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Open Innovation

By Jerry Leamon - September 14, 2010

Summer Davos participants at the Meijiang Convention and Exhibition Center Open Innovation – a concept that emerged early in the 2000s from work done by Henry Chesbrough of the Haas Business School at Berkeley – has considerable potential for generating new ways of thinking and acting in response to the sustainability challenges facing our world. The interdependency of innovation and sustainability was recently discussed among my fellow panelists and participants at an Open Innovation workshop during the World Economic Forum “New Champions" meeting in Tianjin, China.

The discussion focused on five open innovation tools, including such items such as knowledge pooling, incentivizing innovation, and crowd pooling. These were then applied to various sustainability challenges. In this blog I expand on this discussion and consider open innovation as a means of addressing the multi-faceted challenges facing business today, including sustainability.

A key feature of global business in the 21st century is the blurring of lines between companies, industries, and people.  This blurring is being driven by such forces as the Internet, the availability of massive, inexpensive computing power, the emergence of social media, and political and demographic changes. The good news is that these drivers also provide a solid foundation for open innovation.

Companies typically approach innovation as a process that will help them generate competitive advantage.  But many competitive processes are short term, inefficient, and have negative sustainability impacts when taken as a whole.  We often see duplication of products, overlapping or incomplete distribution networks, and wasteful or inefficient packaging.

Open, collaborative innovation has the potential to be transformational.  So how can we, as leaders, drive collaboration and innovation?

Many highly regarded businesses are seeking new methods to do this, and Deloitte is certainly one of them. We recently launched a global refresh of our strategy, "As One," which is quite consistent with the concept of open innovation, enabling 170,000 Deloitte professionals to operate ‘As One’, across 100 plus geographies. Put simply, it is about borderless behavior – working together across borders to bring the best of Deloitte to our clients.

We are utilizing the power of open innovation. One development has been a practical, social-media-influenced tool – D-Think – which we expect will serve as the day-in, day-out global enabler of “As One” thinking and behavior for our people.

Another development has been the Deloitte Global Innovation Network (GIN). Its mission is to capture innovation occurring in member firms and leverage it across the Deloitte network. The GIN comprises leaders from more than 30 member firms; members are ‘entrepreneurs in residence’ and change agents. It is closely aligned with Global Services’ mission of driving innovation, supporting the creation of “Virtual Marketplace Communities.”

At Deloitte we see open innovation as a powerful approach for directing ideas to organizations that are equipped to cultivate and commercialize them.  The power of open innovation can help drive change across our organization, our clients, and ultimately our world.

Are you taking practical steps to drive open innovation (whether you call it that or not) with your teams and in your client relationships?  Let us know...


Jerry Leamon is DTTL’s Global Managing Partner for Services and also heads the Global Mergers & Acquisitions practice. He oversees Deloitte’s four core functions (Audit, Consulting, Financial Advisory, and Tax) and leads the development and promulgation of new multifunctional service platforms.

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