John Kao

  • Innovation Change Agent & Trusted Advisor to Leaders Worldwide
  • Founder & CEO of EdgeMakers
  • Past Chair of the World Economic Forum's Global Advisory Council on Innovation
  • Bestselling Author, Jamming: The Art and Discipline of Business Creativity and Innovation Nation

If you are looking to reset your organization's innovation agenda and more importantly, your innovation abilities, look no further than John Kao. Kao lays out a fresh vision for how innovation will drive progress in your organization that is rooted in 30 years of working with leaders who are on the hot seat to deliver an innovation agenda.  His knowledge is visionary, distinct and actionable, which is why the Economist called him “Mr. Creativity.

In 2012 he started EdgeMakers, an organization that offers a learning system focused on 5 core disciplines: 1)creativity & innovation, 2) storytelling & changemaking, 3) design edge, 4) character & collaboration and 5) entrepreneurs and startups.

John Kao has addressed standing room only audiences and received rave reviews from organizations as diverse as the World Economic Forum, Google, the World Innovation Forum, and Xerox Parc. His engaging and transformative presentations instill the spirit of creativity and the “how to” of innovation in order to create an authentic and successful innovation agenda.

 
  

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Rave Reviews About John Kao
 Our Business Week Symposium of Chief Executive Officers was an overwhelming success! Your session drew a great deal of praise from the participants who said they picked up valuable concepts from the presentations. The fact that the working groups which followed were standing room only attests to your effectiveness.

A Sample of the Groups That Have Hosted John Kao
  • Design Council
  • Harvard University, Graduate School of Business Administration
  • Pepsico Foods International Limited Europe Group
  • Tiffany & Co.
  • Homee Communications
  • Skolkovo Foundation
  • American Society for Training & Development
  • Navigant Consulting
  • Transition Leadership International
John Kao - The beginner's guide to innovating - One Young World - Get Sharable Link
John Kao - The beginner's guide to innovating - One Young World
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Explore John Kao's Talks
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Going Beyond the “Innovation” Buzzword

Innovation is at the top of the management agenda, yet it has become a meaningless buzzword. While many leaders “get” why innovation is important, most struggle to create a transformative innovation strategy that is distinct, effective and actionable. In this presentation John Kao helps organization ...

Innovation is at the top of the management agenda, yet it has become a meaningless buzzword. While many leaders “get” why innovation is important, most struggle to create a transformative innovation strategy that is distinct, effective and actionable. In this presentation John Kao helps organizations get past the hype of innovation and right to the heart of getting it done.

Before Innovation Comes Creativity: The innovation Concert

Innovation is a hot topic these days.  Countries cultivate it, companies demand it.  Employees seek the innovation edge.  And Gen Z wants it.   However, before innovation comes creativity.  It all begins with the spark of an idea, generated in a human brain in uncertain circumstances that must be nu ...

Innovation is a hot topic these days.  Countries cultivate it, companies demand it.  Employees seek the innovation edge.  And Gen Z wants it.  

However, before innovation comes creativity.  It all begins with the spark of an idea, generated in a human brain in uncertain circumstances that must be nurtured to express its full potential. Yet in the headlong rush for innovation, the practice of creativity has largely been ignored. Ideas are assumed to be fungible, while the emphasis has been on reducing innovation to a best practice, metrics, stage gates, process flows, management accountability systems and the like.  

This is a dangerous assumption as it is the quality (and quantity of ideas) generated that leads to quality innovation.  And the very management practices that lead to efficient innovation are often directly opposed to those that support creativity in the enterprise.  

John Kao balances the creative and the business perspective in drawing from a lifelong immersion in creative fields.  As Yamaha’s first “Innovation Artist,” he can use music as a compelling illustration of how creativity in business works and what the management requirements really are.

Innovation 2016 – A Report Card on American (Global) Innovation

Innovation now has a new geography as countries from China to Dubai invest in massive national innovation agendas designed to enhance their competitiveness.  It is hard to underestimate the speed at which the global game board is shifting through the influence of new technologies, new business model ...

Innovation now has a new geography as countries from China to Dubai invest in massive national innovation agendas designed to enhance their competitiveness.  It is hard to underestimate the speed at which the global game board is shifting through the influence of new technologies, new business models, new consumer demographics and more.  

At the same time, incumbent countries, America principal among them, must reassess their innovation posture.  America has always taken its innovation advantage for granted; it is woven into our country’s DNA.  Yet innovation is no longer a set of advantages that can be taken for granted.  This presentation documents the rising tide of innovation worldwide and positions America within it and presents an agenda for what America must do to remain pre-eminent.  The 2016 presidential election will be included in detail as the context for why talking about American innovation is an urgent and important topic.    

This keynote speech draws upon the Jon Kao's unique perspective as an advisor to numerous countries on innovation policy, as a member of a U.S. White House Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology expert panel on G2 innovation cooperation, and author of the influential book Innovation Nation, which documents America’s rising innovation challenge.

EdgeMaking – How a Rising Generation Will Learn to be Innovators and Change the World

Today's rising generation was born into a world with problems: climate, conflict, poverty, disease.  No wonder that they are imbued with purpose and a desire to make change – and at an earlier age than ever before.   The question is where they will learn the skills of creativity, digital fluency, en ...

Today's rising generation was born into a world with problems: climate, conflict, poverty, disease.  No wonder that they are imbued with purpose and a desire to make change – and at an earlier age than ever before.  

The question is where they will learn the skills of creativity, digital fluency, entrepreneurship, collaboration, design and story-telling that will give them the “how” of innovation and enhance their employability in a turbulent world.  Schools in most parts of the world are not the answer, they are rooted in an old-world model of what it means to be educated.  

This keynote presents a new vision of the capacities needed by young people to express their passion and idealism in service of world changing goals.  Vivid case studies of young people who are making a difference way ahead of schedule are presented.  And a new vision of education – digitally enabled, distributed and personal – will be shared.  It draws upon the speaker’s 30 years of experience creating compelling learning experiences for business students and executives, which has culminated in a new vision of innovation learning: EdgeMakers.

Innovation Master Class

John Kao’s Innovation Master Class (1-2 day program) combines the best of an executive program with a deep dive component to produce, not just a knowledge base around innovation, but practical steps to innovation and execution.  Mr. Kao wrote the book on executive education for innovation—literally. ...

John Kao’s Innovation Master Class (1-2 day program) combines the best of an executive program with a deep dive component to produce, not just a knowledge base around innovation, but practical steps to innovation and execution. 

Mr. Kao wrote the book on executive education for innovation—literally. His acclaimed residential executive program at Harvard Business School—Enhancing Corporate Creativity—was rated 4.8 out of 5 in its first year of inception. Mr. Kao has modified this core curriculum to teach executives in companies and governments worldwide, including the Singapore Civil Service College and the US Naval Postgraduate School, which made John a Distinguished Visiting Professor of Innovation. 

Now, your executives don't have to travel or sit in a group setting that prevents candid discussion about your organization’s innovation needs-—John will bring the power of executive education to YOU with a customized two-day program.

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<p>Hillary Clinton’s tech and innovation agenda</p>

Hillary Clinton’s tech and innovation agenda

In his most recent blog post, innovation leader John Kao shares insights about Hillary Clinton’s new technology and innovation initiative. It is the first time a presidential candidate of any party has announced a comprehensive agenda intended to advance progress on these fronts and Kao writes, “Her initiative is closely coupled with the theme of employment and is designed to ‘leverage technology to create good-paying jobs on Main Street’ and to build ‘the human capital pipeline.’”

Read more >>
<p>Harness Your Imagination to Solve “Wicked” Global Issues</p>

Harness Your Imagination to Solve “Wicked” Global Issues

Innovation Leader JOHN KAO gave the opening keynote presentation at the 2016 One Young World Summit, where an incredible audience of hundreds of leaders between the ages of 18 and 30, from all over the world, attended to collaborate on solutions that address urgent global issues. Kao addressed “wicked problems” — those problems that are so complex as to seem insoluble, which his company EdgeMakers is tackling in innovative ways. 

Read more from this Inspiring Event...
<p>John Kao Chats with Quincy Jones About Young Creators Transforming the World</p>

John Kao Chats with Quincy Jones About Young Creators Transforming the World

Innovation Expert & Disruptor JOHN KAO sat down with quintessential musician Quincy Jones and they talked about many things, including the importance of nurturing the talent of young people, who Kao refers to as “EdgeMakers” — inspired young creators who are transforming their worlds, and ours, by fusing disciplines in entirely new ways. In his post, Kao writes, "What Q understands, as do I, is that we all have this capability within us, given the right resources and inspiration." John Kao continues to inspire businesses and individuals to get beyond the buzzword of innovation to make real innovation happen.

Read more about his visit with Quincy Jones...
<p>John Kao is Empowering Young Innovators to Change the World</p>

John Kao is Empowering Young Innovators to Change the World

What do HWA Speakers former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Innovation/Creativity Expert & Disruptor John Kao have in common? They are leaders who understand that educating young people to be innovative thinkers is EVERYTHING, and they are each working toward that goal. As Kofi says, "Young people should be at the forefront of global change & innovation." And John Kao is making that change happen with EdgeMakers, Inc., his global company that is empowering young innovators to change the world. John's talk on "Going Beyond the Innovation Buzzword" continues to win him standing ovations!

Find out more about EdgeMakers...
<p>What Does ">

What Does "Innovation" Mean Today and for the Future?

Innovation Visionary JOHN KAO shares insights on re-igniting the spark around the true meaning of creativity and innovation. Fresh from his attendance at the Techonomy conference where he had hundreds of conversations with leaders about what innovation means and doesn't mean, and more importantly, how to get it done, Kao helps us reset the innovation button.

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<p>Fast-Track Your Innovation Agenda with John Kao</p>

Fast-Track Your Innovation Agenda with John Kao

Innovation expert JOHN KAO continues to inspire audiences around the world with his engaging and transformational presentations that instill the spirit of creativity as well as the “how to” of innovation to get you beyond an innovation agenda and on track to “getting innovation done.”

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Biography

Dubbed “Mr. Creativity” and "a serial innovator” by The Economist, John Kao is a leading authority on innovation, business creativity, organizational transformation and emerging technologies. Over the past two decades, John has been a trusted advisor to senior leaders of both public and private sector organizations in the development of innovation strategies and capabilities. He has advised the governments of Finland and Singapore on their innovation strategies, for example, as well as leading firms such as Nike, Intel, and BASF.  

He is known especially for his practical and pragmatic approach to "getting innovation done," hence his favorite nickname, "the innovation Sherpa," given to him by US government clients. His article on the globalization of innovation, published in the Harvard Business Review, was named one of the “most popular” of 2009. 

John is chairman and founder of the Institute for Large Scale Innovation (ILSI), whose i20 group is an association of national innovation leaders from around the world and which has received founding sponsorship from Deloitte LLP and Cisco Systems Inc.  His thought leadership is expressed in his two books: Jamming: The Art and Discipline of Business Creativity, a BusinessWeek best-seller that has been published in a dozen languages; and Innovation Nation, published in October 2007, which sounds the alarm about America's growing innovation challenge. Since the fall of 2009, he has published three e-books: The Future is Yours to Invent, Are You a Producer? and Clearing the Mind for Creativity.

John received a BA from Yale College, an MD from Yale Medical School, and an MBA from Harvard Business School. He was a member of the Harvard Business School faculty from 1982-96; his elective on entrepreneurship, innovation and organizations drew 2000 MBA students, and his executive program, "Enhancing Corporate Creativity," drew top executives from companies such as AT&T, Merck, and Merrill Lynch. He has done extensive case writing focused on R&D multinationals as well as firms in high tech and entertainment. 

John has served as a board member of the Bay Area Science and Innovation Consortium, a member of the Innovation Commission of Cisco Systems, a Senior Visiting Fellow at the Singapore Civil Service College, an advisor to the Clinton Global Initiative, and chairman of the World Economic Forum's Global Advisory Council on Innovation, and an advisor to Sitra, the Finnish National Innovation Fund, and Finland’s Aalto (innovation) University, among others. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Art and an honorary Vice President of Arts & Business in the UK.  His work has been profiled in major publications, including The Economist and The New York Times.

John is also a serial entrepreneur, an angel investor in emerging technology companies, and a Tony-nominated producer of film and stage. He was producer of the Broadway play, Golden Child, production executive on Sex, Lies and Videotape, and executive producer of Mr. Baseball.  A jazz pianist at heart, he spent the summer of 1969 playing keyboards for rock legend Frank Zappa.

In 2009, John made keynote addresses and briefings to Hewlett Packard, SPX Corporation, Teradata, InnoBasque -- the Basque Country innovation agency, APDC, the Portuguese Association for the Development of Communications, the European Union innovation team, the Clinton Global Initiative, Business for Social Responsibility, the Finnish Prime Minister’s Research and Innovation Council, the United States Senate Democrat staff, the Mayor’s office of San Francisco, the Science and Technology for Society Forum in Kyoto, the National Governor’s Association, and the Finnish Center for Knowledge and Innovation research. He facilitated a "deep dive" (immersive, in-depth session) on national innovation strategy in partnership with the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation in Washington DC that included participation from OSTP, NEC, and NSF, among other public sector stakeholders. Previous presentations have included IBM, the U.S. Navy, Citibank, Nokia, the TED Conferences, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Standard Chartered Bank, Deloitte LLP, the World Economic Forum, and Accenture.

In 2013 John founded EdgeMakers because he is convinced that the passion and talent of teenagers is one of the most underutilized resources on the planet and is excited about sharing his knowledge with young people worldwide. EdgeMaking is a unique learning system that is available both in the classroom and to self-directed learners on mobile/internet platforms.  It presents an integrated portfolio of disciplines meant to increase the employability of young people, as well as their ability to succeed in life.

His speeches on innovation are distinguished by their vivid call to arms as well as their pragmatic and original frameworks for action. He has been known to illustrate the fundamentals and practicalities of "getting innovation done" by referencing the skills of jazz improvisation through a piano demonstration. He has "performed" such illustrations before audiences at Madison Square Garden, the Royal Copenhagen Opera House, and the Grand Old Opry.