In recent years, the concept of co-creation has captured the imagination of product teams across multiple industries. Our understanding of co-creation is changing as co-creation becomes a crucial way for businesses to adopt a product mindset.

Traditional Co-Creation

Traditionally, co-creation has usually meant involving customers in product design. LEGO famously relies on a co-creation platform to crowdsource ideas for its latest products. According to LEGO, in its first 10 years of existence, the platform resulted in more than 26,000 ideas for new LEGO products. LEGO is not the only company that has succeeded with co-creation: BMW, DHL, and others have done the same.

How Co-Creation Has Changed

Co-creation is now more than a way to involve customers in developing consumer-facing products. Co-creation is also about involving every player in your corporate ecosystem – your supply chain partners, resellers, employees, retail partners (if you have them), and yes, your customers.

For example, the Apple Watch is rapidly becoming a leading product for people to manage their wellness. The Apple Watch includes features such as heart rate monitoring and fitness tracking for consumers. Healthcare institutions are working with Apple to use the watch for clinical work, an example being Johns Hopkins, where physicians provide epilepsy patients with Apple Watches to track their seizures, possible triggers, medications, and side effects. Corporations and insurance companies are working with Apple to make the Apple Watch a de facto choice for employee wellness, as a way to offset skyrocketing costs of healthcare.

To ensure that the Apple Watch reaches its full potential, Apple collaborates with an entire ecosystem to develop features: customers, physicians, and many other stakeholders. Apple has to do so. Lives are literally at stake. The Apple Watch must work flawlessly, and moreover physicians and Apple Watch owners need to trust the device.

Co-Creation and the Product Mindset

Apple is but one example of a business that is expanding our understanding of co-creation. Why is the nature of co-creation changing? The answer lies in the advent of the product mindset.

Google the phrase “product mindset,” and you’ll see that the concept has taken hold as a way to develop lovable products. With a product mindset, a company views everything it does as a product that requires continuous evolution. By contrast, a “project mindset” means launching a product and moving on to the next.

Adopting a product mindset means recognizing that there is no “done date” with a product. For example, Apple’s iOS (which fuels the Apple Watch) is never done. Apple continuously updates the iOS (and asks you to do the same via those iOS updates you receive on your Apple devices). Netflix updates its features on the fly, relying on the power of the cloud to making Netflix an always-on, constantly evolving product. Tesla does the same with its automobiles. There is no “launch and move on” mentality at these companies.

These examples have something in common: they were born in the digital age. And that’s no coincidence. Digital is pervasive. It fuels customer experiences ranging from a Gen Z consumer listening to music to a warehouse employee ordering a replacement part. And digital is always on. People expect their digitally enabled services to work flawlessly 24/7, whether you’re a physician or a forklift driver. To ensure that digital experiences are lovable, product teams have to constantly update them. Here again, think about trust: for products to be lovable in the digital age, people must believe they can trust the product to meet their needs – at 3:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m. That’s a tall order.

Adopting a product mindset, though, isn’t easy. A business needs to reorient how it operates across its people, process, and platforms. Your people need to learn how to discover, design, and scale products with the customer at the center. Your product teams need to collaborate in an agile fashion rather than rely on traditional waterfall approaches, where ideas are passed on from one department to the next. Your tools need to change. Word documents, emails, and change requests are out. Collaboration tools, prototypes, backlogs, and ongoing prioritization are in. This graphic gives you a sense of the magnitude of change required:

Co-creation helps you adopt and deliver on a product mindset. That’s because co-creation, as it has evolved, is a far-reaching way to develop a product.

With co-creation, businesses involve all their stakeholders – customers, product development partners, and key players across the ecosystem — in every step of the product lifecycle. Through processes such as design sprints, a business develops a concept for a product that meets a customer need and pressure tests the concept against feedback from real customers. The business does the same with, say, outside development partners, suppliers, and retailers needed to create and launch the product. Ideas that show promise are developed into prototypes that we call Minimum Lovable Products, or the product that generates the maximum amount of customer love within the constraints of a business.

With co-creation, “suppliers” and “vendors” become real partners who work inside your business. The result is a lovable product that meets the needs of everyone involved in its use, with the customer at the center.

Get Started Now

Co-creation does not happen by magic. As noted above, tools such as design sprints can help you. But a design sprint in and of itself is not the answer. You also need a process for continuously developing, launching, and improving a product. Moonshot, for instance, has developed a process known as FUEL. With FUEL, businesses use design thinking to co-create product design prototypes and lean innovation to develop fully realized products that the business then continuously iterates.

With FUEL, a business relies on design thinking to learn to base all product and experience decisions on what matters most by gaining empathy and by understanding the emotions that drive how people make decisions. Then with Lean Innovation, the business embeds customer-centric velocity into product delivery by adopting agile and lean ways of working.

For more insight, contact Moonshot. We know how to help businesses adopt a product mindset – and embed co-creation as part of that process.

Mike Edmonds

Mike Edmonds

Managing Director, VP Product