very pleased that the cocreation exercises helped to conserve investment in innovation.

1.7 Takeaways Organizations that believe that innovation is one of the important ways of thriving in competitive and uncertain economic times should follow a co-creation-based model of innovation. By involving the stakeholders in the creation of the ideas, you conserve resources that are typically wasted in pursuing the vision of a single individual or of teams that are removed from the realities of the stakeholders in the value chain. Indigenous ideas (ideas germinated within your organization) stand a better chance of reaching and succeeding in the market. By involving the creativity of the stakeholders and by using co-creation tools and methods, you stand a better chance of delivering value to your consumers and being rewarded for offering them what they need, rather than trying to convince them that they need a great idea from a great innovator. References: Dandavate, Uday, and Nancy Lefforty-Wellot. 2003. Designing with Indegenious Ideas, Business World, India, June 30 Greenbaum, Joan, and Morten Kyng, eds. 1991. Design at Work: Cooperative Design of Computer Systems. Hillsdale: Erlbaum Kuhn, Sarah, and Michael Muller. 1993. Special issue: Participatory Design. Communications of the ACM, 36 (4) Prahalad, C.K., and Venkat Ramaswamy (2004) The Future of Competition: Co-Creating Unique Value with Customers. Boston Harvard Business School Press, 2004 Sanders, Elizabeth. (2006) Design Research in 2006. Design Research Quarterly V.I. 1 September 2006. Designer Research Society.

Sanders, E.B.-N., and Dandavate, U., Design for Experiencing: New Tools. Proceedings of the First International Conference on Design and Emotion, edited by C.J. Overbeeke and P. Hekkert, 1999, TU Delft Sanders, E. B.-N., Generative Tools for Co-Designing. Collaborative Design, 2000 (Springer-Verlag: London) Schuler, Douglas, and Aki Namioka, eds. 1993. Participatory Design: Principles and Practices. Hillsdale: Erlbaum Trigg, Randall H., and Susan Irwin Anderson. 1996. Special issue: Current Perspectives on Participatory Design. Human-Computer Interaction 11 _________________________________________________________ Written for Muotoilun Johtaminen (Design Management handbook) Q1- 2007, published by Kauppalehti, Finland. Original is printed in Finnish language. _________________________________________________________ Author: Uday Dandavate Founder and CEO, SonicRim Ltd., Global Design Research, USA Uday Dandavate is a founder and CEO of SonicRim, a Global Design Research company. A relentless globetrotter, Uday brings over 28 years of experience in design and innovation to SonicRim. Uday leads a multidisciplinary team at SonicRim, where he studies people, cultures, and trends around the world in order to drive design and innovation strategies for his clients. A firm believer in the participatory approach to design, Uday has helped many Fortune 500 companies gain empathy for the experience of everyday people as they design products, brands, and new technologies. He has also worked with many public organizations to help them understand how to best deliver value to their audience through design and innovation. Uday is often invited to speak at international conferences and universities to share his ideas and experiences as an evangelist of everyday people in the world of business and technology.

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