A culture of co-creation and internal collaboration. Why innovation is a process rather than a set of initiatives.

José Luis Rodríguez

30 October 2017

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Co-creation to generate new shopping experiences


A people centred organisation is one in which, in addition to understanding the interests and behaviours of its potential audience base, is capable of offering its clients satisfying and exciting experiences throughout the whole purchasing process.

Many organisations already know that in order to achieve this objective, it is not sufficient to simply throw out a few surprises at checkout, or send impacting messages through social networks, however novel the format. Rather, it is essential that we incorporate consumers into the key processes within our organisation in order to create a culture of constant innovation.

With this same intention, some brands spend years allowing their fans to participate in their conception and development “pipeline”, whether by asking for their suggestions, allowing consumers to personalise the purchase at point of sale, directly, or by proposing and helping design new products for launch. We can see examples of this approach taken by brands like Dell, Nike and Lego.


Internal collaboration: from knowledge management to innovation


Despite the success stories, experience has taught us that, sooner or later, the majority of collective co-generation initiatives fail. The reason for this is that a lot of these initiatives are planned and built on the margins of the company’s own internal ecosystem. They are simple, tactical strategies with no thought given to continuity or any real intention of altering the way in which the organisation functions.

In other words, they neither involve their “first clients”, as in their employees and collaborators, nor modify their habits, protocol or values in order to build a culture of disruption.

Innovation is a long distance race. It is not a tool that makes ideas suddenly appear from nowhere or a type of decree-law capable of converting, almost miraculously, all of our collaborators into geniuses. It is, first and foremost, a way to understand the management of knowledge, a form of leadership and the management of people based on trust. It is a learning process based on learning.

Traditionally, the barriers to collaboration found within our organizations are due to the absence of a clear proposition, lack of methodology and innovation-orientated profiles with a low perception of priority – as if innovation was merely a voluntary and additional complement to work – and exaggerated expectations on the shift platform.


We start by asking ourselves why we want to do it


In order to develop sustainable processes of concept and internal co-creation over time, it is firstly essential to have a sincere vocation for change. It is not sufficient to simply raise a number of specific problems. A culture of innovation is, above all, a way of understanding the organization that directly affects our decision making and the distribution of work. This, without doubt, goes beyond what many companies will be willing to take on.

In general, the aim is to develop a, more or less, broad environment of collaboration within the company, physically and technologically, that permits the generation and distribution of knowledge in an agile and effective way.

Equally, it consists of implementing a combination of strategies, dynamics and and actions orientated to encourage the participation of involuntary agents and facilitate knowledge transfer between them.

Also, it seeks to model working behaviours based on transparency and mutual help, sculpted by personal example, that will help any member of the organisation feel capable of contributing value. We are not only talking about high management. The person who waters the plants of the whole building or the risk analyst who makes coffee for the sales team can harbour more knowledge and exercise more social influence, depending to the circumstances, than the general director of the company.

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Ideas are knowledge and knowledge is experiences


The process of collective conception is only part of a broader mechanism for the transformation of data into information and this into knowledge. It is complicated to innovate a group when the problems, tools and actors are not connected to each.

Therefore, in order for data to be useful, it must be collected properly and made available to as many intelligences as possible. Typically, these address specialised profiles. In a cooperative culture, anyone can exercise this analyst role: it is a question of motivation, reach of the challenge, accessibility, opportunity and resource availability.

The problem arises when the knowledge we want to combine to create new ideas, far from being a homogeneous good and easy to store, is basically the result of different personal experiences where the data and information from which they are derived, even if identical, generates different experiences.

An example. Our company has five thousand more clients this month. Someone minimally informed of the company will tell us if that figure is good or bad with respect to the results of the same period last year or in relation to our objectives. However, when we think of converting this data and information into an actionable knowledge, surely we will find ourselves with different versions for the best possible solution. When looking for new proposals, the sales team will say that new service protocols must be created, the Marketing team will say that the company’s value proposition must be redefined and the Human Resources team will consider that different talents must be incorporated into the workforce.

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The platform is not important. The key is gathering suitable talent.


The greatest tool for innovation and competitiveness is tacit knowledge, that which is in the person and not saved in any document. In return, it is more difficult to manage.

For this reason, leading organizations are committed to creating spaces of socialization that, in addition to working with trust between people, allow them to exchange their experiences, their most intimate visions of the environment around them.

Whether in a beautiful office without walls or an internal social network, they try to get the debt manager to share their problem with the systems technician and the creative junior to help the account manager design a commercially powerful infographic.

IKEA, for example, promotes the Fika moment among its different collaborator profiles, as in, the opportunity to share spontaneous conversations with the excuse of coffee. The videogame company Valve also insists that its members rotate between tables, leave chats and virtual messaging and mix with the most disparate co-workers to circulate their knowledge. Who said digital had to be a technology?

The co-creation, in these companies is a social rite. It is the opportunity to discover who knows how to do what and be useful when the job description and departmental organization do not allow you to look any further.