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Exploring the Link Between Innovation and Impact
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Exploring the Link Between Innovation and Impact

Exploring the link between innovation and impact

When: Wednesday, February 7th
12:00 noon ET to 1:15 pm ET
Where: Zoom Virtual Meeting
United States
Presenter: Terry McAdam Book Award Winners - Christian Seelos & Joanna Mair
Contact: Elaine Powers
(800) 397-2034

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Exploring the Link between Innovation and Impact


Christian Seelos and Johanna Mair, Stanford PACS Global Innovation for Impact Lab


We often call things innovative. We talk about innovative people, innovative organizations, innovative products, or innovative business models. But wat are we trying to convey when we use this label? When we ask ten managers even in the same organization we often get ten different answers. It can seem as though innovation is merely a subjective judgment about something. The absence of a shared basis for how we use the term leads to inconsistency. We have witnessed—in workshops, at conferences, and in discussions with colleagues—how unproductive it is to argue over subjective interpretations of innovation. The ambiguity around the term is a strong barrier to learning and knowledge accumulation and to making productive decisions.


In this session, we will take a closer look at how and with which consequences innovations are enacted in social enterprises. We will discuss how innovation – either at the product/service level or at the business-model level can be productively enacted. We will challenge the myth that innovation is good and more is better and reflect on organizational pathologies that make innovation unproductive. 


Readings (optional):

Seelos, Ch., Mair, J. (2016) When Innovation Goes Wrong. Stanford Social Innovation Review 14 (4), 27-33. (can be downloaded here:

Seelos, Ch., Mair, J. (2017) Innovation and Scaling for Impact. How effective social enterprises do it. Stanford University Press, Stanford.



Christian Seelos (

Christian is the Co-Director of the Global Innovation for Impact Lab (GIIL) and a distinguished fellow at Stanford PACS and the Director of Social Innovation Practice at the Harvard Kennedy School. Until September 2017, Christian was the Leo Tindemans Chair for Business Model Innovation at KU Leuven and was an Academic Visitor at the Said Business School, University of Oxford. Before that, he was the Director of the IESE Platform for Strategy and Sustainability and faculty of the Strategic Management Department at IESE Business School. Christian's research on innovative business models in the context of deep poverty was recognized by the Strategic Management Society (Best Paper Award for Practice Implications, 2007) and also won him the Gold Price, 2008 of the IFC-FT research competition on private sector development.

In the 1980s and early 90s he was Associate Professor for Molecular Biology and Cancer Research at the University of Vienna (Austria) and a Research Associate at the Baylor College of Medicine (USA). In the 1990s, he served as Senior Adviser to the Executive Chairman of UNSCOM and led a number of missions as part of the disarmament of Iraq’s biological weapons programme. Christian also held several positions in the private industry including Director at FSG Social Impact Advisors; Senior Contract Director at British Telecom Global Services, BT Ignite Head of Corporate Social Responsibility, Senior Strategy Consultant at Siemens and Vice President for Portfolio Strategy and Product Development at Transclick Inc.


Johanna Mair (

Johanna is a Professor of Organization, Strategy and Leadership at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin. She is the academic editor of Stanford Social Innovation Review, a Distinguished Fellow and co-directs the Global Innovation for Impact Lab at the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society. She is also the academic co-director of the Social Innovation and Change Initiative at the Harvard Kennedy School. From 2001 to 2011 she served on the faculty at IESE Business School and has held a visiting position at the Harvard Business School and INSEAD. She earned her PhD in Management from INSEAD (France). Johanna’s  research focuses on how novel organizational forms and institutional arrangements create economic value and social impact and the role of innovation in this process. She publishes in leading academic journals. The book with Christian Seelos on Innovation and Scaling – How effective Social Entrepreneurs create Impact makes this research accessible to a broader audience.