What is co-creation?

What is common with Netflix and a space rocket?

Netflix has transformed the way we consume entertainment. It did this by co-creating its business model together with its customers. Moreover, Netflix utilizes the best developers in the world through crowdsourcing in order to co-create its high-performance recommendation system.

Similarly, the first space rocket was a massive cross-disciplinary and cross-sector co-creation effort. It required collaboration between governments, companies, cross-disciplinary academia, investors, and civil society.

The term ‘co-creation’ was first coined by Prof. C.K Prahalad in his article Co-opting Customer Competence in 2000. Since then, major tech firms like Google, GE or Netflix have adopted co-creation as a method to include customers in their innovation processes and value chains.

Faster product development and added value, among other reasons, make companies choose co-creation. Essentially, co-creation is a joint development activity that leads to shared value creation.

​However, co-creation is not limited to industry-customer relationships. A more recent interpretation of co-creation discusses the quadruple helix model. This model is emphasizing interactions between four stakeholders: academia, industry, public sector, and civil society.

The prominent economist Mariana Mazzucato stresses the necessity of multi-stakeholder collaboration in solving the so-called wicked problems. These problems are complex, interdependent, and interlinked. For instance, the health and wellbeing of the rapidly aging population is such a complex problem which requires cross-sector collaboration and a mission-oriented approach.

Co-creation is a global best practice in tech firms, consultancies and in macro-level collaboration. However, in health and wellbeing, co-creation is still waiting for its heyday. Co-creation has enormous potentiality in health and wellbeing because it is a data-rich and customer-oriented field that deals with interlinked, interdependent, and complex problems. For example, solving the ageing population problem requires the joint effort of policy-makers, different professionals from doctors to economists and city planners to customers, and end-users. In this equation, citizens are the key actors, as their choices have the capacity to promote good life and wellbeing.

 

What is open innovation?

Individuals’ abilities and expertise tend to have their limitations. Just as one tiny ant cannot build a massive ant nest alone, we cannot conduct comprehensive research and innovation without collaboration.

Open innovation is about removing obstacles and building bridges. It is about dialog, access, and transparency.

According to Pralahad, the originator of the term ‘co-creation’, there are four criteria for successful co-creation: dialogue, access, transparency, and risk-benefit sharing. The three former criteria are paving the way for ‘open innovation’, another term, coined by Henry Chesbrough in 2003. Essentially, just like co-creation, open innovation promotes inter-firm and multi-stakeholder collaboration and makes innovation processes more time and cost-effective and information-rich.

Open innovation is defined as: “(…) combining internal and external ideas as well as internal and external paths to market in order to advance the development of new technologies" (OpenInnovation.eu). Just like in co-creation, open innovation can be firm-to-firm, academia-to-firm, public-to-private, or firm-to-end-user collaboration. In open innovation ecosystems, innovation includes all four quadruple helix stakeholders. Moreover, co-creation happens in all stages of innovation from challenge definition and ideation to conceptualization and experimentation, pre-launch, launch and post-launch development of the product and the mainstreaming of the solution.

Open innovation 2.0 takes innovation far beyond the scope of what any single organization or person could do alone. It is a shift to multilateral co-innovation, which means active inclusion of all quadruple helix actors, namely; industries, academia, public sector, and civil society. Digital platforms are enabling the formation of open innovation ecosystems and they are very effective at reinforcing collaboration and accelerating the dissemination of knowledge.

 

What is open science?

Open science’s mission is to make research more democratic, transparent and open. The rise of the information age and social media has revealed a new, accelerated need for objective and evidence-based information. The fake news phenomenon illustrates this need. Open science has a strong potential to fix this alarming trend through open and shared data and open access to research publications.

A European open science project FOSTER defines open science as: “(…) the movement to make scientific research, data, and dissemination accessible to all levels of an inquiring society."

Open science requires will, technical platforms, far-reaching policy decisions, and inspiring examples to lead the way. The Association of European Research Libraries and The European Open Science Policy Platform recommend the so-called FAIR data principles. FAIR is an acronym for: findable, accessible, interoperable and re-usable. The European Commission, as well as the G20 countries, endorse the FAIR data and open science principles.

Citizen Science is another important element of Open Science. Broadly defined, Citizen Science is scientific work undertaken by members of the general public, often in collaboration with or under the direction of professional scientists and scientific institutions.

In particular, data-intensive fields like health and wellbeing can benefit greatly from the combination of co-creation, open science, FAIR data, and citizen science. The digital age is providing endless opportunities for open science and health and wellbeing, starting from the collection of data, monitoring health sensors or activity trackers to diet tracking applications. All these devices, together with citizens as observers, gather massive quantities of data and information that is used in preventing illnesses and promoting wellbeing in life.

 

What are Living Labs?

Co-creation and open innovation do not happen without orchestration and the right ecosystems.

The European Network of Living Labs (ENoLL) define Living Labs as: “user-centered, open innovation ecosystems based on a systematic user co-creation approach, integrating research and innovation processes in real-life communities and settings”. 

Living Labs have multiple purposes. Firstly, they help in testing, experimenting and validating products and services in real-life environments. This allows rapid prototyping and scaling up. Secondly, they work as laboratories for observing open innovation and co-creation. As such, LLs help us to learn more about co-creation and develop better innovation processes. Thirdly, LLs mediate between different stakeholders and enable active inclusion, collaboration, and communication.

 

Why orchestrate co-creation?

Orchestras consist of several professional musicians such as cellists, violinists, and tubists. Despite all the individual skills in the orchestra, the music would be a cacophony without a conductor. In the very same way, co-creation and open innovation require conducting, or ‘orchestrating’ as we call it.

Top-down management belongs to the past; the modern approach is bottom-up. Orchestrating is not managing. Rather, it is curating, interpreting, facilitating, mediating, and building bridges between stakeholders. When there are multiple actors involved in co-creation, we speak about the Circles of Mediators, which involves several cross-sectoral mediators that represent different organizations: firms, universities, civil society or the public sector.

Effective orchestrating requires certain skills. As the orchestrator is a person who works as the interface of various stakeholders, she or he needs skills that can enhance inclusiveness, balance, and communication between the actors. Because co-creation is a process, the orchestrator needs to be able to build and maintain relationships, networks, and ecosystems, as well as to execute multi-stakeholder innovation.

Co-creation orchestration is just as much about individual skills as it is about the right time and physical or virtual space. We call these spaces ‘ecosystems’. A Living Lab is an example of an open co-creation and innovation ecosystem. Another powerful tool for orchestrating co-creation is an Open Innovation Camp (OIC). Unlike Living Labs, an OIC is temporary. An OIC can be a two- to five-day camp, where cross-sectoral and cross-disciplinary professionals meet up and innovate solutions and business models. The key to a successful OIC is a skilled orchestrator that can listen, understand and interpret, and, based on this, facilitate the innovation process.