As the CEO and co-founder of Local Wisdom, an innovative digital agency that specializes in merging design, storytelling, and tech, Pinaki Kathiari uses his creative superpowers to inspire his team to develop captivating technology that enriches lives and how we connect.
We tracked him down at IABC World Conference 2018 and grilled him about his awesome workshop that communicators can't stop talking about, The Seven Dos and Don'ts of Co-Creation, the importance of diversity in co-creation and the value of creating a safe space for creativity.


Video Transcript

Chuck Gose: Well, IABC 18, welcome to the first ever Chuck Chats Live, straight from the Hub, here in Montreal.

We're gonna have a series of guests here, all speakers from the event. Maybe you've heard from them, maybe you haven't, but our first guest today is a gentleman that I know very well, a gentleman named Pinaki Kathiari, the CEO of Local Wisdom.

Welcome, Pinaki, to the first ever Chuck Chats Live.

Pinaki Kathiari: Thank you Chuck, thank you for having me. Bonjour everybody.

Chuck: Nice throwing in the French there.

We were just in Nashville together. But not together together, but together in Nashville for PRSA Connect. You're back here at IABC World Conference doing another workshop with this.

So my first question for you is, The Seven Dos and Don'ts of Co-creation, is what you're talking about. Why is co-creation so important? The way I see it is, creation is very personal to a lot of people, so why should they co-create with some of their colleagues?

Pinaki: Right on. I think right now, we're a digital agency, and we help build, design a lot of digital things. They're usually not templated, they're usually custom created, and a long time ago, as a developer, a designer, you can kind of do everything. You can create websites and emails and whatnot. 

"The idea of co-creation is really about building stuff and producing things much faster and better than you could on your own."

Click to Tweet  Tweet: Worried about rocking the boat? @carrieyoung & @chuckgose give advice for risk-averse #internalcomms via @bananatag 

But today, technology has changed so much, there's so many skills at the table, that one person can't really do it all. The idea of co-creation is really about building stuff and producing things much faster and better than you could on your own.

So instead of, we meet to talk about what we're gonna do, I go off and do something, and then I come back to show you, and then you're like "Pinaki, that sucks," and then I go back to refine it and we do it over and over again, we're just working together to just create it much faster and much better.

Chuck: So how do you define the difference between creation and creativity? Does a creation need to necessarily be creative, or are you just creating something that may or may not be creative?

Pinaki: That's a good question. There is a difference. You could create something that's not creative, it could be more functional, or you could create something that is just like art.

It's kind of like the difference between art and design, I think is the way to look at it.

Design is meant to solve a purpose, right, you're solving a problem, you're doing something with design. Art is more of an emotion, you're evoking a thought, a feeling in people. It's great when you can mix both together, but I think that that's the difference between just creating something and being creative.

Chuck: Because I think that a lot of communicators especially, they see themselves as the creative ones inside an organization. They may not think of HR as being creative, or Legal as being creative, so how do they begin working with someone like Legal, on co-creation?

How do they overcome some previous obstacles or barriers that they've had with those other departments?

Pinaki: The interesting thing you mentioned as well, HR and Legal, both of these departments were essentially made to keep the company safe from a legal standpoint, and even from an HR standpoint.

Legal is protecting the company from outside, and HR is actually somewhat protecting the company from the inside. It's very company focused.

So as communicators, we're all changing it up, it's focused on the people. I think as communicators, working with HR and Legal is important because you're bringing back that human, you're bringing back your audience, you've seen these kind of large legal documents and the fine print - well let's make it human, and let's just say what it means, and the implications of that.

"You want diversity in the way people think. You want diversity of ideas, experience, age, et cetera. You just basically don't want all the same people because we'll just agree with each other the whole time."

Click to Tweet  Tweet: Worried about rocking the boat? @carrieyoung & @chuckgose give advice for risk-averse #internalcomms via @bananatag 

Chuck: So, let's say somebody here wants to focus more on co-creation.

How do they identify who to co-create with? Do they go based on the individual and personalities they think they might like to work with? Or do they go based on a key department or business units or somebody that can maybe help them solve a problem? How do they identify who they should co-create with?

Pinaki: I talk about this in the workshop, but there's two main things when looking for people to co-create with.

One is, you want diversity. You want diversity in the way people think. You want diversity of ideas, experience, age, et cetera. You just basically don't want all the same people because we'll just agree with each other the whole time.

We'll build the same thing, we won't take other perspectives into account, which is very important.

We need to have someone say "Hey, that's a great idea," and we also need someone to say "You know what, I don't think that's gonna work."

"Those are the two main things that I understand to be important for co-creation: you need diverse people and you need a safe place to do it."

Click to Tweet  Tweet: Worried about rocking the boat? @carrieyoung & @chuckgose give advice for risk-averse #internalcomms via @bananatag 

And the other thing we need is the psychological safety. It has to be a safe place for you and I to co-create. Can you imagine or remember when you were a kid, or young, and playing make-believe? You played with someone else or just created these stories together, and it was just a safe place you could just keep going.

Those are the two main things that I understand to be important for co-creation: you need diverse people and you need a safe place to do it.

It's interesting, I thought about this a few years ago, it kind of dawned on me when I was telling somebody an idea, and after I told them the idea he said "You know what, Pinaki, I think that idea sucks."

And I was hurt, I was like "aw, man."

And then I told someone else that same idea and that someone else said "You know what, Pinaki, that sucks," and I wasn't hurt, and I was like "Why?"

I said the same thing to two different people, they told me the same response back, but one hurt my feelings and one did not.

So it became something about the relationship that I shared with these people. It's a safe place. I knew that the one person who told me that idea sucked, and I wasn't hurt, I knew they didn't mean it as an attack on me, but just definitively the idea. And the other person, maybe it wasn't that case.

Chuck: Well I think you're doing a hell of a job, I don't think you suck.

Your workshop is on Wednesday, and I should let people know that were thinking of attending, it was the highest rated of any of the sessions from PRSA Connect, so if you attend his session, you're gonna get your money's worth out of it.


So my question is, I'm not asking you to give up your seven dos and don'ts, because that's part of the workshop, but is there a 'Do' that's surprising to people, or is there a 'Don't' that you share that's surprising to people?

What catches people off guard when it comes to the idea of co-creation?

Pinaki: I think the most important thing, there's a lot of little things, but I think the biggest thing is not "Should I do that or should I not do that," it's more like "Oh, we don't have time to do that," or "It's not important, we don't need to do that."

The things that I talk about, things like getting your mind right and just taking that time to step back to understand what you're trying to do, getting the right people together, taking that time to set an inspired mission, because instead of just telling people "This is what we're gonna do," you're inspiring them to do what needs to be done.

Things like that I think are often missed steps and things that people just kind of rush past, and those things are really key to just helping it move smoothly. At the end of the day, we're just trying to work together and jam and freestyle type of thing.

Chuck: So one of the things you talk about in your workshop is this concept called the Medici Effect. I love it when we're bringing in things that are in the outside world into the world of communicators, so explain.

What is the Medici Effect, and what does it have to do with co-creation?

Pinaki: Quick history on that.

The Medici Effect comes from the Medici family. They were a family in the Renaissance times. During that time there was a lot of innovation that happened in the world, so many things were invented.

But what the Medici family did was, they would basically host different people, and they created groups of thinkers, philosophers, mathematicians, writers, et cetera, and they brought people together, and the idea was to just talk and bring ideas out and see what things could happen.

So the Medici Effect is basically the intersection of ideas, in fact, the intersection of seemingly random ideas, and what kind of really interesting things could come out of that. Our brains don't work that way. I talk about hotels that have no air conditioning, but that inspiration came from the termites hills that just use canals for air conditioning, or Proctor and Gamble does things like Mr. Clean car washes, so just mashing up a product with a retail space.

Just mashing up ideas, is the idea.

Chuck: So it seems like a lot of communicators, they talk about this thing called the curse of knowledge, which is where communicators are at the intersection of so much in an organization.

So maybe instead of a curse, it's actually a blessing, that they could apply this Medici Effect and actually own that process inside a company.

Pinaki: Absolutely. What we talked about earlier - human language and Legal, those really never go together, but we should, they should be, because Legal is just talking to humans, and it promotes trust and a whole bunch of other things.

I think communicators have a really good advantage to bring it all together.

Chuck: So last question for you. You are doing a workshop, and I wanna call this out, there are people that do workshops, and they're just longer sessions. Yours is actually a true workshop.

Why is that so important, and what can people expect, what kind of fun are they gonna have in that session?

Pinaki: Workshops are important, I think.

I used to play football, American football, and we won state championships. Our season was three months long, right, but we practiced for a total of eleven months throughout the year, and that's because everyone needs to know exactly what the other person is going to do when that ball is snapped, and that's really why I think workshops are important, because it's practice.

How do you get good at something? You practice, you practice, you practice. And that's why I like the workshop format, and that's what I wanna bring to everyone here, is just the ability to practice how do you work together, and think and design and create stuff together. So that way, you can go back to your organization, and you have a little bit more practice at it. 

And as far as work, and some interesting things, we will be crafting, we will be building things together, this is going to be quite unlike any workshop, I think, that's here, because you're actually going to build something, prototype it, and you're gonna test it, because that makes us build and move faster.

Chuck: Alright, thank you Pinaki.

Pinaki: Thank you Chuck. Thank you Bananatag.