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The what, why and when of co-creation qualitative research

The what, why and when of co-creation qualitative research

In this piece originally published late 2019 for Magid Mentions, our own Jennie Finerty explains the what, why and when of a co-creation session. To address how to conduct effective research in the coronavirus era, our team recently hosted a webinar providing actionable guidance that provides a footprint for the future. With that in mind, we’ve added the clip immediately below to address how these incredibly helpful sessions can be conducted in this unprecedented and challenging environment.

The full webinar is available on

Industry change is inevitable. Think about how many familiar industries have changed in a relatively short period of time by new market entrants: retail (Amazon), video entertainment (Netflix) music (Spotify), food and beverage (Grub Hub), financial services (SoFi and Rocket Mortgage), the taxicab industry (Uber and Lyft), and the list goes on. Each of these industries has experienced significant change and disruption, forcing companies to adapt in order to stay relevant, to meet the new needs, desires and expectations of consumers, and to outlast the new startups clamoring for a share of business.

But how do company executives make such big changes, especially when they’ve always done things a certain way?  In order to navigate changing landscapes successfully, companies oftentimes start by coming up with new ideas. These ideas need to simultaneously satisfy consumers’ needs while exploring and expanding the realm of possibility. This is precisely where co-creation or ideation sessions come in – these qualitative research sessions help companies brainstorm new strategies, services and ideas.

What is a co-creation session?

Like the name suggests, a co-creation session involves working together to create new ideas. These ideas are intended to solve a particular problem, address a specific change and/or explore future possibilities.  Keeping consumers’ needs, desires and expectations in mind is a key part of the process, thus the ideal sessions involve both consumers and company executives working side-by-side.

For example, a food and beverage company might want to come up with new options that will help it stay relevant as food preferences change. Key questions might be:

  • What could it offer beyond its traditional offerings?
  • What white space opportunities exist that few/no other food and beverage companies have tried?

To address these challenges, Magid’s trained facilitators might bring together a group of individuals consisting of key company stakeholders, creative consumer “foodies,” and the company’s target consumers. These individuals brainstorm ideas, working in carefully crafted teams as facilitators lead a series of thought-provoking and innovative activities, exercises and experiences.

Why do a co-creation session?

You might be thinking, why would a company want to do a co-creation? Especially if a company already has smart, talented, creative industry experts on staff, what further benefit can a co-creation session bring to the idea-development process? The answer is simple but multi-faceted – co-creation inspires outside-the-box thinking intended to purposefully take its attendees outside of the “normal” rules. This allows ideas to come from new perspectives and angles, and results in truly groundbreaking and innovative solutions for new or enhanced products, services, and/or business operations. Importantly, these are ideas key stakeholders are likely to support because these individuals were a part of the brainstorming process.

Co-creation sessions must be carefully designed with acute attention to detail in order for the end goal – literally hundreds of ideas – to be achieved. Magid strategically develops exercises that stimulate different areas of the brain and require varying types of thinking. For example, some exercises may be experiential, involving field trips into the real world and/or exposing participants to real-life scenarios. Other exercises may be tangible as participants play with actual objects or force-fit together unexpected combinations. Still others may be visceral, for example by tapping into consumers’ emotional needs through empathy mapping and role-playing exercises.

Consumers play an essential role in most of Magid’s co-creation sessions. Target consumers bring a unique, grounded perspective that’s free from industry bias and insider knowledge. Creative consumers are specifically recruited for their ingenuity and imagination as well as ability to inspire positive momentum and thinking among their teammates.

When to use co-creation?

Industry change is usually not a question of if but when, and co-creation sessions can be an incredibly effective way to get ahead of industry shifts. Magid also uses co-creation sessions to address other objectives like:

  • Creating entirely new products, services, packaging, messages, operations and/or offerings – or enhancing existing offerings
  • Exploring new revenue streams and brand opportunities
  • Reinventing traditional methods and breaking existing paradigms
  • Bringing consumer segments to life

Ultimately, effective sessions enable you to fully understand consumers’ needs and then to ideate a variety of possible solutions to address these needs and uncover whitespace opportunities. Whether you’re working to address disruption in your industry or to explore any of the other situations mentioned, effective co-creation sessions are an important qualitative research methodology to consider.

If you’re ready to position your business as the industry leader and innovator, let’s talk.

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