The Role of Social Innovation in the 21st Century - Neil Malhotra of Stanford Graduate School of Business
Play • 44 min

Social innovation is all about designing and applying solutions to improve people’s lives, and this is something Stanford Political Economy professor, Neil Malhotra, teaches and knows extremely well. As the Director of the Graduate School of Business' Center for Social Innovation, Neil begins with an introduction of what they do at Stanford in terms of social innovation and Stanford’s connection with Silicon Valley as the startup scene. 

Neil talks about a book he co-authored with his colleagues entitled Frontiers in Social Innovation. He tells us what inspired them to write this book and the valuable insights that they share with their readers. Whether you’re a seasoned businessperson or early stage entrepreneur, Neil and his co-authors provide advice that will equip you with the skills and tools you need to create and scale your impact-driven business. 

Neil explains how you can carry out impact measurement in the right way, analyzing the correct metrics, and he also highlights the fields are already oversaturated with businesses and which ones need more attention. One important concept he talks about is the theory of change and how to apply it so that your business model translates into impact. There are some nuggets of wisdom in this episode, so listen to find out more.

Neil’s key lessons and quotes from this episode were:

  • “Having a good theory of change is a really good starting point.” (14:40)
  • “Don't be intimidated. Don't immediately go to lean approaches. A lot of these more rigorous approaches are in the hands of your toolkit that you might not realize.” (17:03)
  • “The more skepticism you can decrease, it's not only the right thing to do, but it's going to be the most effective in growing your enterprise.” (24:38)
  • “If there's not a trade-off, then there's no such thing as social entrepreneurship. It's just entrepreneurship. There is no such thing as impact investing. It's just investing.” (33:51)

In this episode, we also talked about:

  • Neil’s book Frontiers in Social Innovation (5:46)
  • Neil’s advice on how to effectively measure impact (14:28)
  • Standardization in the impact space (26:04)
  • What to do and what not to do when creating an impact-driven business (30:22)
  • The future of social innovation according to Neil (40:11)
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