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Digital Application Development
3 minute read

Designing With People: The Benefits of Co-Creation

There's a difference between designing for people and designing with people. It may seem like a small difference but it's a large shift in thinking and approach. Designing with people, referred to as co-creation, brings users into the design development process.

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Think of the last time someone made dinner for you. Maybe they know how much you love gluten-free pasta but didn't stop to get your input on how great zoodles are. Imagine how much more you would have enjoyed your meals if the chef had gone for zucchini instead of brown rice.

This methodology can be applied to create any product, process, experience or service. In our world, those outputs may be small (what do users need in an app?) or large (what could the future of grocery shopping look like?). The people impacted may include prospective customers, suppliers, industry influencers or internal stakeholders.

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3 components of co-creation

Regardless of the problem or audience, the end goal is to identify a solution that creates a better experience, with an ROI for the organization. Co-creation efforts are consistently shown to be good for financial performance. In a recent study, 51 percent of businesses said co-creation improves financials by saving on research and development, marketing costs and an increase in customer retention/attraction.

Driving these sorts of outcomes is built on the belief that everyone can be creative, which is a large barrier for many organizations. It's a facilitator's job to engage and empower people to unlock their creative ideas, but that's also not as simple as it sounds. A good facilitator will encourage this thinking within a co-creation session that relies on three core components.

Empathy

In this case, empathy means thinking about the challenge from the perspective of others. What pressures are they facing? What are their needs and friction points? In co-creation, empathy isn't just a personality trait, it can be achieved through a variety of research methodologies — from one-on-one interviews, small group discussions or ethnographic observation.

Divergent thinking

The facilitator can use techniques like mind mapping to shift the boundaries on how people think about an experience or problem. It's about generating multiple creative ideas, creating unexpected combinations and drawing new connections.

Prototyping

The creation of prototyping and visualizations is about feedback. A visual representation of a potential solution allows for further exploration of its real-world appeal and functionality. Some ideas seem great in theory but don't translate well into real-world application. A proper co-creation facilitation will not only spur innovation but reality test it in an approachable way.

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Implement co-creation

While co-creation is not a new concept, tech disruption is forcing companies to innovate in all areas of their business at a faster rate. If your innovation process is built on an empathic understanding of the humans involved, encourages divergent thinking from a range of voices to generate unexpected ideas and leverages prototyping to test real-world application, you're more likely to push innovation further, even faster.

Leave a comment below with your experience with co-creation, or reach out to us directly with any questions on how to get started.