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Climbing the stairway to co-creation



In a previous newsletter, I asked, “isn’t life better when shared?” and launched into a discussion on partnerships, including examples of ways brands were collaborating with their competition.

This time, my question is, how would you like to create something new with your audience, clients, customers, fanbase, or tribe? Again, how you refer to your community is irrelevant – how you connect with them is critical.

As a result of the pandemic, the world has shifted, priorities have changed, and how we relate, create, and build communities must be reexamined. Emerging communities of like-minded people are more digital, social, local, and rooted in shared values. These communities are paving new roads towards a level of co-creation that is more sustainable and engaging for all.

You probably heard me say a million times: “It’s key to align with your consumers’ values.” 

In the context of the emerging global sentiment, the evolution of this concept is: intentionally align with the values of emerging collaborative communities. To do this effectively, brands will need to embrace these networks as potential co-creators of the brand’s product and voice while actively engaging with them to evolve the brand.

Co-creation between brands, artisans, and designers, or between brands and communities, will be how brands either build more positive futures or become more connected to their tribe’s values and needs. As a result, co-creation will help brands stay relevant and resonate with consumers’ in a hyper-competitive and ever-evolving landscape.

In his Ted Talk, brand strategist and musician Osama Malik says,

“co-creation is the art + science of creating something that didn’t exist before by working with somebody else.”

Here are a few good rules to follow and some examples to learn from when you are ready to engage with your tribe and take co-creation to the next level:


Be specific as to what you hope to achieve and how you hope to use co-creation. Having a prepared approach with clear incentives for participants such as first notification or discounts when the product they helped with is about to drop is a must, but don’t over plan so you can leave room for spontaneity to happen. 

Be sure to say ‘YES!’ to contributor’s ideas and ask them to expand on them. Permit unrealistic ideas and NEVER shut them down – it is in this space that some of the best innovations blossom. It doesn’t matter if some of the information gathered is useless; you have shown your customer that you listen to their ideas and dreams.

              Photo: Manual Thinking

The example I like to share here is from my days in Barcelona, when I visited Manual Thinking, a product design studio with dedicated ideation tools and methods to facilitate co-creation. Working with the top creative brands around Europe, the experts at Manual Thinking ask companies to bring everyone on staff but leave their egos at the door. They do this to level the playing field and allow participants to share ideas freely. In co-creation, a strictly no ownership rule leads to outcomes built by the whole team and equally valued among all involved.

**Diversity is essential: the more extensive and diverse the group invited to co-create, the more potential for cross-pollination of ideas. If choosing a team or customers to co-create with, make an effort to look at all of their characteristics and qualities, not just the obvious ones.


People get excited when they see their ideas, big or small, show up in products, services, or messages. This gives participants an incentive to keep contributing their ideas and helps them understand that the brand they contribute to is authentic and values their opinions. 

IKEA is on a non-stop train to grow its co-creation movement globally.  On the Co-Create IKEA digital platform, customers give feedback to help develop new products and learn precisely how and why their feedback is being used. The data collected by IKEA shows up in free Insight reports, adding to a co-creation system that is well documented, constant, and varied enough that it attracts repeat customers in continuous engagement. Learn all about the depth of their dedication to co-creation here.


Not every brand has a dedicated space for consumer engagement, yet client design interactions are the ones that create the most memorable impact. There have been scholarly articles written on Nike’s practice of co-creation. Their increasingly optimized customization and personalization keep clients coming back and spreading the word about their positive experiences.

Brick-and-mortar retail is becoming more and more reliant on co-creation experiences to get people back under their roofs. An indication of how brands and retail spaces can take co-creation to a new level in a physical setting is seen in Siam Discovery’s collaboration with Rip curl entitled Future LAB Vol. 2 – Surf Culture. Going beyond the high-tech interactive product personalization offered, an adjacent Discovery Plaza space has been transformed into the city’s first surfskate academy, offering lessons from certified professionals.


                        Photo: Siam Discovery, Bangkok


The amount of apps that allow users to help brands and creators in their decision-making processes is growing. Keeping up to date with ways to engage your followers adds novelty to your offer. 

                                        Photo: The NewNew

The NewNew “is a decision-making platform that lets you vote to control other people’s lives,” says its founder Courtne Smith. She stresses that the gamified platform will focus on passive followers who amplify creators and the intimate connections between creator and follower when a creator trusts their followers to guide them. Although this is not a classic co-creation example, it does have people hooked, and it sets the stage for emerging expectations, especially those of Gen Z.

I want to leave you with a tweet I shared this past week. No matter what feelings, ideas, or thoughts you have about the future, or these newsletters might inspire you, always remember to stay true to yourself and act from a place of alignment.


In the spirit of co-creation, I would love to hear from you. What would you like to read about? My team and I have been researching topics including Curation – what it means now, The importance of a Growth Mindset and cultivating it, and since it is summer, I am thinking of some lighter concepts such as Joy Dressing. Feel free to suggest a topic here – I’m all ears!


By sharing your email address with me, you’ll get new writing, innovative ideas, fresh links, and prompts to encourage creative thinking from new perspectives straight to your inbox. #NoSpam