29. January 2021

The secret of co-creating the new

Original Study: Sharma & Bansal (2020): «Cocreating rigorous and relevant knowledge» In: Academy of Management Journal, Vol. 63 (2), pp. 386-410.

The study in one sentence

This study shows how co-creation among different experts unfolds and what it harms.

Interesting for people who…

… want to understand how co-creation with people of different backgrounds can be best supported.

What to remember

The study reveals what we experience every day: To create – not only exchange – knowledge, together across experts of different disciplines, is difficult and happens rarely. It hardly unfolds during a single event, such as a workshop or conference, but rather between events. Thus, co-creation unfolds best in a process with a clear goal, beginning and end, entailing a series of consecutive events. In the study, case scientists and managers co-created best when two experiences took place: 1) insights were presented as incomplete and others were invited with questions to explore the completion together. Through that, others saw how they could contribute to the subject in focus. Co-creation moments were turned off when defending one’s own views and not listening to others’ views. And 2) the overall storyline of the process – the connection of past, present and future – was always outlined explicitly, helping the parties to see the project in its entirety and how the co-created meaning was unfolding in a step-by-step way. To recognize how co-creation unfolds over the long run helped to prevent experts from dropping off, even though some meetings did not entail co-creative moments.

The most insightful sentence

«Failure to co-create was reflected by inflexible opinions and failure to listen.»

The most provocative sentence

«However, co-creation moments were rare and most events did not contain any.»

Consequences for managerial practice

This study reveals that there is still huge potential when it comes to enabling co-creation moments, particularly in strategic project meetings involving different disciplines, functions or hierarchies. The design of such events should overcome a debate format and foster the need to present work as incompleted collectively, raising questions and allowing dialogue and listening to each others’ ideas. For co-creation, all that happens before and after meetings becomes key. Particularly the follow-up of meetings should focus on showing explicitly how ideas from past dialogues informed present and future activities. Overall, it becomes clear that project leaders should shift away from single meeting planning to enable a co-creation process across the lifecycle of the entire project, via a series of meetings that build upon each other.

Food for forward thinking…

How do we make co-creation among different experts the new normal - not the exception? How can we overcome the dominant exchange-debate-fight-and-defend mode in firms and in public? Have you experienced true co-creation moments? What were the results? How did it feel? What was present and helped? Please share with us your thoughts below!

Dr. Eva Bilhuber
Dr. Eva Bilhuber
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