Accelerating Innovation Through a Network of Ecosystems

Altman, E. J., & Nagle, F. 2020. Accelerating Innovation Through a Network of Ecosystems: What companies can learn from one of the world's largest networks of accelerator labs. MIT Sloan Management Review, 61(4).

Posted: 15 Mar 2021

See all articles by Elizabeth J. Altman

Elizabeth J. Altman

University of Massachusetts Lowell

Frank Nagle

Harvard Business School

Date Written: June 9, 2020

Abstract

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) may not appear to be the most likely place where companies can learn new techniques for accelerating innovation, but appearances can be deceiving. In fact, UNDP is a global organization of 17,000 employees spanning 170 countries with a US$5B annual budget focused on solving the world’s most complex problems through local, regional, and global initiatives. At its headquarters and in the field, its teams are deploying some of the most forward-thinking innovation approaches as they build the world’s largest network of accelerator labs. In this article, we explore UNDP’s innovation efforts highlighting what its teams are learning from previous missteps as they create 60 accelerator labs in 60 countries. We identify best practices from which companies can learn and recognize that a key to UNDP’s system is that they are building a network of ecosystems that are individually effective and collectively even more valuable. We present examples from multi-national companies deploying their own networks of ecosystems, emphasize what businesses can learn from them, and offer guidance for companies as they progress along their innovation journeys.

We do the following:
• Highlight the network of ecosystems approach that the organization is taking and explain associated challenges and opportunities.
• Categorize learnings into four types providing examples of how the organization is implementing actions to overcome earlier challenges.
• Provide insights and guidance derived from UNDP research and example businesses that leaders can apply as they manage their own innovation efforts.

Keywords: Innovation, Ecosystems, Sustainable Development Goals, Networks

Suggested Citation

Altman, Elizabeth J. and Nagle, Frank, Accelerating Innovation Through a Network of Ecosystems (June 9, 2020). Altman, E. J., & Nagle, F. 2020. Accelerating Innovation Through a Network of Ecosystems: What companies can learn from one of the world's largest networks of accelerator labs. MIT Sloan Management Review, 61(4). , Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3801136

Elizabeth J. Altman (Contact Author)

University of Massachusetts Lowell ( email )

1 University Ave
Lowell, MA 01854
United States

Frank Nagle

Harvard Business School ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States

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