Continued From Part One:

Kidlington You’ll remember we were part way through the group where I had represented myself as someone who could reach out to teenagers.
I have just let them know we’re talking about personal hygiene products:

“Right, ask away man. What do you want to know?”

“Well, what do you use and why?”


…and I wake up.

If only it were only a dream! This is an all-to-real description of the events and underlying emotional landscape of many focus group sessions. As I re-read it the simple hurry and doomed rush to create relationships that allow significant speaking strikes me.

I did not really know any of the people I met there in those places; recruiter’s houses, one-way mirror facilities, shabby hotel rooms, dowdy rooms upstairs in pubs. Who would go there except someone who had forgotten to book their wedding reception or a committee that no-one cared about enough to give proper space to?

Whatever, I knew I had spent 25 years of evenings in such bleak places.

As I walked away from those last sessions I would love to assure you that I had an idea of a new direction, or some next steps. But I didn’t. I just had a sense that something was wrong, my life wasn’t really going anywhere new, I had done 25 years of qualitative research and I felt exhausted. I didn’t know who I was anymore, and meeting others I didn’t know in a pseudo-intimate manner left me feeling even more alienated than I did in my own company.

I had to find a new path. This was mid-life crisis. Just when I had every right to feel pleased, that I had accomplished something, built my career, done the business, everything seemed like sand slipping through my fingers, I felt irrelevant and my job was hard. I imagined there were lots of young people, fresh out of university, complete with unspoilt driving licences and the ability to work a tape recorder who were set to replace me.

What, I asked myself, felt of genuine value, what still held my interest? Of all the things I had done it was the application of psychological theories to consumer isuses that still captivated me. I was still fascinated by how people functioned in the consumer society: by what the brilliant Daniel Miller has called ‘The Comfort of Things’. Clients varied in their interest and appreciation of such things, but I liked them; they interested me.

I wanted to find a new way to explore the world of customers, a way that more faithfully reflected their life experience. It took me two years to discover this new path. It was from this personal crisis that the large group work that became Co-Creation was born. Ten years later co-creation is very much alive and thriving!