The change leader who encourages co-creation processes

According to HCMBOK® (Gonçalves and Campos, 2016), change processes are an excellent opportunity for innovation and, above all, for encouraging different stakeholders to leave the Status Quo behind, break paradigms, and promote engagement.

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”

Alan Kay

When we think about innovation, it should be clear that it’s a process through which something new is added, whether it’s a new product or service, or an enhancement to something already existing, that in turn generates high added value. This often implies a radical paradigm shift.

The first step towards innovation is creativity, and its foundation lies in enabling divergent thinking, which, according to psychologist J. P. Guilford (1956), is useful for generating many ideas with the goal of finding a solution to a potential problem or doing something different.

Co-creation is defined as the collaborative development of new ideas that potentially lead to innovations. This can result in outcomes such as new products, services, concepts, or solutions to problems.

Best practice involves bringing together various stakeholders with different profiles and collectively generating as many ideas as possible that can serve as solutions to a clearly identified question. Co-creation processes value cooperation through collective creativity, rather than individual creativity, potentially fostering competition among involved individuals.

Sustainable co-creation practices can lead an organization to thrive in cycles of incremental innovation, where continuous improvement becomes part of the organization’s cultural essence. Simultaneously, it can stimulate the generation of new products and services that constitute competitive differentiators.

The leader of change should be the harbinger of innovation, ensuring that the organization is not just prepared to adapt to changes, but to live in a continuous state of transformation.

Co-creation and the generation of new paradigms

Paradigms are thought of as mental models or frames of reference that influence how people perceive, think, and act.

According to Thomas Kuhn (1962), fundamental shifts in how people understand and explain the world occur when an existing paradigm is replaced by a new, more comprehensive paradigm that contradicts established beliefs and encompasses previously unexplainable phenomena.

The active and participatory collaboration of multiple stakeholders within a co-creation process, with diverse perspectives and knowledge, can challenge entrenched beliefs and assumptions, enabling the creation of disruptive ideas and solutions.

The change leader can and should influence the co-creation of new paradigms through various practices such as:

  • Encouraging divergent thinking:
    • By bringing together stakeholders from different backgrounds and experiences, conventional approaches can be challenged, and new ways of addressing different problems can emerge.
  • Challenging mental barriers:
    • Existing paradigms are often tied to how we think about certain issues, creating mental barriers. Co-creation can help overcome these barriers by facilitating interaction and dialogue among stakeholders with diverse perspectives, allowing deeply ingrained paradigms to be questioned and redefined.
  • Driving disruptive innovation:
    • The development of radically new solutions and ideas that can fundamentally change how problems are approached or how products and services are offered is the cornerstone of disruptive innovation.
  • Seeking experimentation and learning:
    • Co-creation provides an opportunity to experiment and test new ideas in an inclusive and safe environment. Through co-creation, stakeholders can learn from each other, experiment, and adapt their approaches as they progress.
  • Stimulating the integration of multiple perspectives:
    • Co-creation allows for a solution-focused approach through the integration of multiple perspectives. By combining various insights and viewpoints, efficient solutions can be developed.
  • Sponsoring the creation of collaborative ecosystems:
    • Co-creation can also foster the creation of collaborative ecosystems, where different stakeholders can work together to solve complex problems. These ecosystems can actively drive innovation and, above all, generate new ways of thinking and acting.

Paradigms act as lenses through which different phenomena are interpreted and provide a foundation for how an organization operates and is managed. The challenge for the change leader is to promote the replacement of these lenses within stakeholders, allowing for the adoption of new models of operation and organizational management.

Basic guidelines on how a change leader can implement recurring co-creation processes:

  • Identify and focus on the problem or opportunity:
    • Clearly define what you want to explore through co-creation. This is the starting point for the process.
  • Define and map objectives and goals:
    • Set clear and measurable objectives for co-creation and ensure that all participants understand them.
  • Identify and map stakeholders:
    • Define the stakeholders who should be involved in the process, always prioritizing the diversity of profiles and perspectives related to the problem or opportunity.
  • Appoint a facilitator:
    • Designate a specialized person to facilitate the co-creation process.
  • Create an inclusive and trustful environment:
    • Provide psychological safety where all ideas and opinions are welcomed and respected.
  • Promote idea and solution generation:
    • Establish rituals with creative sessions to generate innovative ideas and solutions in collaboration with stakeholders. The facilitator should use techniques to encourage divergent (idea generation) and convergent (analysis, redefinition, and prioritization of ideas to be developed) thinking processes.
  • Develop prototypes and tests:
    • Encourage the development of prototypes and experiments, in controlled environments, for co-created solutions. Sponsor tests with different stakeholders and seek feedback.
  • Promote iteration and refinement:
    • Based on received feedback, promote iterations (repetitive cycles) to improve solutions until a final, useful, and optimized version is achieved.
  • Implement and evaluate:
    • Monitor the implementation of the final solution and evaluate its impact and effectiveness among stakeholders, together with the team.
  • Recognize and reward:
    • Acknowledge and reward participants’ contributions to promote their ongoing commitment to co-creation and stimulate motivation.

In summary

When a change leader stimulates and oversees co-creation, it facilitates the interaction of multiple perspectives and skills that lead to the generation of new paradigms and innovative approaches. By bringing together stakeholders with diverse experiences, knowledge, and perspectives, existing paradigms can be challenged, thus enabling potential shifts towards more effective solutions.

Furthermore, the use of co-creation processes enhances stakeholder engagement, with their DNA becoming part of the solutions developed by the project.

The change leader must be aware that co-creation is a way to cultivate commitment, encourage continuous improvement, and, above all, keep the organization connected to the evolution of the business environment to remain competitive in its market.

By Edgar Alvarez – – Diretor do HUCMI para o Equador,  Guatemala, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Nicarágua e República Dominicana.

This article is part of the Change Leadership theme. Want to know more? Read the first article in this series:

Want to learn more about HUCMI’s international training and certification programs? Visit us on:

Follow us:

Click here to download a summary of the HCMBOK®

Human Change Management Institute