The 8 rules for co-creation, by Asana’s Chief Product Officer
Teams can avoid getting bogged-down—if they create a culture of co-creation and practice decision hygiene for effective execution.
Words by Alex Hood
Chief Product Officer at Asana
Illustration by Jordan Bogash
There’s one scenario leaders know all too well.
Before a key project can move forward, it must receive sign-off from an ever-expanding list of stakeholders. The reality is that the “how” of teamwork—which should put an emphasis on speed—often brings progress to a crawl.
Here’s a fix: Teams can avoid this bogged-down work state if they create a culture of co-creation and practice decision hygiene for effective execution.
Co-creation is about idea generation
Co-creation is when teams from different departments share input to benefit their colleagues, resulting in work that is often more robust, unified, and successful. It is about harvesting the best ideas early in the problem-solving process. When teams decide to “go broad” and generate diverse ideas from across an organization, they can surface new viewpoints in data to incorporate into their work.
These eight rules for co-creation can leverage the best from an entire organization while keeping the team in charge of execution focused.
Co-creation should NOT include:
❌ Seeking consensus
❌ Decision by committee
❌ Exhaustively inclusive
❌ Negotiation or compromise
❌ Method used to get buy-in
Co-creation should include:
✅ Seeking input in service of the outcome
✅ Considering diverse perspectives in ideation
✅ Curated participation based on expertise
Get feedback from the right folks
Co-creation should end when you’ve collected the ideas you need.
Gathering feedback on decisions or work comes next as you move further in the decision-making or narrowing process.
Ideally, you should ask for input from a small set of folks who have the context required to help you—including approvers of your work.
To reduce the feedback that isn’t helpful, make clear why you are sharing—to inform and provoke any clarifying questions or to seek feedback.
Do not feel pressure to get feedback on your work from everyone you co-created with during ideation.
While it might seem like a good idea to ask for feedback from everybody involved in the early stages of your co-creation process, please do not. It’s too many people. It’s also too expensive. And it’s too slow for you.
Instead, determine the minimum set of folks to help you make the best decisions to improve your work.
If you’re outside the team executing the work, consider when you give feedback with care.
Save time by not providing feedback—unless you think it is essential—in meetings and asynchronously in messages or as comments on tasks.
Remember that when you comment on any group project, it goes to the inbox of many people who are likely already swimming in unread messages. Your comment might take five minutes to digest across six people, with the actual recipient taking 15 mins to craft a response. That’s 45 minutes of collective time. Use your powerful words and the tools at your disposal with care. Determine if your feedback is worth it. Often, less is more.
Make meetings smaller with better decision hygiene
Consider capping meetings at ten people. Velocity stalls without accountability, decision hygiene, and next steps. When velocity stalls, adding more people to the meeting may seem like a good idea. You might think more people could yield answers faster and speed things up. That’s rarely the case, though.
Getting clear on who joins a meeting and their roles will help keep meeting sizes small via the RACI matrix (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed).
- Responsible: Align on who is doing what by when, and share decisions and takeaways in writing to inform other folks.
- Accountable: Take accountability for making the decisions and be judicious in asking for follow-up.
- Consulted: If you disagree, make yourself heard and commit to the decision before leaving. You’re just being consulted, after all.
- Informed: Read the notes later and be OK with not being invited to the live meeting.
Remember, it’s good for teams to stay conscious that they are rejecting the false trade-off between velocity and including all stakeholders. It’s about streamlining decision-making; it’s not limiting access to information. If colleagues are not closely involved in the project, they could still be part of the RACI matrix in the Informed role.
When you’re a leader, operationalize how and when you inform other members of the organization by reminding people to record meetings and share takeaways in writing.
More than anything, co-creation requires trust between teams, leaders, and peers.