From the start, however, finding good candidates proved difficult. For one thing, Acumen’s mission required leaders who fell outside the typical mold. It relied on individuals who could manage nonprofits or public-sector organizations, but who also had the necessary business and operational skills. Acumen was also seeking leaders who could think and collaborate beyond traditional systems, work with longer-time horizons, and succeed in spite of limited resources.
Few individuals could meet these standards, and so in 2007, Novogratz created the Global Fellows Program, a yearlong training program aimed at building a corps of leaders for the sector at the intersection between business and society. Eight years later, 75 individuals from 24 countries had already participated in the program.
As the success of the Fellows Program demonstrates, providing a critical mass of promising individuals with leadership tools that cut across sectors can create global ecosystems of innovation leaders. Novogratz and other business leaders who think like her realize that finding sustainable solutions to vexing and intractable problems requires leaders who know how to build innovative ecosystems, not just organizations.
Reprinted by permission of Harvard Business Review Press. Adapted from Collective Genius: The Art and Practice of Leading Innovation. Copyright 2014 Linda A. Hill, Greg Brandeau, Emily Truelove & Kent Lineback. All rights reserved.