The 3 Cs and future of work: co-create, co-design and collaborate

Hannah Stampke
September 17, 2021

The 3 Cs are a fantastic way to engage your team, positively affecting the future of work. Let’s chat about how you can implement these methods to better your business, clients, and your teams by bringing everyone together. First, I’ll walk you through these 3 magical Cs: co-create, co-design and collaborate.

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The 3 Cs of future work


Co-creation is the forming of ideas within a collaborative team space. Multiple minds come together to share concepts and solutions, then to openly brainstorm and improve.

The advantages of co-creation include:

  • A fresh mindset
  • New ways of thinking
  • Heightened workplace culture and inclusion
  • A larger pool of thoughts and ideas
  • More choice

Co-creation can save businesses copious time and energy further down the track. By tackling the main tasks and kneading out the larger issues first, teams can leave the fine tuning until later whilst retaining confidence and avoiding stress.


Co-designing is an artform of participation. The human centred design principles help to understand how co-designing is implemented in a working environment.

Human centred design is a problem-solving approach that puts the people we work for at the heart of the project. The goal is to create solutions designed specifically for the target clients’ needs.

The process begins with empathy. Step into clients’ shoes and think about what they want and desire. How will they use it? What would they love or hate?

Include them in the process by obtaining feedback and creating transparent, 2-way communication. You are both working towards their future, so attempt to squeeze as much information out of them in these interactions as possible. The more you know, the less you guess.


Collaboration is the act of coming together over a project and working together to complete it. This can include meetings, delegated tasks, teamwork, brainstorming, and support.

One aspect of collaboration that many forget to incorporate is recognition. The act of recognising efforts shows employees that their work and attempts are seen and appreciated. Practicing recognition can sustain a team’s energy and boost productivity. Positive reinforcement is a fantastic incentive for teams and individuals to speak up and share their ideas.

How can the 3 Cs help in my future of work?

How can the 3 Cs benefit you and your team? These methods can be transferred into any business or project environment. For example, let’s use these concepts to build someone a house.

Use co-create to lay out the floorplan

Your client has requested that you build them a house. How exciting! They want this to be a house that will stay functional and stunning well into the future, but where do you start?

Every house needs a floorplan, and every floorplan needs an inspiration. You know that the customer has requested that the house has function and appeal. There are now 2 paths that can be walked.

1: design the house yourself and present the plans after

2: seek more information and feedback from the client to create a plan

The first option seems like a good idea. You can sit down without interruption and design what you think is a dream house. The only problem would be that this would be your dream design, not theirs. They may have a drastically different opinion of layout and requirements. You might include 2 bedrooms, but they want 7!

Option 2 seems like more work, having to deal with the client in 2-way communication and waiting for their input, but doing this will actually save time and work in the later stages. You will have more understanding of their needs and, in turn, spend less time editing floorplan drafts later on.

Co-create by talking to them. Create a collaborative space in which they can put their ideas forward. The best thing to do here is put every idea on the table, no matter how stretched or wild. There will probably be a lot of options that are impossible to achieve. Always explain the issues and your hesitancies so the client understands. Being transparent will keep things smooth down the track.  

Remember, this is their house. They are the ones who will live in it, so tailor it as closely as possible.

Use co-design to build the house

Now that you have your floorplan (and the permits) you are ready to build! This may seem like the end of the clients input but leaving them in the dark would be a grim mistake.

The most important thing to remember is that problems will always surface, no matter how hard you try to avoid them. These will be a lot easier to manage if you have an in-depth understanding of your clients wants and needs. Co-designing is about specifically targeting the clients’ needs and creating solutions to better the product and experience.

You may be able to make small choices based on the information you have already received but, when it comes to larger issues, don’t be afraid to reach out and make the client aware.

Make sure they have a general idea of the plans that they can refer to. This will save you time explaining the whole scenario to them. Show empathy by putting yourself in their shoes and thinking about what they love or hate.

Most importantly, talk to them. They can’t read your mind, so don’t pretend to read theirs. Have that virtual coffee date and ask questions.

See 100 questions to engage people.

Use collaborate to define the interior design

Wow, the shell of the house is done and it looks so sturdy! Now to deal with the final bells and whistles.

Return to your client. Discuss how they will be using the spaces you’ve made for them. Don’t assume that they just want the regular paint job and standard kitchen package. Open yourself up for collaboration. They may tell you that they want fridges in the bathroom and bedrooms. Recognise this. Tell them that you think the bathroom fridge will be a major electrical hazard. Work together to accommodate their needs whilst adhering to the layout.

Consider the Feng Shui of the project. Are their foundational rules or blockages that make some things impossible? Discuss these with the client, then brainstorm and work together to find new ways to achieve the final goal.

Congratulations! You have created a stunning home that your client will love and cherish for years to come. Don’t forget that these methods are easily transferrable, whether it be software, project management, or even baking cakes.

Use the 3 Cs to engage your teams and bring them together

The 3 Cs are vital tools in generating an inclusive environment that will ultimately boost team engagement and culture. This is so important for the future of work, as employees are actively choosing to work in places which allow for development and recognition. With hybrid work on the rise, businesses should implement these concepts as soon as possible to allow for a gradual and easier transition into a future filled with positivity and empathy.

We are now seeing these methods being picked up and played with in many forward-thinking businesses. The future of work is centralised around technology, culture, asynchronous and remote workspaces, and team engagement. These 3 Cs can push your team towards a healthy and productive space by allowing your employees to feel included, valued, and that they are a part of meaningful interactions.

Implement the 3 Cs within your teams by:

Bringing concepts to the team and opening the floor to discussion

Actively listen to ideas and recognise employee efforts

Put yourself in their shoes and use empathy to help guide your decisions

Allow for transparent, 2-way communication

If something won’t work, explain why

For a deeper exploration, watch New ways of working: the future of teams and hybrid work.

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