Co-creation sounds positive, empowering, and innovative, and for some reason the word kind of feels right. We’re starting to hear about it here and there; from festivals and events to corporate customer engagement processes. But what is co-creation actually if we analyze it and break it down to its basic principles?
“Well, I do think there’s a good framework for thinking. It is physics. You know, the sort of first principles reasoning. Generally, I think there are — what I mean by that is, boil things down to their fundamental truths and reason up from there.”
Well, in order to define co-creation we must first define creation. And in order to define creation, it’s helpful first to describe what it’s not. Creation is not stressing through a tasklist that either you or someone else wrote, focusing on getting one thing done after another. Creation is not repeating something that I have done 100 times before on autopilot, barely paying attention to what I’m doing. Creation is not forcing myself to do things that I don’t want to do nor trying to be someone that I naturally am not.
Creation is when I come alive, daring to be myself while participating in what’s in front of me. Creation is when I bring my best qualities and skills, that superpower that we all have, to contribute to something more than just myself. Creation is when I feel that fear of being too much or too different or not fitting in, but still allow myself to act in flow and trust my instinct to talk, move or express my chosen craft to let something new come alive. If I am painting, I’m very aware of how the colors are set on the canvas in real time. If I am pitching an idea, I’m aware of who I am speaking to and responding to his or her signals, questions, and input.
Creation is not only for the so-called “creative class”. It’s a universal principle, a state of being, that we can all access whether we are writing, painting, coding, building a house, taking care of children, or doing administration. Creation is not even limited to living entities, a company, government, or country can even be in creation - which we have seen proof of many many times during history.
So what about co-creation? Well, that’s just when two or more entities are in creation of something together. It can be two people in a team, two teams in a company, or two companies in a partnership. It’s any context where the individual goals and common goals of multiple entities align. In other words, where what I want and what you want can both be achieved by doing something together. When I am not pitching you to influence you into a specific outcome, but we are having a discussion exploring an idea or an opportunity to find an outcome that is mutually beneficial.
Co-creation is when my goals, your goals, and our goals align. When we are smarter together than separately. Where we can reach more of our individual potential by creating together. And most significantly, where we are both in a state of creation together. This is the hard part.