Written by Elizabeth Lembke, a Fairlead collaborator. This is a great write-up of our journey in bringing other HR leaders into the Co-creator space. Many insights and lessons learned. Also lots of discoveries of how this is indeed an invaluable attitude and skillset for HR in being more in the front of leading organizational transformation. As two people-passionate organizational development femmes, Elizabeth Lembke and Anne-Cécile Graber, we set out on a journey to create a framework and a corresponding practical implementation to foster the spirit of co-creation within and across organizations. The end-game goal being empowered teaming to generate adaptive solutions that are not just quick patch-up’s but rather address users’s real needs. We joined together as it is our belief that the inherent potential of people in organizations is not being tapped into as broadly as possible but, rather unfortunately, many are increasingly taking a reductionistic approach to only looking at skills rather than social competence, expertise, learning agility, and technical prowess. These human aspects are key to thriving not only surviving in the new world of work. We saw this as our chance to offer up a different solution. This is why we launched the co-creator.space project. The co-creator.space project is now almost a year old and we learned many things when it comes to co-creation and launching a different approach into the world. As the year comes to a close, we took some time to reflect on some of those key learnings — perhaps by sharing these, we may help you on your own co-creation journey.
# Be aware of the wolf
In 2019, we met up with a lot of people who were interested in the co-creator.space and the energy we invested in it. Some of them absolutely passionate about wanting to work with us. Some of these folks, like the veritable Mandy Chooi, were amazing and the spices they added to the co-creation stew, made it better. Others, on the other hand, seemed nice, curious and ready to co-create until they were … oddly not. Luckily, we realized sooner rather than later that they were not looking for a balanced give and take relationship but rather wanting to grab at our “laurels” and hope we wouldn’t notice. In short “give us your IP, we will package it under our brand, and here are the tight contractual hand-cuffs in which you can continue to work.” They were ready to “take for free and give with conditions”. Ah, no thanks.
Lessons Learned: make sure that the spirit of win-win is shared and do not hesitate to step away from a win-lose transactional offering.
# You are more competent than you think
Many of us were raised with the idea that if you do not have 150% of the qualifications, you are not credible or qualified to do “it”. There is an aspiration for perfection and a personal judgement that we are not good enough. Stories in our head say: “We need a new certification, a new book or an add-on to be seen as competent” etcetera. This year of co-creation taught us that we are competent beyond our wildest dreams. We just never had digested the advice to look at our strengths and say “hell yeah, I can do it”. The adage: Just try, learn and integrate. Breathe in. Breathe out. If you do not try, you cannot know.
Lessons Learned: you will never be 100% ready. Instead of just sticking your toes in the water, jump in. Only then will you see how wet you really are.
# People who pay, tend to value the things you give more
We organized many online and offline events to present co-creation and let people experience it via action learning. Most of these events were not attended as “planned”. People registered to the events and never showed up. During discussions with other event organizers, we learned that this is quite common and actually increasingly normal. Which has led to organizers starting to have participants pay a fixed registration fee. They found — as have we — that the “show up level” increased as well as the quality and quantity of the interactions. They also told us that folks — ironically — tend to be more suspicious of one’s intention to sell if you offer something for free. Our take is that people invest themselves more when they pay for an event. They also think “if I pay for it I better go and participate”. When an event is free, often times there is a mental out: “if it is free, my attendance isn’t being planned on. So no one will notice if I don’t go. If they do, well…”
Lessons Learned: the events are meaningful — and a contribution can support the sense of co-accountability for the results. The amount does not have to be much — but for us it made a world of difference in the stance of “produce — do not only consume” when taking part in an event.
# You develop competences and skills outside work
We had many insights into the future of work and met people who have extraordinary after-work activities. As we spoke about their future in an ever changing world. The word fear came across many times. What would I do if my job disappears ? I only learned to be a X in school? I have had so many different types of jobs …The disconnect that we saw between their competencies developed outside work and their fear to not be able to face future endeavors surprised us. They already gained new abilities outside of work but they did not actualize it because it was during their free and fun time. It is important to recognize that we learn best while having fun and that competency development is not restricted to work. In fact, they are extremely transferable.
Lessons Learned: foster appreciation and awareness in abilities and talents beyond what is written in a job description or on LinkedIn. Collaboration, problem solving, social competence and teaming with dissimilar folks are key to success in the future — the proof is in the pudding.
# It is always a question of perspective
Whatever happens in your life, there are always many ways to look at it. You can decide to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and look at your situation from their perspective. You will never have access to all the information. It is one of the main reasons why exchanging with people with different expertise and backgrounds can help you to uncover new opportunities and offer insights. As we organized events, we realized that we sometimes did not have the same understanding of the outcome. It enriched our work because we took into account our differences to make our events even more colorful — and the learning insights more impactful.
Lessons Learned: great minds think alike — and often make the same mistakes. Make sure that plurality of a devil’s advocate hat enriches the outcomes.
# A two way relationship is the secret for a lasting one
Relationships based on mutual respect and a balanced give and take mentality are the ones that last. As co-captains, we are thriving as a duo but this also requires an open communication and the desire to understand the other person’s personality. We have different needs and expectations when it comes to executing our plans. We learned very fast that exchanging on our needs and expectations was maybe scary and uncomfortable but it brought us closer to each other. We know we can be vulnerable because we created a safe and brave space. One has to be willing to enter the brave space rather than be quiet for sake of harmony. Constructive collaboration means not being afraid of the fact that friction is conducive to better solutions.
Lessons Learned: mind reading is possible but not probable. Talking through expectations, challenges, priorities and hiccups makes for a stronger foundation. A relationship is much more than the project at hand.
# If you don’t dare to dream. It won’t happen!
It is important to dream about what we would love to see in the world. Using our imagination in this direction gave us the energy to take action. We tried, succeeded, failed and learned. If you spend your days playing the repetition monkey nothing new will happen. We learned to imagine the best case scenario and go from there in order to nurture our action plans. We dare to dream that one day we will have a full arena of people willing to participate not only in a co-creation event but that they will take the framework, the learning to support adaptive solutions in their communities, work, and practices. Our motto: let’s see if we land on a star while aiming for the moon.
Lessons Learned: ideas and inspirations are great — but you are the artist of your vision. Bring it to paper and then to life. Be brave. Be bold. Be vulnerable. Be learning.
# People will root for you — but you have to show up for yourself.
In life, there are people who support us, like our families, friends, and colleagues, but they are not going to work for you or not even necessarily understand what you are doing. They are not responsible for your success and failure. You are. It is your responsibility to take action and move toward your dreams. No one knows what is best for you except you. There is a famous sentence: “If you do not work for your dreams. You will work for the one of someone else”. We all are co-creators in space. Be the captain of your ship and find others who want to go in the same direction. Root for yourself and life will smile at you.
Lessons Learned: no one will be more invested in your dreams than you. Make sure you make regular instalments in bringing them to fruition. Appreciate your cheerleaders — they will bolster you when you are doubting — but remember you still have to take the field in order to play the game.
We are happily continuing our journey to bringing co-creator.space into the world. We are glad to have you along for the ride. Co-Creator.Space