Leadership as Co-Creation

By Susan Wright, TCP President

Co-creation has become a buzz word in business in the last while, a term that gets thrown around in all kinds of contexts.  For many, it seems like a valuable concept but one that is not terribly useful from a practical point of view.  What does it actually mean to co-create?  Are we really to give everybody a say in decisions?  Let customers and employees set the agenda?

Well, in a word, yes!  Many writers have tackled this issue of co-creation, one of the most recent being C.K. Prahalad, arguably the strategic guru of our day.  His book, written with M.S. Krishnan, is called The New Age of Innovation: Driving Co-created Value Through Global Networks.  He advises that business needs to transform, not just strategically but in process and people too.  His two core principles for this transformation are:

1) the centrality of the individual – how to co-create unique value for each employee and customer, and

2) the access to (not ownership of) global resources – mediated by information and communications technology (ICT).

What Prahalad envisions is nothing less than changing the ‘dominant logic’ of business, the whole way we think about organizations and how they operate.  So what has Leader Coaching got to do with transforming the dominant logic to one of co-creation?

In many ways, it’s a natural fit.  Leader coaches begin by co-creating meaningful relationships with those around them, including employees, peer colleagues and customers, understanding each individual’s unique needs and contributions, working with them to ensure their full creativity and potential are incorporated.  They do this through the Leader Coach® communications process.

Similarly, one of the most successful applications of Leader Coach® co-creation has been in sales organizations where using the Leader Coach® process has resulted in more effective customer relationships and customer service based on a fuller understanding of distinctive customer needs and expectations.

Beyond the individual, Leader Coaches work to co-create teams, again appealing to the unique needs and aspirations of each member and blending them into the best overall performance.  As these teams develop, a Leader Coach® culture emerges which is holographic – each individual within each team within the organization, all individuals and all part of the whole of which they are part.

Co-creation is also one of the four alchemic principles of Leader Coaches – it is the initiating ‘dominant logic’ of both/and leadership.  It is where Leadership Alchemy begins, with each unique voice becoming part of the chorus, whether at the individual level, the team, the organization or beyond to include customers, suppliers and other stakeholders.

Co-creative opportunities abound in both work and life.  As Prahalad points out, information and communications technology (ICT) is the transformative vehicle that makes possible both a global reach and a personal touch.  Leader coaches increasingly work across the globe with dispersed multi-functional teams to co-create innovative solutions to business issues.  New video capabilities have made face-to-face interaction a reality anywhere in the world.  Social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn co-create thousands of new connections each day.  Wikipedia has co-created an incredible dictionary database of available information, to name a few examples.  And there is much more to come.

So what’s next?  I invite you to think about one innovative way in which you might add value to your team and organization through a co-creative process.  What is one co-action you might take as a Leader Coach® to drive value?