The Co-Creative Economy

Can you imagine being in an era where your ideas were your most valuable asset? A time when creativity was the mother of all skills? I was inspired at a BBQ this weekend at the formidable Ray and Tina Wang’s house (President & Creator of Constellation Research) and found myself surrounded by Silicon Valley elite. Discussions around economy, global events, travel, and different geographical living were the topics at our table with Mark and Karen Yolten (SAP Global Marketing), Michelle and Brian Dehaaff (Software executives), and my wife/partner (Courtney) and our son. I also had the pleasure of meeting one of my personal creative inspirations, Tom Kelley, creator of IDEO and author. We discussed Tom’s upcoming book release this October title “Creative Confidence” and found that we shared a philosophy in common. I’ve always, like Courtney, believed that everyone is creative in their own right and that ideas can come from anywhere, even if “creative” isn’t in your title. So, in this post, I dedicate this post to everyone I shared a discussion with at Ray’s BBQ because you inspired me, and I look forward to “co-creating” something valuable with you all. (And might I add that the ribs were off the hook!)

Creative Economy

I remember a time when creativity equated to someone artfully using a paint brush or writing a quippy headline for an ad on their computer. The rest of us? Discounted as “the rest of us.” Thankfully, or at least in my mind, this has all changed. We’ve learned to co-exist by sharing with people we don’t know in order to create something even better. The last I checked, this is “creativity” defined, and co-creation as a form of creativity has only just begun. It’s going to move more quickly with networks that connect others with shared interests that lead to opportunities that can and will revolutionize what used to be a skill-set for an individual to express. With this, the power of many has the potential to innovate so much faster and more interesting than the power of one.

Here’s how we will build ourselves and the brands we support in this new co-creative economy:

1. Co-leadership Redefined. In traditional thinking, a leader is established and the community builds toward that leadership. In the new co-created economy, we need to un-learn leadership as one and establish leadership as many [Tweetable]. Quite frankly, it’s the biggest shift I see coming in the future.

2. Mind the End. Have you ever written a blog, developed a paper, designed a home page or authored something of substance only to wonder when it was truly finished? Imagine building an output of something as a community only to realize there is no perfect finish line. Define what success is upfront, then the rest can take on a life of its own.

3. Level the Playing Field. Not everyone has a social Klout score higher than 60, or 6-digit followers on twitter. This means nothing to a community of people who share a common interest. Co-creation by people who share a common interest, an open mind and lots of passion will always produce something extraordinary.

4. Build THE Question Together. Everything starts with a question. The challenge is not in how many answers there may be out there, it’s how we define the right question to ask and evoke the best possible answer. Define the question as a team; develop it, turn it inside out, and build on top of it until it starts getting the answers that make a difference.

5. Create a Credit Platform. In a virtual world where creativity and community are one ecosystem, efforts and excitement will go unnoticed and passion will decrease if there isn’t a mechanism for assigning credit. We all want to know that what we’re doing is making a difference. Don’t forget to build that in, it creates a sharing, safe community of trust inspired to continually seek out co-creations with each other.

KEY TAKEAWAY: Everyone is creative, period. The key is to find others with shared interests and leverage your social community of peers to bring these ideas to life. You just never know what you can create together, then build upon again and again – and the ultimate difference it might just make to our future creators.


*Image Courtesy of