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What are open systems? Open systems are the invisible operating system that we all use every day: the playing field. They are the common platforms that allow any citizen or business to collaborate and compete in society or the economy, usually for free and always without asking permission. 

Why do they matter? When we talk about design and innovation, we tend to over-focus on singular ‘disruptive’ businesses. But historically, underlying systems innovation has always been more important.

We believe that if we want to build a successful, sustainable, fair and inclusive  digital economy and to navigate the massive changes of the next half-century, we need to design, invest-in and deploy new open systems for everyone. Companies and governments that know how to lead this kind of systemic innovation will win the future.


Pre-Industrial Era
Local, craft-based production


Language︎
Money︎
The alphabet︎
Common land︎
The brick︎
Legal title︎
The vote︎ 
Musical notation︎
Royal charters︎
The stock exchange︎
Pavements︎


1st Industrial Revolution
Steam engines, coal-mining, mechanisation


Time︎
The metric system︎
The working week︎
Washing hands︎
Patents︎
Copyrights︎
Companies house︎

Public libraries︎

2nd Industrial Revolution
Mass-manufacturing, assembly lines

Map grid references︎
White lines on the road︎
Standardised electricity grid︎
Telephone switching︎
Postcodes︎

National parks︎
The universal declaration of human rights
︎
The plan of work︎
Checklists︎
The planning system︎

3rd Industrial Revolution
Computerisation, global logistics


ISO shipping containers︎
ISBN︎
USB︎
Spreadsheets︎
Kaizen︎
Poka–Yoke︎

4th Industrial Revolution
Digitisation and the web


The world wide web︎
Open source licences︎

Open data standards︎

Wikipedia︎
Unicode︎
Javascript︎
The app store︎
Building information modelling︎
Blockchains︎   
Capped returns investment︎

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