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.

The Power of TEDx

It’s one of those moments where I feel like writing again. Not because I want to review a movie or share some words of wisdom, but because I have a multitude of emotions trapped inside me and I am finding it rather hard to contain them for long.

The past 10 days have been, to say the least, the best days of my life and as I sit here at the Doha International Airport waiting for my flight back home, I am simply trying to recall all the memories and experiences from the TEDxSummit.

To start with, let me just summarize the whole experience in one word – Exhiliarating.

From a couple of months back when the hype for the TEDxSummit actually started to right as of this moment when it’s finally over, the whole journey has been no less than an excitement and a quest of discovery for me. And how exactly has the TEDxSummit helped me discover myself you may ask? Well it seems that I might have an answer.

See, here is the thing. TED is strong in terms of what it offers. It’s not about the talks or the brilliance of intellect and wisdom that the speakers channel towards the viewers rather about the idea and TEDTalks acting as a catalyst to spark discussions. The same goes for TEDx too. For me, TEDx is less about collaboration and sharing and more about community building and to do that as an independent organizer without expecting anything in return is more than just phenomenal. TED doesn’t pay us to do what we do nor does it help us turn into worldwide celebrities (two of the most material benefits that would attract any human into doing something).

The TEDxSummit was where I discovered it all – The ‘X’ ingredient. It was amazing to see how 700 TEDx organizers from around the world would leave their studies, jobs, education, commitment or whatever they would be busy with just to meet each other and discover the power of X.

So, what’s the X in TEDx? Many ask. While some call it a multiplier, 2 to 4, 4 to 16, others have a theory that it is the variable. However, I believe that X is the mystery ingredient found in all TEDx organizers around the world that encourages them to create marvels within their community, discover and present new ideas and create a long-lasting change, all at no cost.

Meeting all those great people from around the world at the TEDxSummit was just half the story, what was actually interesting was their ideology about TED and TEDx and the many ideas they had in their head. No age, no religion, no race, no color. The TEDx organizers at the TEDxSummit were simply equal because they were there to show their love for TED and TEDx and how they all celebrated the idea of ‘ideas worth spreading’. Must make a shout-out to my fellow TEDx organizers from around Pakistan in whom not only did I discover new friends but also how their actions made me change my perception about people and how I learned that humans should not be judged unless you actually get to meet them and spend time with them.

Thank you Doha, thank you TED and thanks to the 700 TEDx organizers from around the world for making this one of the most memorable experiences of my life. To all the TEDx organizers out there, I hope to see a world that reflects your ideas for a better changing tomorrow. It’s a responsibility, it’s a gift.














All photos courtesy of TED.