Bringing Open Innovation to the Future Work

February 11, 2021 | 2:00 PM to 3:00 PM EST


Featured Speakers


Keaton Swett, Vice President of Product, MBO Partners


Keaton Swett, Vice President of Product, MBO Partners


John Winsor, Founder, and CEO of Open Assembly
Balaji Bondili, Senior Manager, Deloitte Pixel
Miles Everson, CEO of MBO Partners

00:00 Opening remarks and welcoming of participants

02:41 Why now is the time for open innovation 

04:52 Ideation and engagement good for organizational well-being

06:58 Why hasn’t open innovation caught on yet? 

13:54 Value and advancement is brought about through open innovation platforms

17:41 How to create innovation despite a remote working environment

23:04 How to spread corporate culture despite an open talent strategy

33:10   Solutions to overcome barriers to innovation in corporate culture

41:24   Changes and trends in the future of open innovation

48:08   Discussion on how employees can directly help in championing open innovation and closing remarks

What does it mean to be innovative in the ever-changing workforce? This webinar sheds light on Open Innovation and why this business management model is the new trend that major companies are adopting all over the world


John Winsor, founder and CEO of Open Assembly, Balaji Bondili, Senior Manager at Deloitte Pixel, and Miles Everson, CEO of MBO Partners, discussed the following topics: 

  • Pressing issues facing top corporations today regarding innovation
  • How companies are using crowdsourcing and open innovation technologies/platforms to access top talent, solve business challenges, and gain new insights
  • How to tap into key problem solvers of every demographic
  • Tips for building a culture of innovation at your organization

Interested in attending the next roundtable discussion? View our upcoming events.

Keaton Swett: I think the panelists that we have today are amazing thought leaders and in their kind of different than unique ways.

And I had a lot of fun working with them over the years. So really looking forward to seeing what comes out of our conversation, just to kind of kick things off before we get into some of the questions we are going to dive into, I wanted to set the stage as it relates to open innovation.

So back in 2003, a Berkeley professor named Henry Chesbrough, who was one of the kinds of Godfather of open innovation coined the term with this definition, said: “Open innovation is the use of purpose of inflows and outflows of knowledge to accelerate internal innovation and expand the markets for external use of innovation.”

Now to me, that is a little too academic for my brain. And so maybe thinking of it a different way. When you think of open innovation, it's kind of the opposite of the historical corporate practices where secretive R&D labs were created to think up and create new products, which would then be sold by companies.

Open innovation is really about companies being able to leverage a disparate network of both internal and external problem solvers, you know, to give or to be able to come up with ideas and solutions and be able to then bring those solutions to market.

And as McLean mentioned, as, as a founder and former CEO of MindSumo, I've had the good fortune of being able to see first-hand how companies can benefit from leveraging the power of a crowd to drive innovative practices, to drive new products, and open innovation, how it can be used as a tool that can benefit companies in many different ways.

And I'm also seeing how this model can help companies from a talent perspective as well. I'm really glad that we can have Miles on the phone to talk about that a little bit as well, just because we know that the way companies hire the way companies do work is changing. And I think open innovation taps into that as well. So hopefully we'll be able to build that into the conversation.

And before we kind of kick off with our first question, I think it's important to note also how this past year has changed kind of the way companies are looking at open innovation with COVID being something which has completely disrupted us, taken away the ability to have that sense of water-cooler innovation, where people in a physical office can gather and brainstorm and ideate.

And for that reason, I think it really kind of puts a brighter light on open innovation in general and, and has to make companies think hard about how they have, they both need to and how they can implement this kind of a strategy into their corporate practices.

And so I'm gonna, you know, not get long-winded here and want to dive into the questions and let our panelists chime in because they're the real experts.

So first off, John, I want to start with a question directed towards you. Earlier this summer, there was a great article that came out from a Harvard business review and the title was “Why now is the time for open innovation?”.

And so I would love to just kind of get your commentary on why you believe now is the time for open innovation and, you know, why you agree with that and how you've seen that play out?

John Winsor: That's a great question. I, you know, as I've contemplated this, I met a lot of us have conversations around, you know, that, and I think it's a fact that COVID just accelerated, you know, all the remote work and hence with remote work, it's given us the ability to think about new employment models, right?

So looking outside the walls of a company, I think what we're entering into now is really if last year was a year of COVID this year is the year of immunity.

And, as much of a, I think all of us want to be out of the, you know, this tunnel, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it's still a long ways away.

And so what I, you know, my sense is that if we look back a decade, right, that really accelerated this whole movement was the great recession.

I think what's happening now is the great restructuring, right? That's what needs to happen. And, and I think that the number one goal for companies needs to be to, address and understand the fragility of the systems you know, applying systems thinking.

And a part of that is, is as we look at, you know, reducing that fragility, how do we build that resiliency?

And, I would suggest that one of the ways to build that resiliency, to help move costs from a fixed cost base in your company to a variable cost base.

I think one of the really important ways to do that is to use platforms like MBO, to make sure that you're connecting with the very best talent in a very, frictionless, or at least reduced friction way to ensure that when you taskify, the work and you understand what work needs to get done, the very best talents participating and make that happen.

So from a very high level, that's what I would say is that in this age of the great restructuring that we gotta, you know, be more resilient 

Keaton Swett: For sure. Yeah. Either, either of the rest of you want to chime in on that before we move on to another question?

Miles Everson: Yeah. Hey, it's, it's Miles, I'll jump in on this.  You know, John, I liked the way you framed, you know, coming from, from COVID into, you know, in the immunity stage and great restructuring.

I think it's, good framing for, what I would say I've experienced and seen over the last year is obviously people's worlds have been rocked in terms of the way that they work and it, you know, it's become the everything at home lifestyle now, which means you know, your family's better, for good or better.

Right, but I think there is an element when it comes to collaboration, teamwork, and innovation that an open innovation capability plays a really important role in, and what I mean by that is people have become effectively isolated while you may be sitting on zoom meetings like this all day long, there's an element of physical isolation and physical isolation can have an adverse effect on people's well-being.

And so when I look at what we're doing, its obviously open innovation is the great ideation, bringing in a diversity of thought and diversity of capability.

But I think companies need to focus on it gives people passion and purpose to do things together. To ideate and engage and open innovation is such an easy way to do that when we're embedded in a remote work structure.

That for most of us, I think people feel is out of their control right now, we don't know when we're going to be able to be back in more physical human interaction.

So doing things together that are seeing the possible, is good for the health of a company and, you know, the well-being of individuals.

So that I see it as a much bigger purpose than just getting the next best idea. 

Keaton Swett: Definitely. Yeah. I think those are both great points.

Balaji, I want to kick this next question over to you and, you know, I've always been impressed with how Deloitte has approached open innovation and specifically your group, the Deloitte Pixel, you know, having started and worked at a company where I am constantly trying to kind of sell companies on the vision of open innovation and how it can be a value add to them.

One thing that I've noticed, and I'm sure you've noticed as well as that a lot of companies like to dip their toes into the open innovation pool, you know, maybe test it out, do an experiment here or there, or run a project here or there.

But I think the list is much shorter when we talk about companies that have embraced it as an integral part of their strategy, and, and a fundamental part of their future success.

And so, you know, your perspective coming from a company, which I think has done more to try to embrace that.

Why do you think it is the case that, getting open innovation hasn't caught on with other companies that are, that are more hesitant to dive in headfirst? And what do you think can be done about that to try to change perceptions and change that way of thinking?

Balaji Bondili: Yeah, I think it's a great question. Keaton, and we've discussed that in the past as well. I mean, I think fundamentally innovation as the process of creating something of value from uncertainty and lack of clarity, you're going, after a completely new product solving new customer needs, where there's a ton of uncertainty and lack of knowledge into a new space that you're going.

And when you're, when you're doing that, what teams tend to do also is what is the one thing that I can control is the process and the team around me, right?

So, and that is the reason that you see a lot of innovation teams that tend to be people coming from the core of the company, bringing their understanding, their teams, and their expertise, and also work processes of how they deliver other work in the past within the company coming in to run innovation within the company.

And because the open innovation or using open tools was not a core part of running a mainstream business. When they move into innovation, they did not bring in that skillset or toolset or equivalent to that like coming now let's go look at a new tool and then they're like, I'm already going up and on certain problems now, mostly using an uncertain or an unclear or new to me approach to getting there and it compounds their discomfort.

So, and when you compound that discomfort, what you do is you go back to the thing that you're most confident about, which is your team, your structure, your process, your traditional market research, your traditional interviews.

And I started to, it becomes a vicious cycle that you're trying to do something uncertain to bring back to a certain set of processes. It’s a very organizational behavior approach just thinking about why a lot of new innovation teams innovation teams tend to do similar things. It's just, how do you solve that? And I think there are two types to that equation.

One is open innovation companies and tools that have to make a process of using them a lot easier to connect to the current state of what's a company, what I see is a lot of times they're like, okay, we're going to be far away and you need to come to us to use it the way we are. But the companies are like, I want you to be here where I am. I think that somewhere in the middle is where we need to meet so that there is, there is some sense of comfort that I know what I'm doing, but I'm also doing something new.

And I think, in many times, it's a question of finding companies like yours. Many companies aren’t open innovation companies, like APCOR, POX, all of them are trying to figure out how to bring this nebulous concept over the organization.

How do we integrate it into the processes of the company, how do you integrate it into an enterprise ERP System?

Because companies run on a set of infrastructure these days. And when we say, okay, I'm going to use something outside of that, that is like, how do you connect it to the financial system?

How do you connect to the procurement system? How do you connect to the marketing system? So there are fields that I need to spend a lot more time on to make this work then something that’s already integrated.

So I think an ability for companies to think about, open innovation companies to think about how do I integrate them and for companies at the same time, to also put forward, I'm going to build a product for the first time. I need to be comfortable with uncertainty. 

Keaton Swett: Yeah. Yeah. That's a good point then. It's, it's been interesting for me, you know, now that MindSumo as part of MBO, seeing, cause I think MBO has done a really good job of building themselves into some of those core processes for MBO’s historic core offerings and really kind of taking some of the, you know, some of the pain out of that.

And that has gotten me thinking, you know, how can that apply to open innovation as well. So I think that's a great point.

Anything that either of the other panelists wants to add before we move on to the next question though?

John Winsor: Yeah, just to add, I mean, Vology, we just did for those in the audience that are interested, HBS just had a great case study on.

I helped write it with Mike Tushman on Vology and Deloitte pixel. And I think it's worth reading the kind of the struggle and the journey that they went through.

But I think one of the things that have happened in the marketplace overall and, and you know, I've been this for since 2002 and been intrigued by, it's why it's taken so long for this to catch up.

Right. And I think the market, the people in the market have spent too much time. I've been guilty of it for sure, of thinking about the how right. It's like, here's how we do it. Here's what we do. We forget about the why.

Right? Then why is the great restructuring and the decreasing fragility and increasing resilience,  but then, the what is creating a new structure that allows that to happen.

Right. And I think that in creating the new structure, what Balaji has been able to do well at Deloitte is focused on reducing friction for people, right inside his organization to focus on, hey, I can get you a data scientist way faster with a new way to be able to deliver that service to your client.

And I think that, that mindset, instead of thinking about how we do it and trying to sell the, how people get caught up in like, eh, what's the IP, what's the compliance

Is that going to threaten my current, you know, team, instead of that, it's like, Hey, how do we help reduce the friction?

Again, how do we take that cost from fixed cost to variable cost, right? And help everybody up. 

Miles Everson: You know, part of the reason at MBO or why we brought MindSumo as part of our offer is I think what we're doing is knocking down the friction between all of the points of light of humans on the earth and what enterprises need.

It's kind of interesting, right? If you talk to any CEO, he or she will tell you that their most valuable asset is their people, but the reality is no individual company on its own can have access to all of the best people in the world and best thoughts and minds.

So having an open innovation platform capability, whether it's Pixel or what we're doing at MBO opening that up so that you can get a much, much more heterogeneous set of thought, you know, you had just mentioned that a minute ago, Balaji, that, you know, people will have a tendency to retreat back to to kind of their team and who they know another way to say that is they started trying to get heterogeneous insights and diversity of thought, but when it gets uncomfortable, there's a human reaction to retreat and go homogeneous again.

And then that starts to kill the innovation. And so I think for people in the audience that are trying to drive this, you have to keep your eye on the prize of the why which is a diversity of thought innovation.

Because the other thing that we know that doesn't get talked about a lot, the most demonstrable impacts on society occur when innovations converge.

So AI was invented in 1959, means nothing for 30 years. And then we got electronic dark pool trading. And now we have AI in our consumer life, but it's because of microtechnologies, it's all the other innovations that came along, right?

And so we carry billion-dollar computers in our hand, then. The same thing on the genome, 2000 costs us a hundred million to decode the genome we can get that done for a thousand dollars today.

That's because open innovation has made it possible for great ideas to create demonstrable effects on society. And the companies that grasp that why, are the ones that are going to make a demonstrable difference from a future success perspective.

John Winsor: Yeah, that's a great point Miles. I think you're right on there. 

Keaton Swett: Yeah. And I like, I like what you guys were talking about as it relates to it's the companies that are kind of willing to push through that uncomfortableness that Balaji mentioned, the companies that are willing to, you know, even if, even if the first attempt doesn't go the way they want it to, and to recognize that this isn't a one time, you know, problem-solve thing with open innovation, it's, it's a, you know, it has to be repeated.

And the more you do it, the better you get. Interestingly, I remember, I think the last time I was with Vology and John in person was at a kind of a big open innovation conference, which was at Harvard business school.

And one of the things that I heard in the presentation there, and someone was presenting some data about, just corporate open innovation practices and how basically the more a company sticks with the open innovation the more a company implements it and is willing to kind of stay disciplined in that strategy each and every single round, it gets better and better. The results get better. The quality gets better. It's just like any skill you learn, you know, the first time you try to ride a bike, you're going to fall, but you know, the more you do it and the more you can stick to that discipline, the better you're going to get.

So I really like those points. John, I want to throw it back over to you. We were talking about COVID a little bit earlier, and I think that you have kind of a unique position on this panel, just because, you have such a great, you know, broad view of the market as it relates to open innovation.

You're, you're constantly talking to, you know, a lot of the leaders of these open innovation companies, and you have your finger on the pulse.

And so I'm curious in the conversations you've been having with the people who are a part of the open assembly and, you know, the different meetings that you guys have been conducting, how have you seen COVID really impact, you know, companies, general perceptions of open innovation?

Have you seen that uptick in interest and people recognizing that they need to take this more seriously because of, you know, how we find ourselves in this forced remote environment where, where you can't necessarily rely on being, being together with everyone in the same room to talk things out?

John Winsor: Yeah, that's a great question. Oh, that's a great question. I, you know, I think it speaks to the OAA journey, right.

You know, in that meeting that we had at Harvard, it was really Balaji and Diane think Alison and Steve Rader from NASA that, and I got together and said, Oh my God, we're like lost siblings.

Like where have we been? And we started having conversations as the four of us, right Balaji. It was super fun, but it was like we could get together and talk.

And then we start saying, well, let's invite a few more people into the conversation. And then it ballooned at 20 or 30 with Zurich and Wellmark and a bunch of other great, great folks on the demand side.

A lot of the platforms were robust. And then John Healy from Kelly, who's the head of innovation said, you know, as COVID started, he said, you know, it's great.

We're doing this once a month, but what happens if we make it open? And let's just do it once a week.

And, since then, about 2000 people have joined globally. Everybody from that, you know, head of procurement from Novartis to, you know, the head of future of work from Prudential, it's been an unbelievable conversation.

And, and one of the things that Balaji was so inspirational early on, I think it was in July. You know, there was a real push to say, okay, it's great to have these conversations, but what are you going to do about it?

So the group, the community decided to form a non-profit called the Center for the transformation of work. The idea for the center of transmission of work is to transform work for a billion people by 2025.

And what I love about this is it's not a singular person or a singular point of view. It's been born out of this collective.

It's been kind of this idea of, let's just all try to identify what needs to happen in the context of COVID in the context of everything else that's going on.

And let's just start putting the pieces together. And I don't embolic. You can comment on it too, but it's been amazing.

The community that's come together and tried to solve problems and come up with new solutions. It's really fun. And I think that that's the spirit of what we need to do overall to overcome these huge challenges, like, like COVID, and like the economic crisis that we're in right now is that no one single person or one single company can overcome those things.

But if we come together and we're transparent and we're thinking and we're willing to share, there's so much momentum we can get, if we can just get aligned around these things.

Balaji Bondili: Two things to that. I think one is when I started participating in this ecosystem, the open ecosystem, I found it incredibly closed.

Most companies didn't even know that there are such like companies that existed, you know, in a different state, in a different business.

So, while they were focused on their niche, they weren’t learning from other people who are trying to solve similar problems.

And there had to be a cloud of clouds where, unless all of these peoples talk with each other, the ecosystem and the market will not grow together.

Like we see our technology company the AWS’ and Google’s and Azure’s compete as hell. But they also know that when they want to be a senior machine learning engineer, they will always look to their competitor because there's also that perspective.

They know exactly what everybody is working on because it's just the people that prepare them and among the people. Whereas open innovation seemed a lot more siloed. 

When we started talking to John, one way is we need some kind of neutral party, but everybody can come and talk to each other so that we can all elevate, elevate the market.

But I think going back to your original question, Keaton, what I see as the biggest impact of COVID, I don't see net new ideas that are in terms of ideas that are being implemented post COVID.

These are always those ideas that were simmering. That didn't have a business case that didn't, didn't get up to the CEO’s attention, for us as a company, let reduce that travel budget, always-on, on the back burner, somewhere that we always wanted to call before we were like, now we can solve it.

And I think it's, it's the question of how do we use this crisis as a way to bring up a bunch of things that were issues or barriers in the past and use the crisis as a way to solve them.

And an open innovation is one of the things that I think has gotten a boost because of, because of COVID, it's just that I think there's a connection that is less for it to, until we all get back on onto flights and planes and trains.

Keaton Swett: Yeah. I think that's a really interesting point. And I've seen that play out, with some of the companies that use MindSumo.

You know, people we've talked to in the past, who've said, well, this could be an interesting project to pose to, you know, to a crowdsourcing community.

But you know, we're not interested right now and then COVID hit and we've had people reach back out and say, this is a lot more relevant now, we, we, we need to, we need to find out some of the answers and solutions to these things that we were kind of just thinking about it in the back of our minds before. So I completely agree with that. This next question, really Miles and Balaji, I'm interested in, in both of your takes on this.

So McKinsey recently released a report, with this quote it says, “future-ready companies recognize that purpose helps attract people to join an organization, remain there, and thrive.”

And so when we think about kind of the, you know, the juxtaposition between companies adopting and embracing open innovation, but also, you know, needing to remember this type of a quote where, you know, there has to be kind of a purpose and a culture within their organization.

Is it possible to help imbue the communities that you work with, from an open innovation or an open talent standpoint, with that same sense of either purpose or mission or culture, even if they're not, you know, your full-time employees, is there an element of trying to bring those kinds of corporate culture practices, which, you know, are sort of important to more of an open talent strategy?

Miles Everson: Yeah. I'm, I'm happy to start. Well actually, but I think there's no question. I think the McKinsey article, with all due respect to McKinsey, is creating some cause and effect that is theory is not empirical. People want to pursue a purpose and be with a purpose-driven company. That's different than I want to be a full-time hostage employee for the rest of my life.

And this is one of the issues companies need to get over. What I was alluding eluding to earlier is you want people who have a passion and a drive to get behind the purpose of a company and the purpose can't just be the words. It has to be what you're actually pursuing as a company. And when you find these independents, the extended workforce, if you will, people that are choosing a lifestyle that's different than a W2 payroll structure, I find most of them have as much or more passion than people that choose to be employees because they've, they've chosen that they're going to do the work they love when they want it, where they want it.

And what we're doing for companies is helping knock down the friction of making that possible. It's really hard for an individual to go plugin on a one-off basis and be compliant with company rules, state rules, compliance rules.

And so by knocking those frictions down and making it easier to do that, you get access to a better richer talent pool that can help push this heterogeneous commentary. I was talking about earlier. It's not just about, you know, everyone says I'm going to have a diverse and inclusive workforce.

They hire them, train them and try to make them all act the same way. It’s the hugest mistake a company can make.

Keaton Swett: Yeah. 

Balaji Bondili: Got a hundred percent with you, a hundred percent with you Miles. And I think I am going to make a few comparable statements given that I'm representing myself.

And I'm going to, I'm going to say, sorry to Deloitte later. I do think that you know, a lot of the purpose of conversation is coming from the fact that companies have not recognized the future of work.

And they're still trying to push the, you need to join me as an employee because I have a purpose. It feels a lot like a company that's flashing around to find their purpose in as a value proposition to a skilled individual, to faith, you need to choose me as an employer, as opposed to the employment of the concept.

And then choose me as an employer. And the purpose is my reason to tell you that you should, right? I mean, I can be the best example out there that has done the best work, where you can communicate purpose.

You can communicate engagement, definity, comfort, and belonging in NASA where you have a very small team of people. They probably use the best infrastructure for open innovation anywhere.

And you have, they're harnessing the energy or kids that grew up with, with pictures of moons and planets in their rooms.

And now they're taking, they’re harnessing that purpose to say, I don't have enough budget, but I still want to maintain my work.

So I could be a freelancer sitting in Indonesia, you know, competing in a robotics competition. They don't need to feel like an employment contract is a way to contribute to that.

We have to move away from that employment contract is the only means by which I can participate in your purpose, which is given the trends of future work that we are seeing an increasingly smaller pool of people.

We're spending an insane amount of time going after that vs communicating better to the rest of the people that want to focus on the problems you're looking to solve.

What is the brand that you want to communicate to everybody else? And I think that mind shift till they get to that mind shift companies will keep wrapping around to find different ways of attracting full-time employees, to them, with all of these new marketing stories about purpose and everything else.

But as you're saying, I don't want to communicate the same purpose, if you don't want a giant sign the dotted line with me, which is very incongruent in many ways.

John Winsor: That reminds me so much of it. I was, you know, in the advertising business a long time ago and you know, the confusion of meanings of words, and one creative is presenting to a huge global client.

They wanted to say zeitgeist, but instead, they used the term shot and frightened. And you know, the idea that you know, you want to take the pain out of somebody else's, you know, suffering.

And so, you know, it's, it feels to me that that's relevant to the purpose, right? The purpose is Vology describes like companies are trying to attract a smaller, smaller pool of full-time employees.

I think, you know, Miles, you said something super important here. And that is that, you know, passion is really the kind of interplay with purpose, right?

And so if you look at kind of employment, I believe on a diffusion curve really you've kind of the folks that we're talking about, the open people playing in the open market on platforms like MBO, right?

They're at the head of the curve. They're the learners. They’re people that are changing the world. They're the early adopters and, and, and, you know, and innovators, the problem is in the classic Jeffrey Morris sense that, you know, there's a gap, there's a gap there.

And that to me is the passion gap. The problem is you get beyond the passion gap and most corporations today are passion deserts.

They've sucked the passion out through deep processes to make them, to make people's jobs and lives difficult. Like I got to get $50 approved.

I can't go on vacation without, you know, a referral. I can't do anything. And, and I think part of this is, is that we're going from a world of push where many company leaders felt like they had a compliant organization and staff that they could push their needs down the chain to get things done, to a pull, right?

And if you're going to be a pull, you have to have, you have to reframe the purpose to not just be for internal employees, but be a purpose.

That's going to attract amazing freelance talent, from the front of that passion curve so that you can reinfuse passion, into the organization.

My sense is, is the best way to get companies to be more passionate, especially in this time of COVID when everybody's so nervous is through using platforms like MBO, right?

And you've got super passionate people on that platform that can re-energize a group of people really quickly as they engage with them.

And I think that's a critical part of this. 

Balaji Bondili: Yeah. But I want to ask something, John, it's been a pet peeve of mine for a while, right?

I mean, I am an employee, right? So I'm a very proud employee of my firm, but I think that there is, and the firms and companies have to fight the notion that somebody who signs an employment contract immediately becomes more passionate, more trustworthy, better skills than somebody who chooses to work with them on a project. And you, and, and the predominant notion that that person who did not do to work with them is less skilled, less trustworthy and treated like a second-class citizen. There are tons of examples. And unless that balance changes, companies will not attract the best talent out there.

And I think the companies who actually do start making this balance a little bit, a dichotomy between full-time and their open talent resources, less clear, I think they'll attract the best talent and be more competitive in the marketplace.

So there's a mindset issue that significantly has to have to be addressed. 

John Winsor: Yeah. I love that. I mean, it reminds me, you know, my wife and I were having some issues having kids.

So we adopted some kids from Russia and, you know, I was very nervous about it. And, you know, wanted somebody that was, you know, doing some counseling with this said, you know, who do you love the most?

And I'm like, well, my wife and, and they were like, well, you don't have the same blood as your wife.

Like, it's not this bloodline thing. You got to change your mindset. And I think the same way here, right? It's like, you know, you got to change your mindset to that, that the people we love the most are our employees.

It's like, who are the people that are going to help us get to where we want to go as an organization, right.

Who are the people that are gonna buy into our culture and be passionate about what we do and push the ball down, down the road?

I think that's what we have to see. And I agree Balaji. I think that's the mindset that needs to shift.

Miles Everson: Yeah, I'm with you. 

Keaton Swett: Yeah. I think that's a great point. Maybe a follow-up question to that, because, because I, I've seen that, you know, both from a professional standpoint, but also, you know, it's just one of those things that kind of, when you say it, you understand the truthfulness of that.

You're like, Oh yeah, people do that. So what are the solutions to try to fix that, you know, is that, is that through better, you know, better, better marketing from the companies that are trying to prove that wrong?

Is that, you know, is that, is that coming from, you know, thought leaders kind of, what do you, what do you see as the solution to try to overcome that obstacle?

When we think about how it is kind of embedded and entrenched in a lot of corporate cultures nowadays? 

John Winsor: I mean, I, I think so much, you know, from my perspective, there's been, you know, in the work that I've done a long time, we always, those of us that have been in the front of the curve and the innovation doing innovative things, we tend to you know, have some arrogance and say, well, the old way doesn't work.

It's a new way. Right. And so, and that's a bad thing when I was a boss, that was a bad thing.

Right. And I sense that I'm working on a new book with Kareem McColin and Jim Paicos that runs the center for the LIS, the laboratory for innovation sciences at Harvard.

And we're thinking about it in the context of a networked organization. So if you think about NASA, there are two mindsets, right?

You can take NASA and say it's 17,000 employees that are really amazing and world-class at creating innovation. Or, which is more true, NASA is a networked organization, has 17,000 employees that are digitally connected through their NASA at work internal platform. Then that's another 30,000 employees. And then those folks are all connected through COSI, the center of excellence, of collaborative innovation to 110 million people through 40 platforms.

So really NASA is a community, an ecosystem, or a network of 110 million, 47,000 people that are all passionate about doing work for NASA.

And it seems to me if we can build these new models, right, in describe it in a way to say what you'd rather have 17,000 people that come to work every day, or 110 million, 47,000 people that are going to be able to lean in to do the things you want to do for anywhere, anytime at the best in the world.

Keaton Swett: Yeah. And I think, I think it goes back what we were discussing before is, there's a big difference between passion and, you know, kind of company purpose because, for companies to start, and to understand that, just because you hire someone full time, doesn't mean they have that passion and understand that, Hey, if you go look at the independent workforce, if you go look at more of an open model, you can find those people who have the passion to work on the problems that your company is trying to solve.

It just opens you up to such a free and more exciting opportunity to think, you know, I don't need to be pigeonholed and, and feel like I need to be forced into hiring a person with an employment contract.

I can go out and try to find the talent who not only have the skills but also maybe from that passion standpoint, fit what we're trying to do.

And so I think it's just much more exciting as well for companies who can adopt that mindset and that approach.

John Winsor: Can I add one more thing? Yeah. I think that's an awesome point. And I think there's some confusion. I think that many companies, you know, historically have tried to reduce passion, right?

Like passion seems super scary. You don't want the passion-crazy guy going off on his tangent. And there's some great research, out of Oxford, they've created a new model called the dual model of passion, and they've described it as there's obsessive passion, which is the crazy entrepreneurial guy that's going to break away and do his own thing.

And then the, and then the harmonious passion, and one of the things that they’ve described in their research, what I find fascinating is that, is that harmonious passion, really consists of teams that have, well teams that have harmonious passion, they exhibit four things. 

One is intrinsic motivation, transformational leadership, cult-like organizational behavior, and task autonomy. And I think those are amazing for things that any organization would want.

What do you call it? You know, it's purpose or passion, but those intrinsic values that you talk about. Those four things are great pillars to build any kind of organization.

And again, you know, with that last one task autonomy, and speaks to the independence of the workforce and the ability to get the best talent involved.

Balaji Bondili: Yeah. One thing I'd add, Keaton is I think one of the biggest issues with open talent is being that, there, continues to be no clear owner for it. 

Does the HR own it because they charge things to like HR has the FTE flag on. Does sourcing and procurement own it they like buy pencils and computers and, or does a business own it where they're like, they're buying services of individual freelancers or open talent, but it's not really integrated into workforce planning or the strategic workforce planning.

It's been like, I need to be distributed on it. And I thought, you know, Then it becomes very difficult unless all of these things, all of these things come together, business, sourcing and procurement, and HR at any point in time.

And I do think that HR needs to own all talent, which has only full-time talent because HR not only on the talent, but they also tend to be because it's a historically under the mindset within between when they are communicating that if you're using a freelancer, your cost needs to be managed, you need, you're doing something wrong, or it's temporary till you find a full-time person, which means you're communicating to the company constantly that this is a stop-gap, fix the right solution is an employee because that's how the metrics are structured.

Unless you change that mindset that you need to bring the right resource of practical source, could be able to employ, it could be a freelancer, could be a cultural thing, challenge, whether it is whether it's a possibility, whether it's fragility, whatever is the metric unless it moves to that open talent will continue to be a stop-gap fix, for transactional problem solving, which is not scalable for the company, which is not scalable for the success.

Miles Everson: Yeah, I agree. Balaji. I mean, one of the things I've done since I came to MBO is very focused on, so I would say that you, you need to have that business had sponsorship for how they think about their total workforce and then your total talent HR team has to help administer it, that you need that sponsorship from the top, that really embraces the extended workforce and capability set so that it's driven strategically.

Otherwise, it does become a transactional exercise, often pushed into procurement. And I understand, you know, procurement does their role, which is kind of rate and risk fulfillment on a transactional level, which is very different than a business leader that says, if I'm going to win in my market where I'm competing, I need assets, I need humans, great thought, et cetera.

So it is threading those things together, and that's very much, you know, wherefrom an MBO perspective, what we're doing now is helping companies connect that unconnected tissue of business strategy to total talent management, by leveraging an extended workforce.

John Winsor: Very smart. I love it. 

Keaton Swett: Yeah. I think I think those are all really good points, you know, instead of trying to fit that square peg into a round hole, by thinking, I, you know, the eventual solution has to be a full-time employee.

You know, if you, if you open the toolkit up so much more it's whether, and you solve it through a freelancer or, you know, or, a crowdsourcing project or whatever it is, just allows for that flexibility, but agree with miles that there has to be directly from the top to go out and do this, or else people aren't going to do it on their own.

I know that we are running pretty close in. We want to leave a couple of minutes in the end, in case there are some questions that McLean has been fielding, but, you know, not, not to, not to get you all into the business of, prognostication, but I'm curious as we, as we think about open innovation, as we think about, you know, the future, whether it's future of work, you know, future of open innovation platforms, I would be curious to get your takes, high level on kind of what you see as the big changes.

And the big opportunities that you think are going to come to pass. And then in the coming years, and, you know, that can be five years, 10 years, but just kind of how you see this landscape changing in the future.

You know I feel like, on this call, we've got some of the some of the real experts on this topic.

And so, I don't feel like it would be you know, I don't feel like it'd be untoward of us to, to get your guys' opinions because I think they're pretty well informed.

Balaji Bondili: I'm going to go first. 

Keaton Swett: Yeah. Go. Yeah. Whoever wants to jump in. 

Balaji Bondili: Yeah. And I think what, what needs to happen to open innovation is what happened to innovation in the last five to ten years.

Innovation used to be the full team that is off and running by itself in a corner. They are very similar to the IT team, which is in the basement where you only go there when your password doesn't work.

But right now the cycle of change is so fast that innovation can't be operating by itself anymore. It has to be a part of your agile sprint, part of every day that you're innovating every day.

And it's become a lot more closer to the core. And I think innovation has, open innovation also has to get there, how we get the input, as Miles talks about, into product development, into work.

I have to become better. I need to do something strange and go out and bring something because it has to become almost like a mainstream approach.

You're not, you're not exercising. Like you're not just doing something strange and something new and something different, but it’s mainstream work, and I think going back to what Miles said about they’re using a friction to do that, is probably the most important I would love to be in a world in an experience where we don't talk about open innovation.

I feel that we don't talk enough about innovation. If you look at what Amazon does on ALA or Google does, or Facebook, they don't talk about innovation as much, they just do it!

And I think that's what we need to do, we're talking, when you speak about concepts way too much, you're saying there's way too much friction to be solved.

We have to talk about it because it's different and it's not fitting in, once it fits in you stop talking about it.

And that's what I wanted to get through. 

John Winsor: I love that. I think, you know, I made it remind me, I just know, I've been doing this podcast for a bit and I was calling it the future of work.

And then I, you know, you come to this realization that the future's already here, it's just, it's just not evenly distributed.

Right. And so I just renamed the podcast work. And I think that's, you know, at the core of the problem is real;y, you know, we need alignment, right?

We need alignment. And it's incumbent on those people that are in the industry to be aligned. We need to be aligned philosophically.

We need to use the same terms. We need to make that easier to buy for customers. Right. And then, you know, and, and, and I think one of the issues is not any fault of anybody.

It's just that it's taken so long for this massive trend to happen, because it's so big and so explosive that there's not one big player like Facebook or Google that sets the terms, right, that sets the structure.

So I think that's the first step that this philosophical line is. The second step is that kind of a kind of framework, you know, of adoption.

And one of the things we've talked a lot about, some great folks are kind of joining the movement now from the outsourcing world.

They constantly remind me that no, when outsourcing was nascent, everybody was all over the place. Nobody knew how to buy, there wasn't a common theme of adoption. And once the industry got together and started creating a common language and common frameworks, it accelerated.

So, I think that's that second point. And then I think, you know, I think that we need to get an agreement on the compensation, right?

How do we compensate people across the globe? How do we create, how do we create some common themes on, on workers' rights and, and taking care of folks in the independent world?

I think that is one of the things that impresses me most about what you guys do at MBO is concerned with how folks, you know, live their lives as independent contractors and help reduce friction for that side, for the supply side of the market and I think there needs to be more effort for that. 

But I would say that if we can focus on those three things, that alignment at those three levels, that you will see a massive acceleration in the next few years.

And then you will see the kind of adoption that Balaji you talked about having folks inside organizations that have the remit, to focus on open talent and open innovation.

Miles Everson: Yeah. I agree with that framing from both of you guys, it makes a lot of sense to me. I think there's a, there is an impending body of work that needs to be done.

And I will say, it is, how do I move? How do I move from org charts to capabilities and outcomes? When I think of my organizational model, because org charts are synonymous with employee-based operating models, and it is more of a, what I am getting after is, what are the capability sets you need and outcomes that you're striving for?

And when you do that, if you have a frictionless platform to deliver those resources, then you do not need the org charts the way, that you have less dependency on work on an org chart.

And I don't think that body of work has quite been tackled yet. For me, what's on my time horizon is to help change the future of work.

Balaji Bondili: Yes, I'm totally with you Miles. I think it's the parellel that I always reflect on is open innovation or that sort of thing.

And an open talent for me is like a separate trying to sell LIDAR to people. They do not care what the technology is.

They just want it to go fast. They don't care what fuel sells in it. And we keep when, when you know the ecosystem partners, the vendors come and try and sell, there's a whole cognitive gap that people need to understand now, okay, now we need to understand what crowdsourcing is.

I need to understand what open innovation is before I use it. And you blocked a lot of people there. Sell the car, sell the speed, take all the friction to the backend, and own it and solve it.

Miles Everson: Exactly right.

John Winsor: Love it. 

McLean: So you've just got one question that's come in here, as we head towards the end, which is how can a company employee help champion open innovation within the organization.

Are there tactical steps that those on the phone can do to help push this agenda forward at the internal level, as well as at the highest level?

John Winsor: I mean you know, I love the work that Paul Estes did around gig mindset, right. And I love the way he just approached it of like, you know, if you're gonna, you know, want to, if you want, wanna work in a certain situation or use a certain set of tools, you gotta start just using the tools and his parallel of just starting to go out and use those tools, the freelancer, and open innovation and open talent tools personally is an inspirational story.

And I think it's a real guide to where other people can go, to learn and then be able to, to, you know, to be a part of the conversation inside the company.

Keaton Swett: Yeah. I would just chime in. Sorry, go ahead. 

Miles Everson: No, go ahead. 

Keaton Swett: Well, I was just going to chime in saying, you know, in the work that we've done at MindSumo with a lot of companies, a lot of times it'll start with a manager who just has a little bit of budget and wants to try something new and is able to take that experience and sell that up the chain and show why this was a major value add.

So it doesn't always have to come from the top. You know, I think that there are a lot of platforms out there, like Balaji mentioned.

There are a lot of resources, there are a lot of tools that can be used to kind of try something out.

And, you know, it doesn't take that much just to be able to dip your toe in, show a success story, and then be able to use that and build off of that success to try, to lay out a stronger foundation of how this can become better integrated into the company.

Obviously you need to hopefully, you're good at selling that to the higher-ups because you're going to have to get buy-in from those people eventually.

But, but yeah, I think kind of to John's comments about Paul Estes’, his work, you just have to go out and do it, and if you can just do it up, searching it, there are enough platforms and offerings out there, I think that it's relatively easy to do that these days. 

Miles Everson: I was going to say something very similar, which is it's more philosophical beyond open innovation, but anytime you want to drive, change in the company, start with yourself into something that creates demand from other people, instead of trying to plan the supply for other people.

So do something, act in the present, and make a difference. So people start saying, well, what the best day is when somebody says, well, why are we not doing that already at scale?

You know, you've won the day because you're not selling, you're just acting and making a difference. 

Balaji Bondili: Yeah. I agree. And I empathize with the person who's asking the question with, unfortunately, the problem in large companies is contracting and sourcing and procurement is not set up.

There is no contract for piloting, or experimentation. Like if you want to get a $5,000 challenge to go, the process is the same as buying a $500 million piece of work.

Right? And so an individual at a project manager level wanting to use Mindsumo either for, to say, I'm going to bypass some systems, you know, make friends with some people so that they can sign a contract quickly.

Like they want to do it the right way. They will, most of the time, 99% of the time, they'll say this is not worth it for the small problem we're looking to solve.

So as an ecosystem or of, you know, a company that is going to solve it, we really have to reflect on how we make that first project super fast, without having to follow the process that it takes with the $500 million project. Without the first project there is no scale.

And the first project is painful.

Keaton Swett: Great point.

McLean Robbins: I think that’s really excellent and I want to thank everybody on this call for their time today, I know it was really wonderful, we learned a lot. 

Thank you to everybody who joined us on the phone, we will be sending out a recording of this event and encourage you to join our future Future of Work events.