The role of users in design is changing from passive research subjects to active co-designers and content creators. Users are the best experts of their everyday life and that is why they have great potential as sources of innovation. With user-driven innovation methods user ideas can be captured and worked further with designers.

To increase users’ role in design and innovation they should be increasingly involved in deciding what is needed and what kinds of services should be designed for them and with them. In user-driven innovation users are considered as a source of inspiration that can foster innovation. At the early stages of development processes, at the “fuzzy front-end”, users can participate in designing what should be designed. Users can also be involved in developing further a service that has already been launched, thus continuing the design in use. This requires that the product or service is designed in such a way that it leaves room for user innovation, so called solution spaces.

VTT has developed two approaches to co-creation of products and services with users: Online co-creation in Open Web Lab (Owela) and Real life co-creation in Ihme Innovation Showroom. VTT has successfully applied both approaches in several service development projects.

Online co-creation in Open Web Lab (Owela)

KUVA Owelasta (onko arkistoissa)

Online collaboration facilitates user participation in co-creation activities regardless of time and place. Owela (http://owela.vtt.fi/) is an online space designed by VTT for different co-creation activities with end users, customers, developers and stakeholders. This innovative workspace provides tools and methods for understanding users’ needs and experiences as well as innovating and designing new products and services together. Built on the same concepts of user participation as social media, this kind of collaboration environment is easy to adopt by many people.

Owela innovation spaces have been used for co-creating online and mobile services as well as "real-life" services, like housing, postal, tourism, grocery store and communal services. A typical service co-creation project consists of evaluation of future scenarios, writing stories and experiences with current services, and developing ideas in interaction with other users and researchers. In addition to discussion, chat sessions can be arranged for real-time idea generation or feedback.

Real-life co-creation in Ihme

In the actual usage environments, it is easier for users to think about all the issues related to usage situations. VTT’s Ihme Innovation showroom is a co-creation and innovation space that can be set up in places where people can easily visit, e.g. a shopping centre. People can see and try new technical solutions and they are invited to ideate how new technical enablers could be best utilized to build useful or fun services.

Ihme innovation showroom serves well in the co-creation of services with tangible experiences. Each user can devote as much (or little) time to the ideation as (s)he happens to have. Ihme innovation showroom facilitates direct user-designer interaction in the actual usage context. This dialogue not only foments ideas but also makes the designer understand the user’s world.