When Co-Creation Is From a Distance

The Four Principles of Co-Creation

Picture from Lukasz Szmigiel

Many of the discussions within AcornOak and with our clients revolve around two themes: a new leadership consciousness which emerges as individuals embark on their personal journeys, and the need to create new forms of creation to adapt to new leadership values.

What Is Co-creation?

Co-creation is a form of collaborative innovation: Ideas are shared and improved together rather than kept to oneself. People are inherently creative and want to shape their own experiences.

Throughout time, humanity has used collaboration and cooperation; in times of crisis, co-creation becomes vital.

What Are Co-creation’s Principles?

Some key principles of co-creation are Curiosity, Improvisation, Uncertainty and Compassion.

It starts with Curiosity, which is driven by a shared desire and a common set of values. Through curiosity we explore and engage in knowing our whole selves, then bring those selves to work and engage in relationships with others.

Benjamin Schlez, a German musician and composer, was featured during an online session of the House of Beautiful Business; Virginie Glaenzer, a French/American entrepreneur and storyteller, was attending. The two engaged in a discussion triggered by curiosity.

Curiosity is followed by Improvisation, which encourages the development of unscripted ideas using the simple principle of “Yes, and…” The most basic form of understanding improv and the theory behind it is the idea that we must say YES, and also add ourselves and our unique perspective with AND. By remaining open and receptive to input from others and letting go of our own insecurities and preconceived notions, we create a culture of creative risk-taking and a shared sense of purpose.

When we allow our emotions to come forward and trust them to guide us, we give ourselves a chance to truly listen and learn.

With this idea in mind, two curious strangers with a common passion for creation started a conversation and explored questions:

  1. How can we collaborate from a distance?
  2. How do we create under the premise of just pure creation without expectations?
  3. How do we intertwine spoken words with music?
  4. Which comes first, the music or the spoken words?

Third, co-creation requires stepping outside our comfort zone into the realm of Uncertainty. Being comfortable with not knowing means letting go of control and accepting possible rejection. By putting ourselves forward in this way, we make space for other people to bring forth their collective knowledge.

With the understanding that the questions might never be answered, Virginie and Benjamin began their journey together, side by side, exploring ideas. The walk felt uneasy at times, with respective creative challenges; yet the initial intention, to set creation free was the guiding principle in this relationship, was stronger than their loose expectations of possible outcomes.

Finally, Compassion is the glue to engage in deeper conversations to transform what we do and tap into imagination, intuition, and self-expression. It gives us permission to ask: What world do we want to create? When we give ourselves the space and freedom to live our lives as artists, we end up building relationships on a different level with others and with the world at large.

This co-creation, called SenseMaking, is meant to be an experience for your ears, your mind, and your body. Plug in your headphones and listen to the three episodes: Authenticity, Improv and, Gen-Z.

A Musician’s Experience, by Benjamin Schlez

Performing online is a weird experience as a musician.

You sit at home, or in my case, in my psychotherapy practice in Berlin-Kreuzberg — a beautiful, very colorful area, and you try to feel as if you are sitting on a stage in front of a couple people. You see a few people on the screen watching you, some of them writing emails, or standing up and getting a glass of wine.

In this kind of silence and vibe-less atmosphere, you first think that you must add the stage atmosphere you think the audience demands from you. But this is a misunderstanding. They don’t expect to be entertained like at a concert; they want to be brought into your world, to see you sitting in your room and playing for yourself!

I can remember getting anxious the first couple of times I performed for the House of Beautiful Business because I lost contact with the ones I was supposed to play for.

It felt like being a child in the supermarket who dawdles in front of the candy section and all of a sudden realizes that their mother is gone.

But then something happened to me.

I got this email from Virginie saying that she liked my music and wanted to work with me. Her message was intriguing; a French woman in New York, but also a little scary.

At the first Zoom date, though, I immediately felt this was good and safe. All of a sudden it made sense to me.

Interacting creatively over the distance didn’t feel isolating anymore, especially because my music reflects so much of my thoughts and feelings about my relationships, my hopes, but also my failures and how to cope with all of this.

Suddenly, it all got a voice. Virginie’s texts inspired me to frame and enhance their emotional content.

Aside from the process of familiarizing myself with someone from a different world concerning our working habits and cultural backgrounds, it was also exciting to see how we dealt with struggles.

The recording environment was difficult and I sometimes felt almost too intrusive, with either one or both of us not being satisfied with the quality of the spoken words files.

We found a solution eventually, because inspiration doesn’t come out of nowhere; it needs a carefully set-up environment where you feel safe and confident to listen and improvise, passionately.

A Poet’s Experience, by Virginie Glaenzer

After recording more than 50 times in various parts of my NYC apartment — at my desk and inside the closet with multiple recording devices, it was clear that the quality of sound had to be professionally made. We agreed to go to a recording studio.

The voice in my head was loud, fearful, and confused.

“Don’t do it. You’ve never done it. You don’t know how. You might fail,” but the one in my heart was sound and clear: “It looks fun, creative, different from I’ve done and it’s meaningful to me.

The stories we tell ourselves are both liberating and constraining.

A part of me was terrified at the idea that others could hear my voice. Often, it’s the wounded who, through their own healing, will benefit the world and bring changes or peace.

When I arrived at the recording studios in Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan, my excitement and eagerness were tinged with a little nervousness. I was ready to do it and, more importantly, ready to be over with it. I wanted to rip that Band-Aid off.

I’d forgotten my checkbook, so I set out to get cash at a nearby bank. On my way back, I saw a liquor store and had a flashback to earlier that morning: I hadn’t slept well, and my husband joked that I should have a glass of wine before recording. I decided to take his joking advice and stepped inside to buy a half-sized bottle of white wine.

Back in the studio, I stepped into the booth, adjusted the mic and sat on a stool. I was sweating. I cleared my voice: “Could you turn on the AC, please?”

Derek, the sound engineer who had helped me get comfortable was there. He was listening. I was being listened to. I suddenly realized that I was facing my fear.

Then something happened. I started reading the texts mumbling the words:

“In communities, we find the joy of relationships within ourselves and with others, and we progressively delve deeper and unlearn in order to truly listen.”

“Why wouldn’t we practice the arts in the workplace to resolve the illness affecting businesses?”

“Can improvisation create a more productive workplace and how can we become better leaders through improvisation?”

“What are ethics in business and what does that mean to be an Ethical Leader?’

The words brought the emotions back. I forgot myself, my conscious fearful and over-thinking mind, and something in me relaxed as I felt a sense of being in the present. I pushed the stool away and took off my shoes.

A creation is an act of Love. An act of Love is a creation. A leaf can only grow when supported by its environment.

In the last six months, despite the pandemic, I had found my tribe composed of different groups of people who took the effects of this global crisis into their own hands: some aware that what we are experiencing on the outside is really a personal crisis on the inside, others conscious that in order to make real, impactful change, individuals must find their kindred communities to become accountable and bring changes into the world.

In the experience of facing my own fear, I’ve let the creative energy express itself by giving myself permission to embrace my inherent artistic ability. I felt like an artist and, as result, I entered into a deeper dialogue with the world.

One hour later, I stepped out of the sound booth holding my unopened bottle of wine. Derek said to me: “Wow. What you said in the booth resonated with me. That was some powerful stuff.”

Plug in your headphones and listen to the three episodes: Authenticity, Improv and, Gen-Z.

This story was originally published on AcornOak’s blog.



Conscious Leader and Trend Maker building Communities. Digital Marketer | Advisor | Speaker | Change Agent. Currently living in NYC.

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Virginie Glaenzer

Conscious Leader and Trend Maker building Communities. Digital Marketer | Advisor | Speaker | Change Agent. Currently living in NYC.