Serendipitous encounters

Knowledge sharing together with serendipitous encounters form the most distinctive characteristics in the co-creation culture. The likelihood for the serendipitous encounters can be increased by paying attention to physical proximity, informal nature of collaboration, to lowering the hierarchical barriers and acquaintances.

Physical proximity

Development collaboration increased with physical proximity — distance being the biggest obstacle to co-creation. There has to be the possibility to interact with others, overhear discussions and catch up with other members of the community1.

The smaller the physical distance between people, the more likely they are to interact and especially tacit knowledge is best shared when people are physically in the same space. Such casual interactions build trust, cooperation, and innovation and also increase creativity and the feeling of togetherness2.

Close proximity provides opportunity for collaboration and innovation, and brands the environment as a space of activity3.

Informal nature

As innovations often emerge in unpredictable ways, and informal communication and common practices are essential for tacit knowledge transfer, open forums and informal communication channels are key ingredients in well-functioning innovation networks5.

Informal collaboration plays a key role in innovation. Through informal collaboration—or in fact, through the absence of formal overtones—individuals are free to develop and collaborate around their common objective, which builds inherent trust6.

Interaction and informal collaboration mainly support idea generation, while formal constructs like boundary objects are essential for solution implementation in the innovation process. For innovation ecosystems to flourish there should be formal and informal networks on each level6.

Low hierarchical barriers

One way of communicating trust and respect is by lowering hierarchical barriers7.

Organic organizational structures, marked by low levels of hierarchy and bureaucracy, have been found to increase successful collaboration by being more conductive for interdepartmental communication and learning7.

Whether organizations can change culture is debated. A well-established organization with distinct hierarchical structures may not have the conditions to be receptive to transitions in beliefs, values, and behaviors8.

Talking to strangers

Research shows that creativity is enhanced on an individual level if more time is spent on networking with a diverse group that includes both acquaintances and strangers as opposed to networking with business colleagues with strong ties. However, there needs to be a constant flow of new acquaintances as after spending time with complete strangers, the ties will soon become stronger and drown out the benefits of non-redundant information10.

Studies have found that food and drinks bring people together and opportunities for informal gatherings should be enabled. If the physical space is designed well, people can also do “real work” while taking a break or enjoying their breakfast. Hence, food can make working more efficient and bring people into important, unplanned conversations9.