A Co-Creation Primer from The Harvard Business Review

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What is co-creation anyway? Depends who you ask.  For us it most often means adding the voice of the user into the innovation process, not as passive respondents, but as active participants.  Of course, CK Prahalad author of the co-creation manifesto “The Future of Competition: Co-creating Unique Value with Customers,  got first dibs at defining co-creation by popularising the concept back in 2000 as creating value through collaboration with partner companies and with active customers

collaborative new product development activity in which customers actively contribute and select various elements of a new product offering

In a more recent article in the HBR, Edelman’s Stefan Stern outlines the top Do’s and Don’ts for successful co-creation.


  1. DO forget everything you know about recruiting people for research. Traditional research looks for the typical user and avoids extreme users, those professionally involved with the category, or in product design.  These are your prime co-creators; the designers, the professionals, the bloggers, the rejecters, the extreme users, and the hackers
  2. DO have an an open mind on who you bring into co-creation team. Diversity drives creativity.
  3. DO create a community, co-creation is a process and works best when there is a sense of community among co-creators
  4. DO meet face to face – even if your co-creation team is online, do get the team together at least once a year at a co-creation summit
  5. DO look beyond the ideas – the art of co-creation is in looking for the big themes that underpin individual ideas
  6. DO get your top people involved in the co-creation team workshops
  7. DO co-create for someone – have a target user in mind, and focus on co-creating for them
  8. DO prototype – prototype, prototype, prototype; make your ideas real with prototypes


  1. DON’T run a “make us an ad” campaign – it isn’t co-creation, and will almost inevitably be won by advertising professionals doing a bit of moonlighting.
  2. DON’T make your team to big too fast
  3. DON’T underestimate the work required in keeping an online team energised
  4. DON’T present co-created ideas to your design team as a fait accompli. Nothing will alienate the team faster. Get them involved in the co-creation process. Get them to think of co-creation as a way to get better briefs and new places to explore.
  5. DON’T criticise stupid-sounding ideas. They’re often attempts to solve an intelligently-defined problem.



Paul Marsden

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