What is Co-Creation, and Why is it so Popular?

Post by Joy Smith

Traditionally, the word “entrepreneur” evokes the image of a visionary leader who valiantly leads society towards a previously unimagined brighter future. However, most successful entrepreneurs will tell you that the reality is very different, and the recent development of new models of entrepreneurship are evidence of this. Ideas like platform entrepreneurship and co-creation are rapidly growing in popularity, and there are many reasons why: less risk, more reward, higher engagement, and increased customer value.

While the idea of co-creation seems pretty straightforward, it is actually surprisingly complex. It obviously implies a collaboration between two parties to create something of value. However, using co-creation requires more than just asking people what they want. In fact, it represents a change in the priorities of the company, and the ways in which it interacts and responds to their their customers and stakeholders.

So, what is co-creation anyway? Co-creation is a management initiative that brings many different people together to create a mutually valued offering, whether it be a product, service, campaign, or event. It is the fundamental shift to thinking of products and services as an experience, rather than as a transaction.

It is also a proven success. You can already see multiple examples of co-creation at work:


This multinational corporation used online co-creation to help gather impressions on their brand slogan “Energizing refreshment.” They invited creatives from around the world to submit videos, illustrations, photographs, and animations that they could use to express this slogan in their marketing campaigns around the world.

This resulted in over 2,547 entries in just 12 weeks. This experiment with co-creation didn’t just help them to understand how their audience was interpreting their slogan. It went on to impact Coca-Cola’s corporate culture, how they do things, and how they access new ideas. 


Food giant Kelloggs used co-creation when working with 9-10 year old children in Spain where they learned that milk was actually a barrier for them. The children had negative feelings towards milk because their mothers would force them to drink it and through interactive sessions, came to discover that the kids would use straws to make drinking milk more fun. What resulted was Kellogg’s Cereal Straws. 


Swedish furniture retailer IKEA’s use of co-creation is so ingrained, most people don’t even realize that it is co-creation. But, by having customers take on the assembly process, the retailer benefits from being able to keep prices competitively low, and thus has a high turnover of products, all while passing on the cost savings onto their customers.

Community Support Connections – Meals on Wheels and More

And it’s not just large brands doing it. Local not-for-profit Community Support Connections – Meals on Wheels and More used co-creation when coming up with a new signature fundraising event. Instead of planning an event from scratch and hoping that it would attract an audience, they instead created a competition that solicited ideas from the community at large, and then had them vote on the event that appealed most. Then they invited the community who pitched ideas to help plan the event and bring it to fruition.

The result? TacoFest. Tickets in the first year sold out weeks in advance with people skalping tickets online. The event has gone on to become one of the signature events for the Region, and routinely sells out within minutes.


Here at the Felt Lab, we helped two budding entrepreneurs use co-creation to develop an idea into a full-fledged business. This venture, called POET, or Point of Experience Technology, first came about when founders Matt Neill and Chase Denomme discovered that wineries had a unique customer experience problem. By working with wineries and customers early in the development process, they were able to understand the needs and challenges of both parties, and design a content management system tailored to their needs.

This shift in thinking from “build it and they will come”, to “ask them and build what they want” isn’t as easy as it sounds. It requires a change in the way that entrepreneurs, companies, and customers interact, and requires new tools for gathering and interpreting customer insight. At the Felt Lab we specialize in teaching people how to use co-creation early in the entrepreneurial process, and how to test your product or service at every stage of its development, not on users, but with users, to foster collaboration and accelerate good ideas. If you have an idea that you want to launch into a business, contact us and we will help you get started.

Have your own thoughts on co-creation? I’d love to hear them in your comments below!