Co-creation is one of the foundations of Service Design. Designers and agencies shouldn't create design pieces or service alone. Designers and agencies have to include their clients in the process. That’s the theory. A theory that sounds great. As for any rules, there is more granularity as just an axiom. Let’s see three levels of co-creation that exist it the real world.
This is my baby
Level 1: co-creation
There are projects that are emotional and personal to the project manager. When you have to work on such projects co-creation is often a good solution. When the project is like the child or baby of the project manager, let them come in. Nobody wants to let other people raise its own children. The same goes for baby projects. From day one start with deep co-creation. The client will feel listened and will be able to give you all his valuable input.
I have other stuff to do
Level 2: collaboration
Collaboration is the middle level. It’s the level that most companies live. The client gives a briefing. Then later he checks in a few time. Still the client is not part of the creation process. He is a feedback giver. He isn’t a creator. This level is a tricky one. Because people can be easily frustrated. They might have a clear idea in their head but don’t want to lose too much time in the creation process. In such cases, the feedback process has to be extremely clear. Define what kind of feedback you expect from the client. What kind of detail you expects for the feedback. And finally also define how many feedback rounds will happen.
I don't care
Level 3: solo
There are projects where the client (not the end user) just needs a solution. He isn't interested in the details. This is something that happens mostly with C-Level persons. This kind of people hates details. They love to keep the overview. So give them just that. Present them the overview at the beginning then present the end product. In such situation, the briefing phase is key. The briefing has to be super clear to you. Don’t hesitate to ask a lot of questions about the briefing.
Let client choose
Co-creation, collaboration or solo
At the beginning of any project, you can ask your client how he expects the process to be. Present all three working styles. Ask them if they prefer to be part of the game or if they prefer just to see the end product. Ask them if they want to checkin just a few times or be part of the team. Ask them if they see you as an external partner or as a new team member. By asking such questions, you will help your clients to decide which working process suits them. Then, when the project starts you can switch from on process to the other. Do this if you see that their is frustration in the air. If your client wants too many corrections, switch to co-creation. If your client tells you that it’s too many details for him, then switch to solo work.
Co-creation with end customers
Co-creation will not always be possible with your clients. It all depends on their attitude and time they have for a specific project. I still would recommend putting in place co-creation in your working process. Maybe not at the client level but at the level of the end user or customer. Create workshops with employees, customers or users. Test things out with them. If the project manager doesn’t want to be in the loop you still need feedback. Go get the feedback from the real users.