Follow the Mountain Bikers



It could be normal to think that the word co-creation was born in the 2.0 era, when other words with the same root, like “creative”, started to be protagonists of the web and innovation scene. Nevertheless it was fist used to describe something else.

Gaurav Bhalla, in his “Collaboration and Co.creation: New Platforms for Marketing and Innovation” explains that the fist industry which benefit from the Co-creation was the Mountain Biking: “Mountain biking started as a fringe recreational pastime among a few teenagers in the hills and mountains of Marin Country, California, in the early 1970s. Today, it is an Olympic sport, a $ billion global industry, and a form of recreation for millions around the world.” (G. Bhalla, 2011).

Bhalla says that it was the shared passion and the obsessive tinkering of lots of bikers who created a new market, because they needed something else from the daily bikes. The mountain biking pioneers experimented and tried different roads and paths with their old bikes; this drove them to figure out which problems occurred during their experiences, and finally brought them to the solution.  As a matter of fact, “In their willingness to network, collaborate, and share, the mountain bikers were acting as both customers and producers of mountain bikes.” (G. Bhalla, 2011).

If you are interested in the history of the mountain bike here is an interesting and useful video.


ImageFirst of all it is necessary to understand what is the meaning of the words and co-creation.

It is really difficult to find some definitions of those concepts in the search engines, even if they are also seriously discussed in academic design circles.


A comprehensive definition of co-creation could be found in an interview made by the IBS Case Development Centre  with Gurav Bhalla about his contribution to the article “Rethinking Marketing” for the HBR. Bhalladefines co-creation as a representation ofinteraction between one or more firms, and one or more actual or potential customersSecondly, the innovative thinker says that this interaction is willing, purposive, and intentional.  Thirdly, this interaction is managed, either by the firm, or jointly by the firm and its customers.  Fourthly, the output of this interaction results in value for both the firm and for its customers.  Lastly, the value created for customers may or may not be unique, and is derived through a variety of experiences, such as suggesting ideas, refining current value, designing new products, improving current designs, fixing defects, and consuming new products and services.

According to Elizabeth B.-N. Sanders & Pieter Jan Stappers and to what they write in their Co-creation and the new landscapes of design, Co- design could be defined as “collective creativity as it is applied across the whole span of a design process”, and it is seen as “a specific instance of co-creation”. Basicly its meaning is referred to the creativity of designers and people  who, even if they have not been trained in design, could work together in the design development process. (Sanders and Stappers, 2008)

The origin of co-design could be found in what for 40 years was named participatory design, which grew especially in the north of Europe: during the 1970s inNorway, Sweden and Denmark the Collective Resource Approach started to engage workers in the development of new systems for the workplace, with the intent that it could improve the value of industrial production. The approach put together the expertise of the systems designers/researchers and the situated expertise of the people whose work was to be impacted by the change. The approach, thus, built on the workers’ own experiences and provided them with the resources to be able to act in their current situation(Bodker, 1996)

ImageFor years many studies and researches about participatory design could be discovered: in September, 1971, was organized a conference named Design Participation, held by the Design Research Society in Manchester, England. Within the proceedings of the conference, in his conclusion Robert Jungk (futurist and social inventor) told that the participation had to be included not only during the moment of the decision, but it should be a part of the moment of the idea generation (Sanders and Stappers, 2008).

Last Friday at the Design Thinking lecture of MACE, we talked about the Blue Ocean Strategy, which “is about doing business where there is no competitor. It is about creating new land, not dividing up existing land.” (W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne, Blue Ocean Strategy, HBR, October, 2004). According to that, what a better resort to explore and to create new markets than following up the needs of the users/ consumers by working with them?

As the guru Bhalla claims, the mountain bikers first discovered what Kim and Mauborgne underline: in overcrowded industries, differentiating brands becomes harder both in economic upturns and in downturns.and, as a consequence, co-design, and co-creation in general, should be the key.


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