What it means to foster an ecosystem of co-creation that excels in promoting innovation

The landscape of the modern workplace has been changing drastically in recent years. Not just with the trials brought by the pandemic, work environments now have several issues affecting the individual brought to the forefront, whether through equity, inclusion, mental health awareness, or quality of life. To address problems like these (and more) facing the world today, focus must be given to fostering innovation.

Whether it be in the form of addressing an issue in marketing, web development, combating social inequality, or confronting climate change, approaching complex and systemic issues requires an innovative and unconventional outlook that tackles the issue in a manner that has never been done before – ensuring the end to the endurance of the problem. Doing so requires fostering an atmosphere of collaboration between seemingly opposing ideas, unorthodox outlooks, and a diverse cohort of stakeholders and contributors.

An ‘Ecosystem of Co-Creation’

Recently, Pittsburgh community leader and President & CEO of The Forbes Funds Fred Brown provided an illuminating blueprint of a way to approach this notion in the Pittsburgh Business Times. He notes, to create innovation, there needs to be a focus on ecosystem development – “a fundamental shift and reorientation of relationships between people, places and institutions.”

This is as we shift away from systems change, or “fundamental changes in relationships, practices, values and power structures that govern our world.” The difference between the two being “human optimization and the cultivation of community alliances.”

Foster a Compassionate Environment

As a unique individual living in the world, everyone has invariably experienced adversity in some way in their life from COVID-19 — physically, emotionally, socially, or professionally. The business and nonprofit sectors are no exception – budget cuts, layoffs, and furloughs coupled with steadily growing community needs were juxtaposed with opportunities for conversations around diversity, equity, and our systems’ efficacy.

COVID-19 demonstrated that individual stability and satisfaction matter deeply. And yet, ever-present roadblocks remain. How we resolve these issues in the 21st century cannot be based on working hard. It has to be resolved by investing in people, and moving towards deeper human connection.

Be Proactive, Not Reactive

Take your initiatives head-on – focus on eliminating problems before they appear and not in response to them. If an issue facing your organization or community is systemic and recurring, don’t respond directly to the past mistakes – tackle the issue before it reappears, in the manner it is most likely to. Use the past merely as a reference point. This outlook means your approaches are not continually playing defense or cleanup.

Rapid Prototyping

You’ve worked with your diverse and multi-faceted team and identified this recurring issue, so now you have to address it. Utilize new ways to come to a consensus and find solutions. Conduct collaborative design thinking workshops that foster innovative brainstorming techniques that may be facilitated to eradicate groupthink bias (for example, when in a passive group setting, the loudest or the highest-earner in the room’s ideas are elevated) and to reframe problems as opportunities in a participatory process.

Some methods that have become team favorites at Key Medium involve processes like Design Sprints, methods within those like ‘How Might We’s’, and ‘Crazy 8’s’. Do so in a framework that is scalable to the potential impact of it. Prototype your solution, test it, and refine as needed. In 2021, Key Medium conducted a design thinking workshop for The Forbes Funds to positive results and could serve as a helpful reference point as you consider planning your own design thinking workshop.

Related: UX maturity model and why Customer Experience Transformation matters for mission-driven organizations

Fail Forward’

Whenever approaching old ideas in a new way, mistakes or missteps are bound to happen. Use these as opportunities and stepping stones to reflect, learn and find new solutions. See your failures as temporary – you are working proactively, and learning from your mistakes means you can prevent them from happening again. While pausing to learn from failures, successful organizations and individuals realize that the past cannot be altered.

In Brian Tracy’s book The Psychology of Achievement, he profiled four millionaires who made their fortunes by age 35. On average, these achievers were involved in 17 businesses before they found the one that took them to the top. Research also shows that memory and creativity are boosted while making mistakes.

One way the Key Medium team does this is through conducting retrospectives each week, as part of the agile methodology we employ in our service delivery. This codifies how we uncover and share lessons learned, and actions to take towards continuous improvement.

How Can Key Medium Help? 

Key Medium offers several services to help foster an ecosystem of co-creation for your organization with continually successful results. Whether it be facilitating design-thinking workshops to coalesce creative ideas or revamping a brand and user interface altogether, our team can provide the resources to build this sort of capacity in your organization. We are well versed in the outlooks mentioned and have assisted recently in defining these values of ecosystem co-creation for The Forbes Funds. If you want to foster an environment of innovation like this in your workplace, just get in touch.

Web Developer, UX Designer, Communicator, Brand Strategist and Search and Conversion Optimization Expert in Philadelphia

Ali Jaffar has been building dazzling websites and creating amazing online experiences for over a decade. His mastery of the latest innovations in web development results in world-class website experiences set apart by show-stopping style and seamless functionality. A sought-after consultant and 50-time award-winning storyteller, UX expert, and web developer — Ali lends his talents to build and bolster digital experiences for a wide array of clients — with a keen focus on web design for nonprofit organizations, B2B, and government agencies. When Ali’s not helping his clients grow or providing pro bono services via his Coding For Causes program, you can find him exploring beautiful open spaces with his dog, working on digital solutions like the Good Jobs Search Engine software, or doing yoga.

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Strategic Communications and Outreach Consultant Will Becker

Will Becker is a Strategic Communications and Outreach consultant where he manages social media marketing and advises on communications projects, policy issues, and special intiaitives. He has experience in working with cultural heritage projects and non-profit operations. His past work has included positions at Global Philadelphia, the World Heritage City Project, and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. During his career he has worked with over 140 nonprofits nationally and in the Greater Philadelphia area.