by Jack Martin Leith

Where did the Rich co‑creation principles come from?

The principles are informed by the work of numerous people who helped shape the fields of organization transformation and whole systems change; in particular: Dick Axelrod, Emily Axelrod, Peter Block, Kathie Dannemiller, Fred Emery, Merrelyn Emery, Robert W. ‘Jake’ Jacobs, Sandra Janoff, Kurt Lewin, Harrison Owen, Eric Trist, Marvin Weisbord, and James Wilk.

The more esoteric sources include brief psychotherapy, Creative Action and other works by Edward Matchett, cybernetics, the Toltec philosophy of pre-Columbian Mexico, and Zen Buddhism.

The principles are arranged in three groups:

Rich co‑creation principles at three levels: enterprise, projects, and meetings

Group 1: Principles relating to the enterprise as a whole.

These generative enterprise principles also apply to projects and meetings.

Group 2: Principles relating to the projects the enterprise undertakes as it seeks to accomplish its mission.

These principles also apply to meetings.

Group 3: Principles relating to small and large scale meetings convened for the purpose of planning, designing and expediting co‑creation projects.

In the following text, co‑creation always means Rich Co‑creation.

Rich co‑creation principles relating to the enterprise as a whole
An enterprise exists to enrich the world in a particular way. This is the enterprise’s intent, a synthesis of purpose beyond profit and vision of realized potential.

You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with great vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.

Woodrow Wilson
28th President of the United States
Read more about intent
Every employee is focused on generating maximum value for all constituents of the enterprise ecosystem (stakeholders and beyond).
All work contributes to the accomplishment of an enterprise-wide mission aimed at manifesting its intent within a given timeframe. Rich Co‑creation projects always serve intent and mission.
Rich Co‑creation is an enterprise-wide capability and practice, not a technique employed for ad-hoc projects.
Rich Co‑creation practice extends beyond workshops and ‘whole system in the room’ events.
Rich Co‑creation calls for a genuine appreciation of the value requirements of each constituent of the enterprise ecosystem. If you disapprove of the value sought by one or more parties, you are inviting failure.
As an individual, group or organization, you cannot create value. You can only create value generators — notably products, services, facilities, establishments, events — and meta generators (producers of value generators, such as enterprises).

Read about value and value generators

Value is co-created through the interaction between the value beneficiary (e.g. consumer, service user) and the value generator.
Arresting the generation of anti-value is just as important as — and sometimes more important than — the generation of new value.

Read about anti-value

Whenever possible, replace one-way messages with generative (having the purpose of generating downstream value) conversations.
Employees are not instruments of senior management. They are autonomous creators.
Each person is a ready, willing and able to be a leader, which means stepping forward to serve intent (a synthesis of purpose and vision; the enterprise’s heartfelt desire to enrich the world in a particular way) and mission (together with strategy, the means by which intent is manifested) — for example, by helping colleagues surmount obstacles and deploy their full creative potential to serve mission and intent themselves.
Rich co‑creation principles relating to co-creation projects
A Rich Co‑creation project can be framed in one of five ways: innovation, change, problem solving, development, or potential utilization.
Regardless of how the project is framed, seek to bring the new into being as an act of creation rather than aiming to reinstate the status quo (‘problem solving’ frame) or embarking on an imaginary a journey from here to there (‘change’ frame).

Robert Fritz argues for a distinction between problem-solving and creating. Problem-solving is taking actions to have something go away: the problem. While problem-solving has its place, as a persistent approach, it limits accomplishment. The elimination of a problem does not mean that the desired result can be created. As distinguished, solving a problem does not by design lead to a creation. Creating is taking action to bring into being that which does not yet exist: the desired outcome.

Source: Wikipedia—Robert Fritz
If we are here to create the new and generate value, then the organic Lifecycle model (details coming soon) will provide better guidance than mechanistic alternatives.
The state of affairs you seek to create is the desired present, not the desired future. Credit: James Wilk.
The team that designs the co‑creation project or meeting is informed by a ‘design assist group’ composed of a cross-section of those who will undertake the downstream work or take part in the co‑creation meeting. The design assist group should include someone who is sceptical about the upcoming programme of work.

You know you have a good design when you show it to people and they say, “oh, yeah, of course,” like the solution was obvious.

Source: Chris Pratley, quoted by Julie Zhuo, Product Design Director, Facebook, in Good Design, on Medium.
Make any non-negotiable design constraints explicit. Identify and eliminate phantom constraints.
The design team takes into account the realities, perspectives and value requirements of all constituents of the enterprise ecosystem.

Ecosystem Value Specification, by Jack Martin Leith

When undertaking co‑creation projects, include upstream all those whose contribution, cooperation and consent will be required downstream.

Contribution means active participation. Co-operation means providing occasional assistance or, at the very least, not blocking progress. Consent means giving formal or informal approval to the proposed course of action.

Right action flows from intent — a synthesis of purpose and vision; the enterprise’s heartfelt desire to enrich the world in a particular way.

Read about intent

Practise rapid prototyping and early experimentation.

Create then adjust.

Robert Fritz
Maintain acute awareness of the entire ecosystem (stakeholders and beyond) in which the enterprise is situated.
A microcosm of the enterprise participates in any Rich Co‑creation project that has enterprise-wide impact, such as articulating the purpose, depicting the vision, devising the strategy or planning the mission.
Microcosm of the enterprise, by Jack Martin Leith
Resistance to change is seen for what it really is: a signal that the value requirements of the individual, group or enterprise, or those of entities they care deeply about, are not being met, and an appeal — perhaps a disruptive one — for matters to be put right.
Those involved in a Rich Co‑creation project serve others without the need for reciprocation.
A shared vision of realized potential provides inspiration and creates cohesion.
Ownership and commitment arise from an egalitarian approach.
Pool knowledge for the sake of the project and its future beneficiaries.
Think not only with your mind, but also with your heart. In the Japanese and Chinese languages, heart and mind are the same word: kokoro and xin respectively.

Image source and more info here.

Invite join-in rather than seeking buy-in or soliciting engage-in.

Breakdown is welcomed as an opportunity for breakthrough.
Rich Co‑creation projects serve as learning laboratories for the benefit of the enterprise as a whole.
Rich co‑creation principles relating to co-creation meetings (small and large scale)
The people attending a co‑creation meeting are not a passive audience. They are active participants, even if there are 50, 500 or 5,000 of them. The audience label has no place in the realm of co‑creation. Always challenge any use of the term when planning and designing a co‑creation meeting.
A microcosm of the enterprise takes part in any co‑creation meeting convened for the purpose of enterprise-wide change.
Ensure that the right voices are in the room and that every voice is able to be heard.
The maximum group size for a proper conversation is four people (read more about the max4 principle). When participants are seated eight to a table, treat this as two groups of four, and only have everyone working in the eight-person group when integrating ideas and perspectives in readiness for a whole room report-out.
Make certain that work sessions are suitable for introverts as well as extroverts. When participants are working in groups of four, this can be achieved in the following manner, summarised as 1–2–4: first, people work on their own, then they share and develop their ideas and perspectives in pairs, after which they integrate them in the four-person group. In an eight-person group, the sequence is 1–2–4–8 and not 1–4–8, as introverts will feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts with an individual rather than a group. Other methods can be devised to suit the particular circumstances.

View the article: How might co-creation meeting formats be modified in order to observe the max4 principle?

Cordial invitation, warmhearted hosting and hospitable conditions are among the prerequisites for a successful co‑creation meeting.
Connection before content.

“We must establish a personal connection with each other.
Connection before content.
Without relatedness, no work can occur.”

Peter Block

Read more about the “connection before content” principle

This is about fostering genuine connections between participants and establishing the right conditions for the work that follows. Avoid “here we go again” icebreakers that trigger cynicism. There are some good tips here.

Cultivate a community in which people come together as part of something larger than themselves that they believe in and gain meaning from. Credit: Robert W. Jacobs (Jake Jacobs), the originator of Real Time Strategic Change.

People can be trusted to do the right thing when they have access to essential information, effective processes and necessary resources.
Make decisions in real time, not off-line, and activate the plan immediately.
Asking customers or other stakeholders for their ideas and then cutting them loose is not co‑creation — it’s research.
Read more about Rich Co‑creation