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Guidelines for co-inventing

What is co-invention?

It is safe to assume that no one knows everything.

It is also safe to assume that people see and interpret situations, projects, problems, opportunities, possibilities and issues differently.

Variety is truly the spice of life!

Co-invention is when you choose to acknowledge this and you choose to leverage different interpretations, perspectives and ways of seeing and doing things to create something better, smarter, more robust and more innovative together than you could ever create alone. Co-invention is a process.

CO-INVENTION IS A PROCESS Co-invention is like improv for innovation. Like improv it requires practice. Like improv it is more fabulous with Tina Fey. Here are Tina Fey’s four rules of improv:

  • Rule 1: Say Yes. The first rule of improvisation is AGREE. …

  • Rule 2: Say Yes AND. The second rule of improvisation is not only to say yes, but YES, AND. …

  • Rule 3: Make Statements. The next rule is MAKE STATEMENTS. …

  • Rule 4: There Are No Mistakes.

Co-invention for innovation is a little more complex and there is more at stake. Here are my five rules of co-invention:

  • Rule 1: Make sure you both know you are trying to co-invent

  • Rule 2: Make sure you both know in the purpose of your co-invention. Are we trying to coordinate with each other? What are looking to accomplish? Are we working to solve a problem? What problem? And for the sake of what? Are we trying to come up with something completely new? (recommend you do this AFTER you have become masterful at co-inventing for coordinating and for problem solving).

  • Rule 3: Use WHAT IF? When someone says what if…listen to it; sit with it; play with it; don’t’ tell them why it won’t work – remember they are seeing something you don’t see, acknowledge that that is really valuable.

  • Rule 4: Have a laugh, riff on each other’s possibilities, see where it takes you – give it time and space to play out. You are both smarter than you think. To appropriate Shakespeare, apologies in advance: “True wit is to silliness near allied and thin partitions do their bounds divide.” OK he did say madness but many of our most innovative humans were first considered mad.

  • Rule 5: Start with two. Coinventing with more than two people is like ballet it required a lot of planning, choreographing, trust and practice. Start with two.

Jennifer Kenny helps companies innovate better together with a focus on applied Human Centered Design Thinking for Innovation and Transformation. She runs programs to help companies distinguish and leverage the measurable benefits of women’s’ leadership. She is passionate about helping amazing people thrive in highly complex technical environments.

For more on her Innovating Better Together, How Women Innovate and Human Design Thinking programs please contact her at or

Learn more about the Language of Women’s Leadership in her upcoming book: STAND UP: Groundbreaking ways to speak your value as a women leader.

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