Co-Creating with Clients can be an exciting opportunity for both parties- but it can be a nerve wracking experience trying to make everything come together in one session. Here are my Top 5 Lessons Learned to help you get the most out of Co-Creation.
First of all- lets make sure we know what we are talking about when we say ‘Co-Creation’. For me Co-Creation is a planned activity of predetermined length, where two parties come together to rapidly explore, design and build something new. For sure there are different levels of ambition that can be applied, but in every case the methodology should be fairly consistent. Design thinking, and value creating logic are the key words. With that said, let’s jump into my top 5 lessons learned, starting with…
Don’t go it alone!
This might seem like an obvious one, but I have been in situations where the team thought we could handle certain aspects, cover specific topics and build certain features, only to realize far too late that we needed more expertise, support or alignment. If you are leading your first co-creation session, make sure you have proper facilitation skills, and a good understanding of the potential challenges before you get started. In my experience, no one expects you to be able to handle every aspect of a co-creation workshop, so build a team around your project with the necessary capabilities. As a tip, not all subject matter experts need to be co-located for the workshop- I will typically have (for example) a rotating equipment specialist on remote ‘standby’ to answer any questions that pop up during our workshops. Having the right team around you makes all the difference, and allows you to be more creative and relaxed as you co-create!
Apart from a solid understanding of the co-creation methodology, this soft-skill can make the difference between a successful co-creation and a catastrophe. As an engineer, I have a tendency to want to build the 150% solution for the customer, but experience has shown time and time again, that most customers don’t want (or expect) a perfect solution after the first Sprint. As the facilitator of a Co-Creation workshop, your primary objective during the session should be to understand the problem first, and (together with your team) define the specific feature(s) from your Value Proposition that will adequately demonstrate the intent of the solution you are designing in the simplest possible way. No more- no less. If this is clear to both your team, and the client, you are well on your way to managing expectations, and delivering a proof-of-concept that everyone can buy in to.
Plan for an internal working day
This Lesson Learned is from personal experience, and to be honest, I can’t believe it took me so long to figure it out. Co-Creating with a customer is exciting, but it can also be nerve wracking. You can’t always have the necessary discussions with the customer in the room without derailing the conversations. Also, there are many snap-judgement decisions that have to be made on the fly, and considering previous points, you may or may not have the right knowledge in the room, or the right perspective on the problem to arrive at a good decision. The solution? Plan in an internal working day. In a Monday-Friday Co-Creation workshop, we always take Wednesday for ourselves; to decompress, run a retrospective of the first two days, analyse the problem we are attempting to solve as a team, make clear headed decisions, and adjust schedule and activities for the following days. As a side note, this day also gives your developers time to carefully consider which inputs and system architecture makes sense from a business perspective. These working days are quite often the most productive ones, and often lead to new insights and an all-round relaxed feeling when you reunite with your customer the following day.
Participation is Key (in more ways than one)
I thought long and hard about this one- Proper participation from the customer side should sound obvious, but in my experience is one of the most difficult things to get right. Understanding who should be involved from the Client side is not always easy, especially considering that there is not always complete buy-in to this ‘Co-Creation thing’ within the customer organization. For sure, having a range of views and perspectives from the client side is important to properly capture all the relevant needs, but knowing in advance who from the client side is representing those needs, what their standing is within their organization (especially the ‘unspoken’ leaders, movers and shakers) is not always straight forward. Consider your own organization- is it really the Head of Department XYZ that runs the show? Or is there someone else that may not have the title, but does have the proper influence to achieve management buy-in? This is where your Customer Facing organization really becomes your best friend. In many cases, your Account or Client Manager have years of experience with the customer, and can really help guide you in finding the right participants. And remember- it’s not just management perspectives we need in Co-Creation, the most valuable co-creations take the entire customer hierarchy into consideration.
Make it fun!
Make this Lesson Learned number 5 or number 1 on this list (your call) but make sure that your team understands that Co-Creation is something special for us and the customer and needs to be enjoyed! The team does need to maintain focus over the course of the entire workshop in order to manage expectations and arrive at the proper destination- but it is often a stressful, and uphill battle managing all the stakeholders, expectations, change management requirements, etc. Finding creative ways to make your Co-Creation session fun and engaging is a positive ROI activity and a great way to connect on a more personal level with your client. Fun ice-breakers, gamification, competitions, and evening activities are all good ways to liven up the session. You are creating something new and exciting, and hopefully valuable. Enjoy it!