Chairman, Institute for Large Scale Innovation
Chair of the World Economic Forum's Global Advisory Council on Innovation
Bestselling Author, Innovation Nation: How America is Losing its Innovation Edge, Why It Matters, and What We Can Do To Get It Back and Jamming: The Art and Discipline of Business Creativity
Trusted Advisor to Public and Private Sector Leaders Worldwide
Dubbed “Mr. Creativity” and "a serial innovator” by The Economist, John Kao is a leading authority on innovation, 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.
Chairman of the World Economic Forum's Global Advisory Council on Innovation, John is known especially for his practical and pragmatic approach to "getting innovation done," hence his favorite nickname, "the innovation sherpa." 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. 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 15 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. In 2010, John became a contributing editor at The Daily Beast.
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, vice chairman 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 recently 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.
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.