As designers, we love to co-create. We believe that including others and their perspective enriches everything we do, which is in principle, true. But are we doing this correctly? Are we framing our method an understanding it as we should?
- Co-creating is not necessarily Co-designing
Creation of input is not designing a product or service, these are two different stages, done with different people. What we usually forget as designers is that we have the methodology and tools to get the knowledge we need to be able to shape our product/service later. We will never have the depth of knowledge of someone that has worked in a company for 20 years and is specialized in their field. We might see stuff that our clients don't see, but this doesn't mean we know more about their field. We sometimes get too lost in our role as a consultant and we believe we have to have al the answers, which is impossible. Our role is to gather information that is already there, but that our clients can't make visible to act upon it. We are actually getting insights and variables through workshops (understanding), but we design with designers. If you are making your client or user design (aka you are taking textual input to make a direct decision) you are probably oversimplifying. The translation of insight is our job, and the key part of the process.
2. Co-creation workshops need to be done at the right time, for the right reasons
Yes, I know this sounds evident, but in the turmoil of everyday work, sometimes we use them as an "easy exit" when we need information gathering or are stuck. Depending on the stage of the project and the people you will be working with, a co-creation workshop can be used to attain very different goals, and used strategically in very different ways.
2A. Co-creation to get into the same page
Sometimes we need to get different stakeholders aligned. Doing a workshop will work better than a meeting where we just talk about what should be done. Usually in big companies stakeholders have very different opinions and goals to achieve in the context of a project, which can interfere with the success of our product/service. Having a workshop where they can create a same vision is key to avoid problems in the future.
2B. Co-creation to gather information
This is probably the most common use of a workshop with clients/users. As said before, they have knowledge that we need, we use a workshop to get it. Sometimes we need different people to interact between them to be able to get better quality information, for example: Once I had to create a payment solution that helped different users in a chain of payment. Some of these users had never spoken between each other to understand what their different pain points and constraints where when one or the other imposed a way of doing during the process. Getting them together helped surface information that otherwise we wouldn't have gotten. This kind of workshop should probably be done at early stages of the project.
2C. Co-creation to design
This workshop could be done at early stages of a project or at the end, once we have all the variables an insight to design our solution. It could be used at an early stage to create something so innovative that we need to test after, like a prototype for an app. The people involved should be designers, who understand methodologies and tradeoffs of making different decisions.
3. Co-creation is not necessarily the last stage before launching
We usually follow the same by-default process and use co-creation inputs to start designing our solution. Truth is it can be employed in all four phases of the new product development: Ideation, product development, commercialisation and post-launch. Co-creation in the early stages of the NPD can lead to more innovative ideas. Real time feedback gathered through standardized platforms can help create a virtuous loop of constant insight.
4. Co-creation initiatives need to deliver something concrete to show to the client
We often do workshops and just keep the results to ourselves. It is important to show insights/learnings and how will they be used after every workshop where there are key findings. This way we are making the client and people that where part of it understand the importance of these initiatives and how much they help our process. If not (wrongly so) clients and participants alike sometimes don't see the value of them, and see them as a waste of time.
It is important to understand that we need to use these workshops and co creation opportunities carefully. Not being strategic about this can upset co creators, lead to deceiving results and all in all sever design initiatives.