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

This post is a contribution for OpenIDEO open innovation challenge.

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

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

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

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.

Help create better education & learning solutions for refugees of Pakistan

What if I tell you you could win $500,000 in funding for submitting an idea?

A few months a very interesting opportunity came my way when I found out that was looking to hire an In-Country Community Manager for the Amplify program in Pakistan. As one would do, I looked at the job description and applied right away with little knowledge of what I would be involved in and little did I know that I would be selected to lead human-centered design community in Pakistan around one of the most important challenges on:

How might we improve education & learning opportunities for refugees and people displaced by conflict in Pakistan?’


About Amplify and Amplify Challenge

Amplify is a series of challenges to make international aid more collaborative and human-centered and is brought to you by, and DFID. Learn more at

For 2015, the challenge is around finding the best solutions and learning opportunities for refugees and people displaced by conflict in Pakistan and we are calling out to all NGOs, non-profits, startups, think tanks (and even individuals) with love for education and design to tackle this challenge by coming up with ideas using a more human-centered design approach.


If you would like to participate, here are the steps you should follow:

  1. Create a profile on and scout the challenge
  2. Contribute to research phase (Before: April 31, 2015)
  3. Submit your idea to the platform (Starts April 21, 2015)
  4. Refine your idea based on feedback from designers
  5. Get selected in ‘Top ideas’ and get funded $500,000

Essentially those are the simple steps but we would like you to take your idea to the next level for which we will be providing design-thinking support by conducting workshops around human-centered design (in Islamabad and Lahore) so if you think you or your organisations can benefit from these workshops, please drop a word at and I will keep you in the loop.

How To Get Involved with Amplify

What we are trying to do here is build a community of people who love design and would like to use it as a tool to create impact. Also, we believe, what we are trying to do with Amplify would build the building blocks of forming a community around human-centered design in Pakistan and therefore we would like all sorts of people and communities to get involved and support us in this initiative.

If you are an NGO, non-profit or startup or an individual with love for education and design, we look forward to your participation in the challenge. Amplify not only gives you the opportunity to get feedback from the worlds’ best designers about your idea but also gives you an opportunity to win $500,000 in funding if your idea makes it to the top.

For all other folks, we request you to spread the word about this challenge on social media so with your help we can reach out to the most relevant organizations and individuals in Pakistan who can contribute to this challenge.