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Open Innovation is about creating shared experiences with human-centered ideas

Here I try to explore my journey as an open innovation enthusiast.

Photo of Saad Hamid
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Open Innovation may have started off as a corporate phenomenon but in the Internet age, the definition has definitely evolved. Henry Chesbrough, who coined the term originally says:

“Open innovation is a paradigm that assumes that firms can and should use external ideas as well as internal ideas, and internal and external paths to market, as the firms look to advance their technology” 

However, I like to believe that today, open innovation has morphed into a more personal and social phenomenon. It's more about creating shared experiences with human-centered ideas and figuring out what to do with open knowledge that is available to us and how to use it effectively.

In my personal opinion, three organizations (TED, IDEO, Acumen) have contributed a lot to popularise the concept of open innovation to connect humans. In this post, I want to share my personal journey of open innovation with TED, IDEO and Acumen and how they are changing the world by creating shared experienced with human-centered ideas.

TED initially started off as a private conference. It was only in 2006, that it started posting talks online at and by 2012 it had over billion views. TED has created other programs to create shared experiences and support open innovation such as TED Fellows Program which is a global network of 300 innovators and trailblazers from a spectrum of disciplines and the TEDx program that let's independent organisers create TED-like experiences in their own cities is hardly 7 years old (the first TEDx event took place in 2009) and has managed to produce over 10,000 events worldwide with 50,000 talks (ideas)

I must mention here that I am a very active TEDx organizer as curator and licensee of TEDxIslamabad in Pakistan and also serve as Senior TEDx Ambassador to the region. I have been affiliated as a TEDx organizer for over 6 years now and have hosted as many as 20+ TEDx events in Pakistan, from the slums, to the himalayas with a total of 1 million views generated online and thousands of lives changed.

Moments from events organized by TEDxIslamabad

IDEO is definitely doing a great job by building a community for open innovation enthusiasts with the OpenIDEO platform where people from all over the world can come together to share ideas and collaborate using design-thinking. The beauty of this platform is that it evangelises the idea of open innovation in a more actionable way. There are challenges, you exchange ideas, collaborate to get ideas off the ground and connect with others in your community. Then there is DesignKit which I believe is one of the greatest tools available online for FREE, to download and use. Design Kit is's platform to learn human-centered design, a creative approach to solving the world's most difficult problems. Also, IDEO U deserves a mention here which is basically an online school where leaders can unlock their creative potential and build their problem-solving skills.

My first interaction with IDEO happened a couple of years back when I designed a pop-up TED experience for refugees settled in the outskirts of Islamabad. There I got to know that the box we used (provided to us by TED, called as 'TED in a box") was designed by some company called IDEO.

I was fortunate to get a closer look at IDEO in 2015 when I got the opportunity to work on the Amplify Refugee Education Challenge as the In-Country Community Manager and travelled all the way to Uganda to learn human-centered design by the IDEO team itself. Now, I am one of the biggest evangelists of building ideas and connecting the dots through human-centered design in Pakistan and we are building a community of people who are passionate to share, collaborate, design and learn.

I also worked on the Amplify Urban Resilience challenge as the Lead Facilitator and while working with four beautiful women from Pakistan, Bangladesh, San Francisco and Thailand, I learned that innovation can come from the places and people you least expect from. Open innovation is about opening up and accepting ideas no matter where and who they come from.

With the IDEO team in Kampala

Acumen is doing great work by building an open innovation economy through the Acumen Fellows program which creates world leaders in emerging economies by giving them the opportunity to interact with each other and create shared learning experiences to fight poverty. In 2015, Acumen was named as one of the world's top 10 most innovative companies in not-for-profit.

But what's really amazing about Acumen is +Acumen. +Acumen is a platform through which Acumen is evangelising the cause of democratising leadership knowledge. The website connects enthusiasts over a variety of course subjects such as Storytelling for Change, Making sense of Social Impact, Introduction to Human-Centered Design etc.

I am very honoured to be a part of the Acumen Fellows cohort of 2016 for Pakistan along with a very awesome bunch and I really hope that I am able to share the knowledge that I gain through this journey with everyone around me.

At the Acumen Selection Conference in Lahore, Pakistan

I think a lot of people can learn from my story and the case I am trying to make is that open innovation is a very human-centered and personal phenomenon.

In this age, open innovation is an idea which anyone can adopt and make it a part of their personality. This will lead the way in achieving goals through shared experiences & shared success.

If you'd like your name to appear in our report on open innovation, please include it below as you'd like it to appear.

Saad Hamid


Join the conversation:

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Saad, thanks for sharing your experience and reflection on open innovation. I like your re-interpretation of open innovation as a personal experience and how several organizations and online platforms, support this experience.
It is interesting that IDEO (openIDEO, included) and Acumen have a human-centered design focus: another way of thinking of open innovation, i.e. where the focus of innovation is expanded to include the end users. Thanks again for sharing!

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