As with so many apparently new ideas that resonate in a contemporary context, co-design has a long history. Originally referred to as cooperative or participatory design, it was first applied in Scandinavia in the 1960s and 70s, especially as a way of engaging stakeholders in the public sector in the design and development of IT projects, healthcare and workplaces. Arguably, our modern understanding of the idea was first set out by C.K. Prahalad and Venkatram Ramaswamy in a 2000 Harvard Business Review article called Co-opting Customer Competenceand a subsequent book by the authors on the subject. They argue that there is a growing trend for firms to actively seek the insight and competence of customers to offer them better solutions, tailored to their own needs.
“Customers are fundamentally changing the dynamics of the marketplace. The market has become a forum in which consumers play an active role in creating and competing for value. The distinguishing feature of this new marketplace is that consumers become a new source of competence for the corporation. The competence that customers bring is a function of the knowledge and skills they possess, their willingness to learn and experiment, and their ability to engage in an active dialogue.”