The Power of Co-Creation:
Inside Innovation at Vodafone
Businesses need to continually innovate or risk becoming obsolete. The scope and speed
of change is accelerating and corporations recognize that innovation is often the answer
to dealing with this uncertainty. But increasingly the question for many corporations is,
“How?” In the face of short-term quarterly earning pressures, reduced spending, and
increased competitive pressures, how can a large multinationals create the space to drive
For Vodafone, the answer is co-creation.
At Vodafone Global Enterprise, the Vodafone business unit which focuses on global
multinational enterprises, we help enable our customers’ success by providing total
communications solutions. As mobility is the heartbeat of today’s innovation, Vodafone
has a unique role to play in co-creating market changing solutions with our customers.
There is increasing buzz about co-creation, but much of the literature about enterprise
co-creation focuses on crowd-sharing platforms, going direct to consumers, or partnering
with startups. Our innovation program starts and ends with customers. Our goal is to
enable businesses to lead their industry.
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Starting the Journey
The beginning of the Vodafone co-creation journey starts with a conversation – an
innovation workshop. Over the past few years we have been developing (and continuing to
iterate upon and improve) our workshop model. The goal is to develop an understanding
of our customer and their environment, which enables us to support their business
transformation. We host five to eight top executives from a customer’s different business
units including a unique configuration of people such as Chief Marketing Officer, VP of
Facilities, Director of HR, Chief Strategy Officer, Head of Supply Chain, Director of Digital
Engagement, etc. Having a 360° view of the business with an eye on how communications
technology can align and accelerate objectives leads to powerful outcomes.
Vodafone’s approach to innovation workshops rests on the time-honored tradition of
having a conversation and intently listening. These workshops are not driven by product or
solution pitches but are aimed at having an open and honest dialogue where both
companies share their vision of the future and current innovation initiatives. We invite the
customer attendees to start by sharing their view of the ideal state for their business in
three years. We listen and ask questions until we see the underlying trends or
A customer has the best insights about their business. Our goal is to help connect-
the-dots between the trends and stories of business transformation that we are seeing,
back to the challenges and opportunities facing their business and industry.
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We usually emerge from these day-long sessions with three to five areas to pursue
together, a combination of short-, mid- and long-term projects that will benefit both
companies. Vodafone has run hundreds of workshops over the past few years and they
have had profound impact on business.
Vodafone’s global leadership in
telecommunications means that our
business-as-usual propositions can
help customers transform their
business by unlocking new value
propositions, tapping into new market segments, streamlining operations, or providing
best places to work. But sometimes, what emerges from the workshops is something
completely new - an idea that is radical, potentially disruptive. In the fast-paced global
environment and changing markets, companies, including Vodafone, are increasingly
looking for new growth areas.
The Vodafone co-creation process is business focused - partnering with the world’s
largest multinationals. It’s is not a normal business development effort. It’s more than
the sum of two companies’ combined assets. Co-creation generates disruption, moving
both organizations into new and unexpected areas. It builds on the core DNA of both
companies and then builds in partnership, something new and unexpected. There are
multiple potential routes to market provided through the partnership of two global
organizations. A key part of the co-creation process is rapid prototyping. We want to get
the initial idea to a go/no-go within a few months, not the traditional months or years.
Business models that remained dominant for
decades or even a century are increasingly being
challenged. All businesses need to be able to
rapidly respond to these changes, often by
creating disruptive new solutions, new revenue streams. Vodafone is both looking to
develop new solutions and empower our customers to transform their own businesses.
As mobility is increasingly enabling (and causing) so much change in the world,
Vodafone has a unique role to play with our customers, shifting our relationship from
that of customer/vendor to that of strategic partners.
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Global enterprises know that digital transformation is an essential component for
survival. They are looking for best of breed partners with global scale and technologies
that can support new business models and new consumer engagement practices.
By building on their own core competencies and combining total communications
solutions like mobility, cloud and analytics, global enterprises can differentiate their
competitive position, even create entire new markets. By co-creating, prototyping, and
following lean methodologies, we can collectively de-risk and accelerate new market
Some of the world’s largest, most innovative brands have chosen Vodafone as their
co-creation partner of choice because of our tool set, global presence, and forward
Our customers are the world’s largest corporations, and they are at the center of our
co-creation program. We work with multi-nationals across all sectors and focus on
identifying transformational opportunities to create new markets.
Having a senior sponsor from both companies that are passionate about co-creation is
key to the success of the program. Innovation and disruption is never easy. These people
have strategic vision and the ability to commit corporate resources in partnership.
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We have identified the need for two specific roles to support the co-creation process:
Concept Owners and Studio Lead.
Concept Owners are the two strategic leads, one from each company, that own the
success of the prototype. They have a strong understanding of the business, current
challenges and opportunities and see areas for disruption and growth. They have the
political relationships within their specific organizations to get the mindshare, resources,
and space to pursue a prototype. They must be able to work well together and
communicate openly as roadblocks and political challenges are bound to arise and
these two individuals need to feel like they are on the same team moving their concept
forward. Concept Owners are the visionaries that manage and protect the disruptive
The Studio Lead is responsible for executing the idea. In our co-creation center,
solutions are often technological but they could just as easily be new business
processes, etc. The Studio Lead may have different skill sets depending on the project.
For every project, the Studio Lead is responsible for helping the concept owners refine
the idea down to something tangible, measureable and executable. They are then
tasked with developing the team that will be able to create the prototype. This person
needs to also be personally passionate about the project, as they will be charged with
making decisions on a daily basis without constant feedback from the Concept Owners.
We leverage practices of Lean Startup and Agile development for rapid iteration. It’s key
that both the Concept Owners and the Studio Lead can work in this fast-paced, dynamic
environment, where pivoting is a normal course of action.
Our goal is to create a prototype that brings to life the initial co-creation concept in a
way that the business can touch and feel the impact and then respond with a go/no-go
The co-creation process starts with an idea that is generated during a Vodafone
Innovation Workshop. But often because this Workshop was intended to look at all areas
for transformation across the business, we might not have the right people in the room
to fully develop an area for co-creation exploration…or the time.
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Co-Creation Workshop Preparation
The next step is a co-creation workshop to ensure that all the necessary stakeholders
are engaged and appropriate time is dedicated to flushing out the idea. In advance of
this second gathering, we may do some more hands on exploration of the customer
needs. For example,
• We have gone to the rural healthcare clinics in Africa side by side with our co-
creation partner to examine current practices, speak with clinicians and patients to
gain deeper insight about the area we are starting to explore.
• We have interviewed over 100 consumers via mobile forums, asking them about
their experience with banks and mobile banking.
• We have run innovation workshops with our co-creation partners inviting other
enterprises into the conversation to get a better understanding of ways we can
collectively improve their businesses or industry.
Refining the idea is an important step. What capabilities and differentiators is each
organization bringing to the partnership? What is the untapped market potential? What is
the scope of the prototype?
We don’t rely on crowd-sourcing (though we listen to customers) or idea management
platforms (though we have them and use them). We rely on the strength of partnerships
and the power of a good idea.
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Co-creation Workshop Methodology
The co-creation workshop is about bringing together the executive sponsors, and
business owners from both organizations in combination with the user focused/
problem statement investigation that was done between the Innovation Workshop and
the Co-creation workshop. Data regarding the two companies’ capabilities is also
surfaced before the workshop. The morning of the workshop is focused on exploring the
data and problem statement feedback, identifying the building blocks each company is
bringing to the table, and ideating solutions around the initial challenge or high-level
During the Co-creation workshop we leverage the practices of Design Thinking and Lean
Startup (Lean Design Thinking).
Once funding is secured, it’s time to start developing the idea in The Studio. We assign a
Studio Lead who becomes the “COO” of the project. They are responsible for delivering
the prototype by taking the Lean Business Canvas and pitch deck, identifying all the key
stakeholders, creating a process flow with interdependencies, additional market sizing
detail, and a schedule of releases for hypothesis test. Here we draw from Lean Startup to
develop initial prototypes in weeks or months to validate the idea. As the prototype
progresses, the Studio Lead will identify and then overcome the technical, commercial,
regulatory, legal unknowns or hurdles.
Validation starts with problem fit. Today because of the technology we have available
the right question is no longer can we build it but should we build it? Problem fit takes
care of this question making sure we are only building a solution to a problem or
opportunity that really exists.
Before we build anything we make falsifiable hypothesis and test these with real
customers through methodical interviews. This allows us to test that the
problem/opportunity we have identified exists in the way we think it does and how
acute the problem is.
The aim at the end of the workshop is to produce
a lean canvas and a pitch deck that can be used
to tell the story of the idea and pitch for funding
from both organizations.
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When we have a hypothesis that we know resonates and has value, the next step is start
experimenting as quickly and cheaply as possible with solutions. Making a prototype and
going back to the customer to test that the proposed solution meets the needs of the
problem. This may start off with a Styrofoam mockup of a sensor or a clickable
presentation instead of an application. The more the idea can be brought to life,
the easier it is to overcome the inevitable hurdles of innovating in complex corporate
Vodafone Global Enterprise has launched the Enterprise Studio in our Silicon Valley
office. But co-creation happens everywhere. The Studio is focused on creating best
practices, through our own iterative process, from learning and doing, from research,
from our partners, and distilling that down to a methodology that the rest of the
business can leverage. We run several projects at once in the Studio while providing the
methodology for executing solutions around the world.
To learn more about Vodafone Innovation visit: