The Four Pillars of Co-Creation

With the enormous breadth of choice customers now face, there’s a growing need for organizations to co-create better with their user base. Brad Richards, Head of Innovation at The DO School, walks us through the co-creation method.

Innovating is not easy. Finding the right people to work with can also be challenging, but changing how your team thinks about innovation and finding an aligned purpose is even harder. Yet, at The DO School, we stand by the testaments that the organizations of the future will be the ones that innovate, that co-create with the most relevant stakeholders and lastly, those that have a purpose that resonates with consumers and colleagues alike. Here I want to discuss probably the most unique pillar in our innovation strategy: co-creation.

There is a growing need for organizations to co-create better with their user base, simply because of the breadth of selection the customer now has. Factors like geography, market saturation or even pure marketing power don’t hold as much weight as they used to before technology democratized business overall. If customers know what they want, they can find it and have it delivered to their door. Organizations are realizing this and are acknowledging this. 

Allowing customers to sit at the head of the table with input on an organization’s product development gives them a real sense of value of the brand and an overall better image for the organization.

When people want to approach co-creation, the usual process happens. Talk directly to your customers, find out what they want, and build it for them. Clean, simple, old. This is an extremely linear methodology to an abstract construct of answering the loaded question of “what do you want from us in an organization?” It’s unfair from both sides to expect forward-thinking results from a very basic method. Organizations are setting themselves up for failure by completely outsourcing the ownership to the consumer who in turn feels somewhat overwhelmed by the sheer vagueness of the question. Finding out what needs to be done within an organization is more than just listening to your customers but also telling them what you stand for and exactly how they can be a part of it.

How we approach any co-creation session is explaining that this is multi-tiered, time consuming and overall, a tedious approach. Meaningful work is difficult? Who would have thought! Yet it will yield much more relevant and purposeful results if slightly more effort is put into it. The players involved in our co-creation method are four-fold and in order for TRUE co-creation to work, all players are essential.

The first player is the organization of dedicated individuals. I stress the word “dedicated”. In order for people to resonate with an organization, it needs to be perceived that there is some thought and care put into this topic of interest. Also, the reason the organization is the most important part is the fact that the missions, challenges and results of the co-creation process stem from what this organization ultimately needs.

The second aspect is the co-creators. This is where we define it differently. A co-creation group is a set of people, ranging in age, sex, country of origin and academic/professional background. We then have them work on a specific challenge that the organization puts forward, thus framing the output they require. The challenge can range from building new technologies in the fashion industry to increasing employee involvement in the customer journey. The point here remains simple: showcase a problem that people can relate to and allow them to discover solutions.

The third aspect that we bring in is expertise. We feel it is essential to get external experts with complementary input to give perspective on the challenge from multiple angles. Not only do we bring in specific industry expertise that are directly related to the challenge, but we also find it beneficial to bring in what we call, lateral experts. People with extensive insight in the field that may not be directly challenge related but offer a complimentary perspective. An example would be if we’re looking into how people interact with each other and communicate, maybe a biologist who studies how animals interact on a genetic level. 

The most important aspect is simply recognizing that external industry expertise are essential in order for organizational bias not to cloud the results of the co-creation process.

The last pillar is of course effective facilitation. With our team of experts in facilitating this process, utilizing the DO School method of Dream, Focus, Plan, Do, we help push our co-creators to ideate, conceptualize and execute around the challenge for our partner.

Our approach to co-creation is done in a way that is open without a construct. In doing this, we allow people to be free to think, yet aligned at all times with the organizational goals. At the end of a co-creation process, it gives the organization numerous benefits such as output around a relevant topic, a larger network of brand aligned people and a new brand identity with a unique approach to their customer base. Doing something different and new is the only way organizations can move forward. Co-creation is not the only answer to all of the problems, but listening to the people that matter most to your organization, definitely can’t hurt.



Originally from Toronto, Canada, Brad studied Economics and Marketing at the University of Guelph. After graduating with honours in 2011, he moved to Portugal and began his career in mobile product management. Three years later he was living in Berlin, overseeing the mobile department of Polaroid Originals and then MAGIX’s mobile music platform.

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