Toxic Competition Can Destroy Your Business. Here’s How to Build a Culture of Co-Creation.

“The Third Paradigm: A Radical Shift to Greater Success” is the new book I co-wrote with Dr. Heidi Scott Giusto and Dawa Tarchin Phillips that shows the evolution from mere cooperation to the emergence of co-creation to achieve organizational goals.

Our book uses data from a survey of thousands of people, interviews with many experts, research from scholars, the coauthors’ personal experiences, and a case study to help shape the concept of co-creation in the future. As the book hit the shelves, Entrepreneur Media spoke with us to further explain the concept and delve deeper into how co-creation can impact entrepreneurship and the world. Here are some highlights from that conversation:

Entrepreneur: What inspired you to write this book?

Dawa Tarchin Phillips: When Ivan and I first started talking about the idea for this book, I was involved in several major co-creative projects and experienced both the benefits and challenges of working co-creatively first-hand. These are challenging times for a lot of people, and the approaches of the 1st and 2nd Paradigms of competition and cooperation, while proven to yield certain outcomes, simply do not solve many of the major challenges that we are currently facing and that require new, innovative, and disruptive solutions, whether in the United States or around the world.

Ivan Misner: I experienced firsthand the three paradigms while running my global organization. I knew early on in my career that the Competition Paradigm led, at best, to a win-lose outcome. At worst, everyone is lost under that paradigm. Cooperation was the paradigm that I trained under in graduate school. The idea of people working together as a team to solve problems was more effective and certainly provided a better work environment. However, during my career, I saw that something was missing from this approach. There needed to be more buy-in on really challenging problems in the organization. I discovered that the stakeholders were an incredible resource to co-create a solution to challenging problems. In 1986, I formed my first co-creative body in my company (BNI). This group was called the “board of advisors,” but the truth is they were more than advisors. I gave them almost complete authority to design, redesign, eliminate, or create new organizational policies that directly related to the clients (aka members) of the organization. It was crowdsourcing before the internet. It was a game changer for my company. Without them, I could not have scaled BNI into a global enterprise with more than 11,000 groups across the globe.

How have you engaged in co-creation?

Heidi Scott Giusto: As a writer and editor, I’ve learned that book writing is almost always a co-creative process because many people are involved. Take this book, for example. We had more than 4,000 people contribute to it by responding to our survey. That is above and beyond the work of the authors and publishing team. By offering their perspectives, the survey respondents contributed immensely to creating this book.

Dawa Tarchin Phillips: As a business and community leader, I have discovered that co-creation is at the heart of strong, values-driven, and highly entrepreneurial business cultures and communities. Today, my company is involved in several entrepreneurial and philanthropic undertakings that are powered by a co-creative approach. We have also focused specifically on following a co-creative process to writing this book, which we believe will further expose the reader to the diversity of ideas and solutions generated by a co-creative process.

Ivan Misner: Wouldn’t the world be a truly amazing place if people focused on solutions and not problems? Wouldn’t it be amazing if people could disagree without being totally disagreeable? Wouldn’t it be incredible if we could create together rather than tear things down? That’s what co-creation is all about. It gets people together for the singular purpose of holding a vision and not obsessing about the obstacles. It is possible to do these things. I’ve seen it, and I’ve been a party to it. We must start by having the desire and the will to do so. My greatest desire is for business to introduce this process to the world. Then maybe governments and bureaucracies might start to co-create solutions to the world’s problems as well.

How can or does co-creation shape successful entrepreneurship?

Dawa Tarchin Phillips: In many industries it has become best practice to operate leaner and closer to the customer and other stakeholders when creating products and services, shaping the value proposition, and building the company. This can lead to fewer products and services being launched that have no customer demand, which just wastes the company’s and investors’ time and money. Co-creation also tends to express less as just a strategy and more as an actual culture, and a culture of co-creation can be highly resilient, as more stakeholders have a sense of ownership, impact, and belonging. As Peter Drucker used to say, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

Heidi Scott Giusto: Especially for small businesses where the owner wears numerous hats, co-creation can help distribute the intellectual demands for innovation and process improvement. By bringing in stakeholders to solve a problem or improve a process, small-business owners can engage in co-creation and give their business a competitive edge.

Ivan Misner: We opened this book by saying that “we live in an age of sweeping conflict, widespread skepticism, and intense anxiety.” That is true today. I don’t believe it is a statement of where we must go. I believe that “What’s in the way, becomes the way.” Conflict, skepticism, and anxiety can be the motivation to find a different way to communicate and create a better world. Co-creation can be that catalyst.

How do you recommend people get started?

Dawa Tarchin Phillips: The key to co-creation is involving other people. Our book provides a practical model and sequential process anyone can use to achieve results with co-creation, but the first thing is to talk to the people you want to engage in the process. The emphasis in co-creation is on “co.” So open up about your plans and start to include important stakeholders in your considerations. That is the biggest shift and most important transformation. You have to begin to see other people not as part of the problem but as a critical part of the solution.

Heidi Scott Giusto: Identify the problem you want to solve, and then use the Co-Creation Model we presented in the book to get started. The clock’s ticking!

Ivan Misner: There is a proverb that says: “When is the best time to plant an oak tree? Answer: 20 years ago. When is the second best time? Answer: today.” Start finding ways to implement co-creation within your organization. It won’t be easy. Most great things are difficult to achieve. If you look for excuses, you’ll find them. But if you look for solutions, you’ll find those instead. Start today and hold the vision not the obstacles.

I invite you to learn more in “The Third Paradigm”.

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