Keynote Presentations

Innovation is more important than ever, but its concepts and methods need to evolve to keep pace with 21st century challenges. We are in an era of exponentially accelerating technological innovation and increasing disruption, described by some as the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Steam, electricity, automation and integrated circuits powered the first three industrial revolutions and their attendant innovation models. We need new innovation concepts and methods to keep pace with unprecedented times. John presents transformative ideas and practical guidelines for assessing your organization’s innovation practices and building its capacity to thrive in an uncertain future.

What are the superpowers that leaders need to have if they are to successfully drive transformation in highly uncertain and volatile times? What are the new fundamentals they must learn and how should they manage their learning process? The ability to improvise, to build bridges of understanding, to find seams of opportunity are key. Equally important is the ability to assert values and purpose in a time of moral relativism, cynicism and stagnation. These new fundamentals and personal strategies for cultivating them will be described.

What do leaders of organizations and societies need to know in order to marry digital acceleration and new innovation practices to produce a desired level of transformation in impact and business models? What are new relevant models of organization, teamwork, and leadership? How should innovation be organized and funded? What are the new dynamics of talent in an exponentially accelerated, opportunity rich, innovation environment? Best and promising practices that address these questions will be presented.

As countries develop innovation capacity at warp speed, the lines of future competitiveness are being drawn. Fields such as artificial intelligence, autonomy, quantum computing and precision medicine are the flashpoints that have deep implications for future economic vitality, even national security. This keynote is informed by John’s experience working with countries worldwide on national innovation policy and strategy. John explores how new models of innovation collaboration can offset the threat of runaway, destabilizing competition driven by asymmetric innovation capabilities at a national level.

Education is being disrupted by a tidal wave of new technologies that are changing the role of teachers, the dynamics of formal education and schools, and the learning experience itself. Technology is enabling the separation of learning and formal education with profound implications for new and incumbent business models. The role of education in fostering employability needs to be reassessed in a world being driven by the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the ability to certify learning with blockchain, and the rise of microcredentialing. A new vision of education is presented.



John Kao

Meet John Kao

Who is the most interesting man in the world? Maybe John Kao!

  • Artist in residence for Yamaha
  • Jazz musician
  • A big deal in ed tech
  • Advisor to the navy
  • Advisor to Angela Merkel
  • Founder of several companies
  • MD

John Kao is the Founder, Chairman and CEO, EdgeMakers and Chairman of the Institute for Large Scale Innovation. The common thread is creativity — he can see things across industries that are all over the place and because of that he’s got the ability to add value and bring fresh (smart) eyes to all kinds of problems.

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. John has been a trusted advisor to senior leaders of both public and private sector organizations. He has advised the governments of Finland and Singapore on their innovation strategies as well as leading firms such as Nike, Intel, and BASF.

Kao’s thought leadership is expressed in his books: Jamming: The Art and Discipline of Business Creativity, a BusinessWeek best-seller that has been published in a dozen languages; and Innovation Nation, which sounds the alarm about America's growing innovation challenge. He has published three e-books: The Future is Yours to Invent, Are You a Producer?, and Clearing the Mind for Creativity.

John’s work has been profiled in major publications, including The Economist, Harvard Business Review and The New York Times. He has served in many prestigious membership and advisory roles:

  • Board Member – Bay Area Science and Innovation Consortium
  • Member – Innovation Commission of Cisco Systems
  • Senior Visiting Fellow at Singapore Civil Service College
  • Honorary Vice President of Arts and Business in the U.K.
  • Advisor to Finnish Innovation Fund
  • Chairman – World Economic Forum’s Global Advisory Council on Innovation
  • Advisor to Finland’s Aalto (Innovation) University
  • Fellow of the Royal Society of Art
  • Advisor to Clinton Global Initiative

John is a serial entrepreneur, angel investor in emerging technology, 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.


“Thank you for making our opening event a huge success and a truly groundbreaking event for the Design Council. We have received some overwhelming feedback from some of the guests at the IMAX as well as from those who were listening in the regions and in cyberspace, including: 'I feel as if I've learned new ways of valuing business this morning;' 'Design has moved upstream and become more core business;' 'There's a new emerging type of company and it doesn't buy creativity, it is creative itself.' It has been a great privilege to have worked with you and I hope to have the opportunity of doing so again in the future."

– UK Design Council

"Our Tiffany Merchandising Conference was terrific and your opening presentation contributed enormously to its success. The group is still talking and thinking about the experience! Many of the conference participants also expressed interest in having you participate in a real problem solving situation, which we can do in a workshop environment."

-Tiffany & Co.

"Thank you for helping ASTD make our International Conference and Exposition in Denver such a success. We had over 9,000 people in attendance - an energized group of leaders who came together to learn from the best. Your message on the art and discipline of business innovation and your demonstration via jazz were a hit with our audience. We heard positive comments about your presentation for the rest of the week. And thank you for leading the discussion at our Executive Briefing. I know our learning executives appreciated a chance to discuss how their world is changing and how they can help the process."

- American Society for Training & Development

“Brilliant. He provides an out-of- the-box thinking that is also very grounded in the everyday world.”

– Campaign staff, Hillary Clinton for President

“I’m a big fan of John Kao’s”

- Quincy Jones

“If Orson Welles and Peter Drucker were somehow to mate, the result would be something like John Kao, a serial innovator"

–The Economist

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