Currently reading: Aalto Leaders' Insight: Co-creation – Platform for Innovation - in a Search for Marginal Improvements or Radical Innovations

Co-creation – Platform for Innovation - in a Search for Marginal Improvements or Radical Innovations

The pressure on organizations to come up with new innovative business models and opportunities is stronger than ever. Megatrends and the pandemic affect companies worldwide, and marginal improvements are not enough to tackle them. But where do great ideas for future innovation come from, and how to create a culture of innovation?

Minna Wickholm, 30.10.2020



Is it the end result of a relaxing day sitting on a peer in the sunshine with a blank mind? Or of a walk in a green forest with all senses open for grasping a breath of fresh air? Or maybe the result of hard work in a co-creation space with other brilliant minds? I believe all of this is needed, spiced with loads of curiosity, persistent testing, and piloting. And let’s not forget openness to mistakes and failures.

Here are some ideas for where to start to find fuel for your organization’s transformation:

  • Start with mapping your ecosystem aligned to support the customer’s mission, vision, and strategy
  • Catalyze your staff to explore high-growth, scalable, and innovative solutions to real problems
  • Recognize opportunities around you and go back to your stakeholder map for collaboration options  
  • Enable sharing and out-of-the-box thinking by breaking organizational silos
  • Empower open collaboration, networking, and learning
  • Equip employees with proven tools, methodologies, and practices to explore new innovative opportunities that can turn into highly scalable businesses
  • Nourish employees with an ambitious mindset and entrepreneurial curiosity
  • Facilitate a highly engaging and inspirational learning experience
  • Lastly, take a look outside your organization

A systematic approach and guided process are the keys

In my experience, you need a systematic, guided process that supports the exploration process. By working systematically, the idea is investigated from different perspectives and with various lenses. Inviting persons with diverse backgrounds and knowhow from the value chain to co-create helps explore the potential of an idea, and more importantly, generate ideas that are different and novel.

I would start the work by taking a deep dive into your partner ecosystem, tapping into your value chain, and screening your stakeholders. Turning your viewpoint from inside-out to outside-in opens a totally different world. It is so easy to start from within and to spend months working with internal stakeholders, but with the same effort, you could get totally different insights by starting from the outside.

Control vs. risks vs. trust - impartial facilitator to build a bridge

This open approach quite quickly brings out questions of control, risks, and trust. We are used to keeping all control in our own hands, but by investing in partnering and co-creation, you need to be prepared to evaluate your company’s standpoint on control vs. risks and how to manage the risks involved. The foundation for successful collaboration is trust between team members and individuals working together. For building trust, you should openly discuss the pain points and look for an impartial facilitator to build a bridge.

A guided process by an impartial facilitator forces you to test and iterate, run many experiments, and test your hypothesis step by step."

A guided process by an impartial facilitator forces you to test and iterate, run many experiments, and test your hypothesis step by step. When running this kind of process for them, our customers at Aalto EE have been amazed at our ability to tap into their daily problems and help them genuinely accelerate innovation. As the most rewarding proof of our success, our customers have spent more time with us giving genuine and open feedback than ever before.

Eventually, success or failure in co-creation with stakeholders comes down to organizational culture and leadership models. Company culture is the single most difficult challenge to tackle for any organization in the midst of a transformation process, and it requires patience and straightforward steps. Support and commitment from the top management is the key during the whole journey; showing interest and being involved are maybe the hidden assets in the search for the next big thing of your organization.

Minna Wickholm is Director of Open Enrollment Programs at Aalto EE. The Aalto ENT Co-creation Platform offers a unique immersive co-creation experience that empowers participants to live entrepreneurship and innovation, take an entrepreneurial mindset back to their organization, fuel the organization’s transformation, and learn how best to cooperate and partner with startups. Learn more

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