Are we co-designing, or are we steering people towards our version of the ‘right’ solution?

June 2018

Co-design is a word we are hearing lots at the moment and has become a buzz word of sorts over the last few years, however, it is by no means a new concept. Here are Cynergy we’ve been using the principles of co-design for over a decade.

Very often within this process, we see the creation of networks/reference groups/steering groups based on a shared interest/profession/agenda, but is this truly co-design or is this hindering our ability to think outside the box and create meaningful solutions to our challenges, by creating a support system, where like-minded people can feel safe because many will agree with the others thinking?

As people, we naturally seek to build rapport with others, we look for common ground and shared interests to develop relationships. Are we therefore unconsciously building networks based on similarity and likeness, and not actually seeking the diversity of the voices that exist?

Without effective and proper co-design, the truth is we will never reach the right solution. Let’s be truthful, how many of us have attended or led a steering group where we have arrived with a preconceived agenda, rather than a completely open mind? Users are the tour guides of their lived experience, who provide insights and knowledge previously hidden. What if we decide to let them into the process before “we’ve got our house in order,” (a phrase we hear a lot), because how much time and money has already been invested by this point? If we found that we were going in the wrong direction, would we admit it, or would we continue, because we think we know best or we don’t want to ‘waste’ the work we’ve already done? 

The very words ‘steering group’ speaks volumes – language influences thought and action, which got us thinking, is this part of the problem? Are we co-designing, or are we steering people towards our version of the ‘right’ solution?  What would happen if we were brave enough to do this differently?