Jonatan Littke

This is the blog of Jonatan Littke, a Swedish entrepreneur, designer and developer.

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I am your co-creator, not your competitor

This was originally posted on Looking forward, the blog by Lookback, where I work, but it sparked so much attention that I’m reposting it here.

A competitive mindset has always been dominant in many areas of human interaction, not the least in business. But it’s halting innovation and causes us to focus on the wrong questions. Now is the time to change that.

After we started Lookback, people have been asking us a lot of questions about competitors.

  • Aren’t you afraid that someone else suddenly builds X?
  • What if you don’t finish feature Y before date Z?
  • Do you have everything patented?

Worry, worry. Well, let me tell you a secret; we don’t have competitors. Not because there isn’t anyone else in this space, but because we do not fundamentally regard them as competitors.

Introducing co-creation

Co-creation is a method of building or creating something together with others that is unconcerned with competition. It’s an open mindset that values the benefits of all and regards others as contributors. It invites cooperation and sharing  and goes with the flow to reach the goals, which are often defined and redefined throughout the process. ¹

Co-creation comes naturally after the realisation that ones self and ego are not threatened by the success of others. That the end result will be much greater if multiplied by the strength of the many, instead of the domination of the few. It’s the belief that if someone does a better job than you do, you let them. You celebrate them. You enjoy what they create, and you use it.

A great example of co-creation is an open-source project, where many regard contributions from others not just as a nice-to-have but sometimes a must.² Projects borrow freely from one another and if someone dislikes parts of a project, they simply create their own version by copying the project and changing whatever they want. ³

Co-creation is a beautiful concept that humanity is just beginning to figure out — and when we implement it fully, because we will, a lot of things will change. ⁴

The goals of a modern co-creative business

If it’s not about beating the competition, what are we aiming for?

Personal growth. Collective growth. Enlightenment. Cooperation. Solutions to real and important problems.

See, we’ve yet to figure out so much. We still believe that success is to make a lot of money and get a lot of hits for our website, Twitter account and blog. But success is deeper; success is growth. Success is the collecting of experiences, the continuous growth of the individual and his or her increased contribution to the growth of others. As we all know, another startup that aims to satisfy the superfluous needs of a young tech generation is not dramatically improving the human condition.

Let us learn from a children’s soccer team in Sweden that decided to give equal play time to all players regardless of skill level. They decided to disregard the idea of winning all games and instead focused on personal goals. When they faced the best team, their goal was simple: shoot 15 times. Not make 15 goals, but shoot at the goal 15 times. That’s a personal, relative goal which is achievable regardless of the opposing team’s performance. ⁵ All boys can go home feeling like winners, their bodies will feel they’ve won and create the appropriate chemical response, which in turn will create happiness for them and those around them. A win-win. A positive spiral. A personal goal.

It’s a race for value creation

The future of business is transparent, ego-less, contributing and humble. The companies that will thrive are the ones that will focus on creating value for all. It will be the ones that are obsessed with quality and who are freely contributing and borrowing from other players in the same space. Doing business without sharing knowledge — without transparency — will soon be a method of the past.

Find out where you can contribute the most. If others are there and already doing a great job, let them — move on and find your niche. If you see an area of need where your contributions can make a difference, start building and don’t give up until you’ve built something of value that others appreciate.

If you want to compete, compete on creating the most happiness. Compete on value creation.

You can still make a shitload of cash

Make no mistake: A co-creative mindset that focuses on the good of all is often abundantly rewarded. People are willing to pay and can do so with an open heart to those who creates a great contribution to their lives or the lives of others.

Don’t fear charging money for what you do or else you may limit your ability to increase your contribution because of a lack of funds. If you build a large business that makes a lot of money and creates a lot of value, all is as it should be. But realize that the money has only been given to you so that you can create something valuable with it. Money is not the end goal; love, joy peace and growth are. For everyone.

Plus, co-creation in itself is incredibly rewarding on a personal level. There’s a great and lasting joy in seeing others work on what you’ve started, grow from it, purify it and get it into the hands of the many. ⁶

What about Lookback, aren’t you competing?

Well, Lookback is essentially a tool for improving user experiences. It has the ability to be a catalyst in the development of not just one, but potentially thousands of products and thereby millions of moments of interaction. That’s a humbling potential and we’re sure others will want to contribute in this space too.

Conclusion: the choice is yours (as always)

Your competitive nature will run you over unless you stop it. It’s been the dominating mindset for most of the history of mankind, and probably your personal history too. But we’ve reached a milestone where most of us no longer have to obsess over food for tomorrow or finding shelter for the night.

You have, as the commanding entity of all our impulses, desires and abilities, the choice to stop seeing others as threats. You have the chance to choose another path and see others in a new light, one where you are not seeing enemies but people who can contribute to the growth of you and of others. See them as opportunities. As purpose. As co-creators.

Footnotes

1: This definition is not limited to the emerging use of the term ‘co-creation’ to mean a product development process where interaction occurs between companies and consumers. This is wider.

2: As an example, read the ideas surrounding the just-launched editor Atom.io by GitHub. This sentence especially, sums up the co-creative mindset: “Don’t like some part of Atom? Replace it with your own [components], then [submit those] to […] Atom.io so everyone else can use it too.” No single person is winning here — everyone is.

Many companies within tech, regardless of their relationship to open source, are amongst the leaders in sharing insights and giving away things. Perhaps it’s because of what SEO gurus preach these days :-)

3: This is called forking.

4: Another inspiring example is energy efficient urban landscaping, and how it’s spreading between cities. One city invents the concept of rentable bikes with multiple pick up and drop off zones, another city sees it and implements it, a third refines the idea further, implements it, and shares the lessons learned back with everyone else. They’re co-creating a sustainable future and realize that no single city can or should win.

5: Well, that’s the idea anyhow — the team could end up getting so beat up that they won’t shoot a single time. But that’s okay; it’s still a goal that you have to struggle to achieve. You still have to fight. You still have to grow. But both teams can win.

6: When I was 13, I started a gaming website. I sold it seven years later, and it lives on today, with more visitors than ever. I can’t begin to imagine how many have been served by it by now. I’m so thankful to have been the one starting it and that other’s are keeping it growing today.

Thanks to Johan Rydqvist, Viktor Bijlenga, Adam Crookston, Peter Marklund and Lisa Green Weijmar for proofing and contributing to this article.

And, to clarify, we don’t necessarily believe competition, patenting etc are inherently evil. A lot of good can come out of it, and it may make sense to patent something just to avoid a patent troll or being forced to stop using a feature you built. But this is a post about attitude, intention and beliefs. It’s about competing in a competent and supportive manner instead of a hostile and fearful way. Peace.