Career: Bestselling author, strategic advisor, innovation activist dubbed “Mr. Creativity” by The Economist; Chairmen & CEO EdgeMakers; Chairman ILSI
Interests: Jazz, Film & Theater (actively!). Unpeeling the onion, reinvention of education, innovation at societal scale.
Hometown: San Francisco, USA
John Kao was born in 1950 to Chinese immigrant parents. An accomplished jazz pianist, he spent the summer of 1969 playing keyboards for Frank Zappa. Kao studied philosophy at Yale College, received an MD from Yale Medical School, and an MBA from Harvard Business School. He taught at Harvard Business School from 1982-96, where he specialized in innovation and entrepreneurship and created executive and MBA programs on innovation. He has also held faculty appointments at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab, Yale College, and the Naval Postgraduate School.
John is a leader in creating and delivering high end innovation leadership executive programs for both public and private sectors. He is chairman of the Institute for Large Scale Innovation, whose i20 group is an association of 30 national ‘Chief Innovation Officers.’ John coined the term “large scale innovation” to refer to innovation as a societal agenda. He has advised numerous nations and regions on innovation strategy and execution, including Finland, Singapore, the City of San Francisco, Abu Dhabi and elements of the US government as well as the European Union innovation policy team.
His advisory work for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton was described in The New York Times as “out of the box”
Jamming: The Art and Discipline of Business Creativity (1996; still reprinted and available in 16 languages)
Innovation Nation: How America Is Losing Its Innovation Edge, Why It Matters, and What We Can Do to Get It Back (2007)