Co-Design in Innovation

With the increased complexity of products, services and the experience economy, corporations have shifted from product-thinking to systems-thinking and while designers have traditionally been viewed as secluded geniuses, successful firms now rely on comprehensive design. Using cross-disciplinary and multicultural teams, collaborating and creating value with all stakeholders is key. Could opening up the design process for users to co-design offerings be a way to quickly and more predictably create value?

The core of any design strategy is profitability, aligning the firms’ capabilities with user needs to create and capture value and, for the past decade, incremental innovation and user-centered design has been a successful approach. Observing, interviewing, shadowing and living as users have helped identify existing needs, clarify needs and realize new needs. However, user-centered design falls short when firms introduce breakthrough innovations by improving, importing or developing new technology. As Henry Ford once said: “If I had asked the people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.”

Co-design from business to product design solutions is seen as a potential new avenue for breakthrough innovation in design. Co-design is when firms and non-design users jointly design offerings. Examples range from surgical tools and sport equipment to Lego elements and software.

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