An Exploration of Co-Creation

I’ve recently taken an interest in co-creation. Let me define that for you.


Consciously Creating Together

When I write an article like this, I’m creating as an individual. No one else has their nose in it. I do my thing, and when it’s done the world passively receives it.

On the other hand, when I do volunteer work or do someone a favor, another person tells me what to do, and then I simply do it. If someone asks me to give them a ride somewhere, I pick them up and drive them to the place—no questions asked. It’s straightforward.

It’s futile to imagine that anyone is merely a passive observer. We always are all creating. Every act is an act of creation. Even if you’re following someone else’s orders, you still have a good many decisions to make about how exactly you’re going to do the thing you’ve been told to do. Even deciding to follow those orders is a creative act. You could have just as well said “no” and done (and therefore created) something else.

So, we always are creating in some fashion.

When I talk about co-creation, on the other hand, that’s about creating consciously together. The basic vibe behind co-creation (which I’m interested in taking on) is one of invitation. It says, Do you want to explore this with me?

Co-creation is about actively inviting someone to explore something with you. They know what’s up and what the experience you’re having together is all about.

In everything that we do, other people are always going to come along for the ride. This can’t not be so. We always are creating together: this is inevitable. What co-creation is all about, then, is whether (a) all people involved are aware of this, and (b) whether all people involved have deliberately chosen to create what they are now creating.

For example, in individual relationships, the two people involved can actively evaluate their relationship together. They can discuss what works and what doesn’t work, as well as where they’d like to go next. To do this is to consciously co-create the relationship: both people are actively exploring the same thing, and they both are aware that they are doing so.

On the other hand, the two people in a relationship can refrain from such discussions and simply keep stringing along. They can still invite each other to do certain things, but there won’t be any meta-discussion about the general direction the relationship is to take.

Virtually all of the relationships I’ve had have been of the second sort: both people are creating side-by-side, but not consciously co-creating together. Relative to the world as a whole, conscious co-creation is not the norm. That should be none too difficult to see. However, that doesn’t mean that it can’t be done, nor that people don’t do it already. Maybe it’s like running ultramarathons: it’s a bit “out there,” but plenty of people do it, and as long as you want to do it, it is quite do-able. Then, once you get into it, what once seemed strange or out of reach becomes your personal norm.


Co-Creation and Service

Conscious co-creation is something I’ve been looking to explore through the possibility of a personal growth house and the one-on-one services I’ve been offering (though have not acted upon yet, I should note). I tried to write up the one-on-one services offer in such a way that it doesn’t spark fear, neediness, insufficiency, nor alarm in people. I wrote it from a paradigm in which everyone already has and is enough, and therefore has no emptiness or lack for the filling. I thought, What if no one really “needs help,” per se? If ultimately we all are just exploring reality together, why don’t I gear my service towards that?

The first three paragraphs of the services page are as follows:

I am offering one-on-one services in an informal setting (call if “coaching” if you wish, though that term isn’t totally accurate here). I would like us to feel that we are friends, rather than just "helper" and "client." The purpose of this is to freely share your ideas about life, the desires you have, and anything else you’d like to express. You can talk about anything you please. Anything that strikes you as relevant, important, or otherwise something you’d like to share in the moment is fair game.

I can play whatever conversational role to you that you would like: I can simply remain silent, providing an attentive listening ear and ongoing support that whatever you feel and say is valid. If you request specific feedback from me or want to simply allow me to respond freely, as though this was a conversation between two friends, I can do that as well. Whatever serves you, I can do.

I do not seek to fix you, because nothing is wrong with you. This exchange isn’t meant to focus on problems, because what you focus on expands, and why would you want to expand your problems? Rather, my goal is to simply help you be yourself freely. You can achieve this by exploring and clarifying your desires as well as your ideas about yourself and about life.

I’ve considered that if people come to me with this interest in exploration, rather than with neediness and fear, we’ll actually accomplish more. Rather than point to my value as knowing and having something the other person doesn’t, and making a service out of bestowing that upon the other person, I can start from the place that you already know, have, and are just as much as I do/am. So that’s out of the way. From there we can simply figure out together what precisely that means to that person. Rather than wonder when the other person will finally get the picture that they’re fine, I can just be upfront about that. That sounds much more efficient.

The personal growth house is an exploration in co-creation as well. It’s essentially a free-form version of the one-on-one service. Both of these are different from the work I’m used to doing (i.e. writing, podcasting) in that they require the participation of other people in order to happen. I can have a blog without an audience, but you can’t counsel people unless you have people to counsel. That sort of activity is more complicated than the individually-created work that I’m used to doing, but it certainly strikes me as a worthy endeavor.

Participation is the key word. Conscious co-creation is about everyone involved in an endeavor participating deliberately, rather than one side doing most of the creating and the other side passively receiving value. Whether this is a good business model I do not yet know, but it’s not like that’s my highest priority anyway.

Overall, rather than me just helping another person, we can regard the experience as a shared creation—even if it appears that my main role is indeed to help the other person. In the end, I think framing the experience in the spirit of co-creation would ultimately be more helpful than pretending that the activity is merely about one side giving and the other receiving.



The biggest challenge I see with co-creation, at least for myself, is basically remembering to do it. The challenge is to remember to step away from what I assume is expected, and to instead actively invite the other person to (a) decide what it is that we’re exploring, and (b) to participate in that exploration.

I’m not interested in it, but I suppose you can deliberately explore neediness just as well as non-neediness. Imagine if one person said to another, Hey, do you want to explore neediness together? You’ll be the scared person who feels like there’s never enough, and I’ll be the one who tries to get you to stop feeling that way, somehow. Alright? Perhaps the first person is providing some sort of good or service. Imagine if TV commercials were like that! At least then they would be honest and inviting, rather than pushy and not-100%-transparent.

In addition to the challenge of simply starting, my ideas about co-creation are somewhat vague, since I haven’t done a whole lot of it.

The main concepts involved, as I’ve said, are invitation, exploration, participation, mutual awareness, active evaluation, and agreement. When you add these things up you get consciously creating together, which is the essence of co-creation.


An Invitation to Explore

Overall, I see the basic benefits of co-creation as being that: (1) you gain access to viewpoints and information you likely wouldn’t have considered on your own; (2) mutually giving to one another is more powerful than simply standing in your own power; and (3) you ultimately can accomplish more by consciously creating together than you can on your own or merely creating side-by-side.

What experience have you had with co-creation? Is it something you’ve embraced or shied away from? Have you thought much about it, or have you assumed that relationships are better off without much evaluation and deliberation? Is this an approach you’ve wanted to take to relationships, but feared it was too difficult to do? Or are you on the opposite end of the spectrum, and co-creation is totally normal for you?

It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the days ahead. And, of course, I invite you to join in the exploration as well—in whatever form you choose. J

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