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Why business owners must embrace co-creation to create real value in their business

May 19, 2016

Co-creation is the joining together of people to produce a mutually valued outcome.

In business, it is the cultivation of win-win solutions where efficiency, success, and staff fulfilment march hand in hand. Co-creation brings many benefits to businesses, such as;

  • Team members feel respected and honoured, and they know their contributions make a difference.
  • Job satisfaction and creativity is ignited, there is a positive flow of ideas, and problems get solved in surprisingly simple and practical ways.
  • Staff remain loyal and stay longer because they love what they do.

For the entrepreneur, co-creation can be a challenge, a real anathema. The building of a business demands resolve and determination to push through ideas in the face of disbelief and scepticism.

For business owners who have honed such skills, co-creation may not come naturally. They struggle to let go of being in charge, and risk blocking further evolution of the business. Maybe this is due to a subconscious belief that no one can do the job as well as them – or indeed, a dread that others may do it better.

The advantages of co-creation

Guide to negotiatingIn my experience, it is feasible to run your own business in a completely hands-on manner up to a turnover of £750,000 pa.

In our case, a market research company specialising in healthcare, this required two of us and a couple of dedicated staff. This level of activity produced a good income, but the business itself lacked intrinsic value.

We could never have sold it for a price that would have made us financially independent. For our company to have explicit value, it needed to grow beyond the four of us and thrive of its own accord.

In order to achieve this, we needed to learn how to fully trust others and truly integrate them at every level.

Co-creation must be stimulated from the top; if the owners of the business do not want it to happen, it never will. Personally I get a thrill when someone seizes on an idea, takes it on in their own way, and makes a success of it.

The test for me is at what stage to hand over responsibility. If I delegate too quickly, there is no momentum and things collapse. If I hang on too long I restrain others and stifle their creativity.

Co-creation in action

During the afternoon whilst visiting a trade show, I was beginning to feel weary. I got a nice surprise. The organisers were offering head and shoulder massages. I went for it immediately. It was such a pleasure, and afterwards I felt totally revived for the remainder of the day.

Shortly afterwards, we were considering taking a booth at a trade show in Paris and we wanted to do something different. Inspired by the head and neck massage, I had an idea. We would offer foot massage on our stand, in return for the show attendees, who were clinicians, responding to a survey.

It seemed fair to offer massage in exchange for them answering a few questions and we would be able to sell the results of the survey after the show.

I put the idea to our team. There was a fair degree of laughter and initial hesitation, but we had a general feeling that if we could pull it off, it would work.

We discussed the practicalities, and Mary, our operations manager, wanted to make it happen. She expressed one major concern: she did not feel happy about the attendees having to answer a questionnaire. She preferred that we give the massage without expecting anything in return. Also, she wanted to extend the offer to the other exhibitors.

Learning to let go and trust your team

I struggled with the idea of not making any money out of our offering. There were costs involved: we had to hire a masseuse and provide space on our stand.

I could have insisted that we implement my idea of running a survey, but I resisted. Mary was in charge, and was bristling with ideas. I decided it was time to let go. We went with her suggestions, and I was delighted we did.

The attendees to the show had come from a wide variety of disciplines and it would have been impossible to make meaningful sense of any survey.

The massage attracted huge attention, especially from fellow stand holders. They were over the moon to have their feet revived and many of those who came turned into potential customers. Whilst they were having their massage I was able to engage with them in an entirely relaxed atmosphere and explore their own market research needs.

Having free rein to follow her inspiration, Mary did a fabulous job. We made lots of new positive contacts, and together we had created an outcome far better than I could ever have imagined.

How to stimulate co-creation in your business

Co-creation requires both active listening and intuition. People often express new ideas very tentatively, and it is important not to dismiss them because they appear illogical. This is where intuition comes in.

When we sense someone is seeking to explore something, it is crucial to allow space for him to expand on his thoughts. I have noticed someone may say something that appears inconsequential, but the comment strikes a chord in me. Always I go back and ask for a deeper understanding. I never regret doing this, and it often pays dividends.

Co-creation starts by encouraging everyone to speak out, but this can only happen when people feel they trust one another. We actively cultivate trust when we:

  • Resist judgement and condemnation. Criticising others is a subtle form of attack, and it causes those on the receiving end to close down or counterattack.
  • Are able to live with uncertainty and maintain faith in others when things go wrong. People respond best when they are allowed to sort out their own messes. We need to indicate we are available to help if required, but if we step in and sort it, we disempower them.
  • Let go of all compulsion to obsessively control. As we allow others to take charge, we see their strengths and abilities, and our confidence in them increases.
  • Admit our own vulnerabilities. This is an expression of our trust. It demonstrates our authenticity and opens the door for others to be honest with us.

When co-creation is achieved, there is a genuine buzz. Team members are excited by how their own roles contribute to the overall success of the company, and they have resolve and confidence.

People put themselves forward and commit to getting things done. Decisions are taken relatively easily, problems are solved efficiently, and fresh ideas come, even from those more restrained. There is a positive sense of expectation, and new business ideas emerge quite effortlessly.

About the author

This guide has been written for ByteStart by John Reynard. John is a successful entrepreneur, author of the ‘Spiritual Route to Entrepreneurial Success’ and founder of the School of Spiritual Entrepreneurship. Find out more at SpiritedEntrepreneur.org.

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