Barriers to Co-Creation

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  • Report: Fronteer Strategy white-paper III - FEBRUARY 2011: 9 WAYS TO GET YOUR TEAM READY FOR CO-CREATION [1]



Fronteer Strategy on the Organisational and psychological/social Barriers to Co-Creation:

Organisational barriers

Organisational barriers can be encountered with all activities that have to do with implementing co-creation throughout the organisation. We will mention the most important ones and give examples of how to deal with them when you want to implement co-creation successfully.

Intellectual property

- Can you share all information and who will gain reward? Sharing your knowledge with the outside world can be scary. It is also new, and many don’t know how to deal with the IP issue. It’s hard to create an open and constructive framework for sharing and creating knowledge. You want to open up as much as possible, hoping to get the same in return from external stakeholders, but you have to know your limits.

Complex governance

- Can you manage the process of open innovation with internal and external stakeholders?

You need the right person or people in place to consistently guide co-creation within the company. Co-creation means working together with different teams and/or departments. This more complex way of working should be managed the right way for it to be of value. Next to that, you have to find a way to get higher management behind the idea of co-creation. Otherwise, employees will not easily spend time on a new approach when their priorities lay elsewhere.

Short-term focus

- Can you appreciate that co-creation is a process and see its long-term value?

Especially when starting co-creation, it can take a while before the value of a project or the whole new approach becomes apparent or can be measured. It can be a challenge to both take the time to let co-creation become of value for your company, but in order to keep the motivation alive, to also make sure there are some ‘quick wins’ to show for your efforts.

Rewarding decision structure

- Can you make sure people will spend time on this and how will they be rewarded?

When you want people to dedicate themselves to co-creation, it has to be clear to them what their incentive is or what the rewarding structure will be. Not everyone who is involved in a cocreation project will be rewarded for the same goal.


- Do we have infrastructure and processes in order to guide open innovation? To facilitate knowledge and creative sharing? There are a lot of operational factors to think about in co-creation processes. For example to facilitate knowledge and creative sharing and to attract and motivate external participants.

Psychological & Social barriers

Below are the four most important psychological & social barriers, meaning the ones on which you have the highest chance to encounter within your team when starting a co-creation approach or project. These are also the issues that are the hardest to solve, as it involves people and their personal feelings.

Inertia & fear of unknown

- Are you brave enough to take the ‘risk’, without knowing what the rewards can be? Can you steer or follow into the unknown and be open to new ways of working?

Inertia - the resistance to change from a current state of motion - is often driven by fear. Fear of changing your course into the unknown. When not handling it, fear can can even build up inertia against change.

When changing towards a co-creation approach, people don’t know what to expect. It raises many understandable questions:

“Can I do this?”, How should I do this? How can I combine it with my regular work? What if the others are better at it then me? What if we don’t succeed? Can I still make my targets if I have to do it a different way or have to spend time on this? Why should we do it differently anyway? etc.

Originating from the neuropsychology, fear often results in three instinctive reactions: Fight (active resistance),flight (escape) or freeze (cramp up). Chances are you will encounter these reactions in your team. If this is the case, remember that whatever you do, never increase the pressure, or put even more emphasis on the fact that people need to change, this will only diminish their motivation and increase fear, which again will stimulate inertia.

Lack of motivation

- Can you create a sense of urgency? Motivate your team to change towards an open innovation approach?

We know by now that motivation is one of the pillars of change. Without it, no change. So let’s look at how to motivate people. There are two ways of motivating people: extrinsic (by rewards or ‘carrot-and-stick’ methods) and intrinsic motivation, the latter coming from within.

As you might have guessed, the best way to motivate people is by intrinsic motivation. People have to feel it. Extrinsic motivation will not lead to true motivation nor change and could even increase fear of change (“If I don’t do this right, I won’t get my promised bonus!”). Intrinsic motivation will last and outperform extrinsic.

In his book ‘Drive’, Daniel Pink offers a tripod for intrinsic motivation: Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose. All three should be stimulated in order to motivate people.

Autonomy: Doing things your way, taking your own responsibility and feeling trusted in doing it. Autonomy increases creativity and leads to engagement, which in turn will lead to mastery.

Mastery: The desire to get better and better. Mastery is about being in ‘flow’: challenged in the right amount, your goals are clear, ‘has to do’ becomes ‘could do’.

Purpose: A greater objective that makes people feel good about participating. Purpose is bigger than you, your team or your specific challenge.

Trust & interdependence

- Can you embrace cooperation with external teams, be open and share ideas? Can you depend on each other and do you trust each other’s abilities?

Trust is the tricky one, as you can’t order people to trust someone. Trust is personal and trust takes time. What you can do is give direction and create an environment for building trust. Trust is a complicated, yet important factor to address. Without it, it can become difficult to embrace cooperation with people from other departments and people from outside your company.

We often depend on other people to help us obtain the outcomes we value (and they on us). Trust is about fulfilling (other’s) expectations of certain behaviour. It is associated with interdependence, opening up, cooperation, information sharing, and problem solving. These all happen to be factors needed in cocreation.

Lewicki & Tomlinson say trusting another person is grounded in the evaluation of three characteristics: ability, integrity, and benevolence. The more we observe these qualities in another person, the more likely our level of trust in that person is to grow. Ability and integrity are the most influential early in a relationship (like when working with a new team), understanding one's benevolence takes more time.

Ability refers to an assessment of another person’s knowledge, skill, or competency. Trust requires some sense that the other is able to perform in a manner that meets your expectations. Integrity leads to trust based on consistency of past actions, credibility of communication, commitment to standards of fairness, and the agreement with the other's principles, word and deed.

In the beginning of a relationship, trust is mostly cognitivelydriven. This means you have to find a way to build trust by managing your reputation and making sure that there is stability in your behaviour, e.g. by being consistent, doing what you say you will do and keep your promises.

The “Not invented here” syndrome”

- Are you able and willing to accept and integrate ideas and innovations from ‘outside’? Are you open to and can you adopt new ways of working?

The trust-issue is very closely related to the ‘Not Invented Here- Syndrome’. Often, when ideas and innovations are created outside the company walls, it is hard to get people who weren’t part of the process excited about the new ideas: the ‘Not Invented Here’ syndrome. It’s often difficult to except and execute a new solution when it didn’t originate from you, your team or your company. The NIH syndrome finds its origin in the software development world, but can be encountered in other areas as well.

Most psychological & social barriers have to do with change and changing into a new mindset. As said earlier, most people that successfully changed had three things in common: clear direction, strong motivation and a supportive environment. Based on these three aspects and our own experience, we will now provide 9 possible ways that will help you overcome the barriers to cocreation mentioned above. Which one to use largely depends on your own situation and team. Some people need clear direction, others lack motivation and sometimes it is ‘just’ a situation problem." (


ronteer Strategy white-paper III - FEBRUARY 2011: 9 WAYS TO GET YOUR TEAM READY FOR CO-CREATION [2]