The Unifying Properties of Co-Creation
I learned how to become an effective leader with one question: “Ken, what do you think?”
I was literally the only person not seated at the enormous conference table filled with Victoria’s Secret executives. I was not an executive. The table was overcrowded, so as the lowest ranking person in the room I was asked to sit behind the table.
The topic of discussion was the pricing strategy for one of our product categories. I was launching a new product line in that category, so the outcome of this discussion would affect me personally. My invitation to the meeting came with the condition that I was to listen, but not contribute. So, I sat silently along the wall behind the table and took copious notes.
Sharen Turney, the CEO of Victoria’s Secret at the time, went around the table asking for input from her executive team about the pricing strategy of this rather large product category. When it was the turn of the executive sitting directly in front of me Sharen looked over her shoulder and said, “Hold on. Ken, what do you think?”
Because I was actively engaged in my product launch, I had a great deal of pricing information on the category. I provided a few data points and gave my opinion about our pricing strategy. Short, brief, and to the point.
I’ll never forget what happened next. Sharen asked the two executives in front of me to make room. “Come join us at the table,” she said. It was a symbolic gesture, but it had a tremendous impact on me. In a small way, I was a co-creator of our pricing strategy. I was a member of the team… sanctioned by the CEO.
Co-creation has powerful properties of influence:
We typically feel a strong affinity for the things we create. Once the parameters of our new pricing strategy were determined, I felt an obligation to champion the strategy because I was a co-creator. I felt a sense of ownership.
Co-creating also creates a feeling of unity. This is an important leadership concept. Creating or achieving something with others often forms a bond with teammates. I felt that bond with members of the Victoria’s Secret leadership team. I’m not sure if they felt a bond with me, but I sure felt it.
Giving someone an invitation to co-create engenders a sense of loyalty. I felt a tremendous sense of loyalty toward Sharen because she invited me to the table. It was a simple gesture, but it meant a lot to me. Leaders give; managers take.
That experience was eye-opening for me. I learned how co-creation engenders a sense of ownership and belonging… even when your contribution is minor. I also learned that effective leadership involves facilitating an environment of co-creation. It’s not mine; it’s ours.
Whether you are building a loyal team or selling an idea, if you want someone to “buy-in” allow them to contribute. Listen to their point of view. Invite them to co-create.
That seat at the table is more powerful than you think.