Charles Leadbeater


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Charles Leadbeater

Author, leading authority on Innovation and Creativity

Charlie Leadbeater is a renowned author, thinker and strategic adviser on innovation whose advice is sought by governments, cities and corporations across the world.

The New York Times anointed Charlie’s idea, The Pro-Am Revolution, referenced extensively by Chris Anderson in his landmark book The Long Tail, as one of the biggest global ideas of the last decade. Charlie's TED talks on innovation have been watched by over a million people.

The Spectator Magazine described him as "the wizard… 

Charlie Leadbeater is a renowned author, thinker and strategic adviser on innovation whose advice is sought by governments, cities and corporations across the world.

The New York Times anointed Charlie’s idea, The Pro-Am Revolution, referenced extensively by Chris Anderson in his landmark book The Long Tail, as one of the biggest global ideas of the last decade. Charlie's TED talks on innovation have been watched by over a million people.

The Spectator Magazine described him as "the wizard of the web" after the publication of his bestseller “We Think: mass innovation not mass production” which forecast the rise of more collaborative, open forms of innovation made possible by the web. The YouTube animation based on the book has been watched by more than 300,000 people.

Accenture, the global management consultancy, ranked him one of the top management thinkers in the world, and the Financial Times described him the outstanding innovation expert in the UK. A past winner of the prestigious David Watt Prize for journalism, Charlie was assistant editor at the Independent newspaper after a distinguished career at the Financial Times, where he was Labour Editor, Industrial Editor and Tokyo Bureau Chief.

Charlie went on to become a key adviser to Prime Minister Blair’s policy team at the Downing Street Policy Unit (he is widely held to be Tony Blair's favourite global thinker) and the Department of Trade and Industry, specialising in the impact of the Internet and the knowledge driven economy. He drafted the UK Government’s White Paper – Our Competitive Future: Building the Knowledge Driven Economy which was one of the first policy papers in the world to argue that advanced economies would become increasingly dependent upon innovation for growth.

Governments in Europe, North America, Australia and Latin America have turned to him for advice on policy issues ranging from health and education to culture and cities. Charlie speaks regularly at high profile conferences on every continent, from the Gates Foundation in Seattle to the Qatar Foundation in Doha, for the Economist magazine in London to the Government of Mexico, from Microsoft to the Tate Art Museum.

Charlie is a long standing senior research associate with Demos, the influential London think tank; a co-founder of Participle, the leading public services innovation agency, which is working with public sector agencies to create next generation public services and a visiting fellow at the National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts, where he has championed ideas of open and user driven innovation. Charlie is co-chairman of the social enterprise Apps 4 Good, one of the first charities to be granted a license to make Facebook apps which has recently caught the attention of the White House.

He has a track record for spotting ideas ahead of time. The Rise of the Social Entrepreneur, published in 1997, for example, was one of the first books to predict social enterprise solutions to public problems would become more compelling. Social entrepreneurship has since become a global movement. Charlie gave a keynote address at the inaugural Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship in Oxford.

His work ranges widely over innovation in the private, public and social sectors. In Learning from the Extremes, a widely read report published in 2009 by Cisco, he looked at the way social entrepreneurs are using technology to create new low cost approaches to learning in the slums and favelas of the developing world. From a new position working on health innovation with Imperial College London he is looking at the way new, low cost and distributed models of health care are emerging in the developing world.

Charlie is currently researching his next book, The Frugal Innovator, due to be published in early 2014, which analyses the spread of super low cost, simple, robust and shared solutions to pressing social challenges. The Frugal Innovator looks at how the global dynamics of innovation are shifting during the downturn with more new products being devised for and with relatively poor consumers of the developing world. In tandem with that he is researching the way that digital technology is reshaping our lives and how it can be made more humane and empathetic. 

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How the web’s cloud culture is changing how we create and share ideas.

The web revolution has only just begun. Already it has wrought huge change on our media, information and cultural industries, upending traditional models in music, publishing and news and in the process creating new media giants – like Google and huge uncertainty. We are however only perhaps a decade into a revolution that could take another 50 years of turmoil, upheaval and creativity to unfold. That will change how we learn, hold politicians to account and how we work.

In this highly interactive masterclass Charles Leadbeater, renowned as one of the world’s leading authorities on the impact the web is having on culture and organisation innovation, will explore where the web is headed and what it means for organisations and our culture.

Charles will draw on ideas first developed in his international bestseller We Think and further elaborated in his Mutual Media Manfiesto, published by the National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts and his British Council report Cloud Culture.

The masterclass covers…

• The web’s likely trajectory towards different versions of cloud computing in which computing power becomes a commodity, drawn down to different devices. The web will become ever more pervasive.
• The growth of a more personalised, real time and collaborative web, allowing for more interaction and creativity.
• The disruption of established, hierarchical business models – boulders – by the growth of a sea of pebbles – much small, often user driven businesses. All new media businesses will be “pebble” businesses, finding ways to link, support or combine pebbles.
• The new cultures of consumption generated by the web which focus on search and discovery, sociability and creativity.
• The emergence of new mutual business models in which companies have to share with their consumers and partners more data, information and value to generate value. More businesses will be built on communities in future.
• That has big implications for marketing, brand building, corporate governance and privacy.


Your organisation will get a deep insight into the dynamics driving the web, the implications for our culture, consumers and so for business as well. In the welter of projections and predictions about the web, Charles will provide clear guidance – to focus on people and what they are trying to achieve rather than the technology – for corporate strategy. 

The Innovation Dynamic

Innovation is the magical elixir of modern companies and economies. It drives corporate profits, fuels growth, allows firms and economies to be more productive and provides consumers and society with new solutions to their needs. For modern companies it is the holy grail, the way to create new markets, stand out and stay ahead of the competition.

More than ever before the prospects for environmentally sustainable economic growth depends on our ability to innovate – to generate and apply knowledge and ideas to create value for consumers, businesses and economies.

This masterclass can be tailored to fit any needs. It can last a couple of hours or be extended with further modules to provide an in depth exploration of innovation over two days: what innovation is, where it comes from, why it matters so much and how it can be measured and managed.

Innovation is increasingly critical to all aspects of business, to generate new ideas, new value from existing assets and to create entirely new markets with breakthrough new prodcts. Yet the way that innovation comes about, how ideas are generated, tested, refined, rejected and developed, is often poorly understood. It’s often hard for managers to find the time and space for innovation, pressed as they are by constant demands to deliver, efficiently and at high quality. Large organisations in particular find innovation hard because their routines are so ingrained and because the risks of failure are so high.

In this highly interactive masterclass Charles Leadbeater, renowned as one of the world’s leading authorities on innovation, will take you through what it takes to create an innovation rich culture in your organisation. Leadbeater will go back to the basic of innovation, how it happens and where it comes from and explore the cutting edge of innovation strategies – how firms are adopting open innovation models to draw on ideas outside themselves and particularly to engage consumers as participants in the innovation process. He will provide providing down to earth advice on how to get innovation going.

The Masterclass involve the following 40-minute modules. The basic masterclass involves the first three modules. Further modules can be added on as required.

Module 1: How Innovation Gets Started. Innovators are skilled at seeing the world differently, often reframing problems as challenges, needs as opportunities. Innovation thrives on curiosity, is often propelled by crisis and requires you to take different vantage points to see challenges in new ways.

Module 2: Where Ideas Come From. Innovation is rarely the product of a eureka moment, a flash of genius, in which a new idea springs into the head of an innovative, creative person. The truth is that most innovation is the production of new combinations of existing ideas, products and technologies. How these combinations come about, through collaboration and communication, is vital to innovation.

Module 3: Turning Ideas into Action. Innovative companies are not talking shops. People turn ideas into action. But that takes resources, commitment, courage and often a willingness to challenge conventional wisdom.

That common spine to the masterclass can be added to in a number of ways.

Module 4: Open Innovation Strategies: how organisations are using digital technologies to engage with large external communities of innovators to help generate new ideas.

Module 5: Consumer Driven Innovation: why and how companies can work directly with consumers as co-creators of new products and why consumers are often the direct creators of radical new products, which open up new markets.

Module 6: Frugal Innovation: the recipes used by frugal innovators, usually in the extreme conditions of the developing world, to create robust, simple, ultra low cost products and services. Frugal Innovation is the next big wave of innovation.

Module 7: Innovation in Action : a short, intense innovation activity, a mixture of collaboration and friendly competition, in which teams will work together to answer a design brief and make a prototype, in less than half an hour.


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