7 Keys to Co-Creation: Our Takeaways from Last Week’s BMA Event


One of the ways that we “elevate results” for our team at Top Floor is by committing to continuous education. To that end, our crew rolled into the BMA Milwaukee meeting 7 deep last week for a sold out seminar on co-creation.


“What the heck is co-creation?” you might be thinking. “Is this some newfangled marketing buzzword I need to add to my autocorrect?”

Not going to lie, we asked ourselves the same thing when we looked at the title for this event. But as we listened to what the speakers [Steve Garguilo from Johnson & Johnson and Pinaki Kathiari from Local Wisdom] had to say, we realized it’s actually a pretty descriptive term for how agencies and marketers interact when they do their best work.

What is co-creation – and why does it matter?

Co-creating is the process by which a team collaborates and works together to build something new – and if it’s done right, it allows them to produce something better and faster than one person could have on their own. Almost no idea that is truly gamechanging has been brought to life without some element of co-creation.

For those that couldn’t make the event, here are the highlights of the “7 Do’s and Don’ts” the speakers shared that we fully intend to put to work at Top Floor.

1. Know your why.

Articulating a clear vision of what lies at the “end of the rainbow” is the first (and arguably most important) step to a successful project.

When clients or prospects come to us asking about a particular product or service, our first question is always the same: “why?”

What is the problem that we’re trying to solve? Why does it need to be solved? What is different once we’ve solved it?  Although the conversation often starts with “I want a new website” or “I need to do social media,” there is almost always a deeper driver.

2. Take extreme ownership.

The best players to have on the team are those that think “I own this no matter what. It’s my job to ensure this doesn’t fail, by whatever means necessary.”

Let’s face it – getting projects done as a group can be hard stuff.  Not everyone will put their heart and soul into it.  Not everyone will get their piece of the puzzle completed on time.  MVPs adopt a no excuses mindset and hold themselves accountable to keep things moving forward.

3. Bring together the right people.

There’s a balance to strike when determining the right mix of people to include in ideation and creative development.  (See also: the one pizza rule.)

Ideally, the group is small enough to be nimble but brings together diverse skills, experience, and perspectives.  This can cause some friction – but can also radically elevate the ability to come up with creative and effective solutions.

Steve and Pinaki gave the audience a great reminder about the obligatory “cynics” on the team (you know the type.) While it can be tempting to roll your eyes at them and sigh… they’re necessary.  Often they are just as passionate about wanting to do something great, and their questions help bring up potential blind spots and challenges.

4. Embrace design thinking.

Shake things up. Get the team off site or out of their chairs and moving can help hit the “reset” button and open people’s minds. The speakers had a great exercise that turned rock paper scissors into a team sport. It was hilarious and brilliant.

5. Facilitate the conversation.

Designate a facilitator for brainstorming or planning sessions. In some cases, this role may be best filled by someone from outside the immediate team or even outside the organization.

The facilitator can ask the “dumb” questions without feeling embarrassed [which more often than not are not dumb at all.]  They can also encourage people to speak up and steer dialogue to avenues that need further exploration.

6. Live a bias toward action.

If you find yourself feeling like you’re sitting in a board room trying to solve for world peace, stop.

Take the first step. Develop a hunch – and then test a small part of your idea.  Evaluate the results, and adjust your approach accordingly.

Just do it. Don’t talk. Do.

7. Fail fast, fail cheap, succeed sooner.

Creativity and innovation die when team members feel like failure is unsafe.

Not every new idea is going to be a home run – but reward people for putting themselves out there and trying to make things better.

It’s impossible to eliminate risk, but we can lower the stakes associated with missteps by taking a “prototyping” approach and adjusting sooner to what’s working and what isn’t.

Driving co-creation in your organization

We certainly don’t have all of the answers figured out when it comes to co-creation… but we’re constantly striving to get better and bring these principles to life.

Over to you – what are your keys to success when co-creating with agency partners or internal team members? What stumbling blocks stand in the way? What are you trying to do differently?  Let us know in the comments!