Decades ago, it was unheard of for companies to open their business practices and bring in outside vendors, experts, customers and unique perspectives to have a say in product development.
Today, as collaboration becomes fundamental to growth, a profound shift in mindset toward inclusion outside the confines of the corporate wall has taken place. “Co-creation” offers corporates new ways of thinking, new sources of knowledge, even new opportunities for revenue. Co-creation has enabled leading global firms to better position themselves for innovation and growth.
But Co-creation — collaborating with outside stakeholders to develop concepts, products, solutions— is not just a winning strategy for the corporate entity. Indeed, we’ve heard from many startups interested in co-creation, asking how they can better connect with their corporate partners and benefit from this winning strategy.
There are a number of benefits to co-creation for startups. They include:
No doubt, corporates benefit from the knowledge your startup brings to the table. But, with co-creation, knowledge-sharing goes both ways. You now have access to your client’s history, projects, background, mindset. Instead of guessing as to what their customers need, you have firsthand information regarding your client’s challenges and what they really need help solving for. What’s more, you have access to their subject matter experts, whose relationship you can then leverage for future partnerships.
Once you engage with your clients through co-creation, you begin to reinforce your relationship. You are part of the team and vested into your partner’s solution. As key to the process, you require buy-in at every stage across the organization (including the business), which further maximizes relationships and opportunity for success.
As a key part of the team through co-creation, you are now in a position to understand the true nature of what your client’s customers need, and your expertise becomes critical to the decision-making process and product development. Through co-creation, you enable prioritization and speed to market.
To take advantage of the benefits of co-creation, it will be important to establish guidelines or principles of a co-creation session. Those principles include:
First up, define the problem for which you are solving. Collaborate on research. Talk to the company’s end-users. Discuss the challenges and obstacles in the way. Clearly identify and communicate the human-centered problem to all stakeholders involved.
Discuss who should be included in the session. Choose a group of five to seven stakeholders and ensure that there is a diversity of perspective, e.g., marketing, creative, IT, subject matter experts, sponsors, end-users.
Enable visualization through creative idea flow. Whether in-person or virtual, make sure you have the format and space to brainstorm, capture ideas and draw-on any decisions that come out of the session. Virtual collaborative design tools we recommend include Mural, Miro and Figma.
Develop a detailed plan of action for how you are going to facilitate the session and gain from the interaction. Determine what exercises or activities will be part of the journey and structure your session accordingly.
From the session, narrow ideas and summarize the outcomes that participants can take away. Ensure that participants leave with a common understanding about next steps. If time allows, agree and visualize the initial roadmap and allocate tasks to individuals. This step provides an opportunity to revisit and groom your backlog based on the outcome.
While corporations may be less hesitant than in the past to collaborate with startups on product development, there are several considerations we advise startups to keep in mind when co-creating:
Ensure that no proprietary or sensitive information is disclosed.
Ensure that the company’s name and client information is kept secure.
Always get agreement from participants in advance of your co-creative session.
As a startup, you may be used to pitching your expertise for the benefit of a corporation. But through co-creation, corporations and startups benefit together from listening, learning and collaborating with one other. The win-win strategy offers an actionable way to partner on solutions toward product and service innovation.