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John Kao

Chairman, Thayer Mahan

Dubbed “Mr. Creativity” and a “serial innovator” by The Economist, John is an innovation thought leader, practitioner and activist. He is a trusted advisor to companies, startups and nations on innovation strategy, implementation, and future trends.

John’s long association with the US Navy has included membership on the CNO’s Advisory Board. He also served as a founding member of the Transformation Advisory Group of the US Department of Defense along with then Senator Hillary Clinton and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.

John is past chair of the World Economic Forum’s Global Innovation Council, and has advised the Clinton Global Initiative. He serves on a White House expert panel on US-China innovation policy.

John is also a “venture catalyst” who has started and invested in a series of technology companies and is a Tony-nominated producer of film (Sex, Lies and Videotapes, Mr. Baseball) and theater (Golden Child, Flower Drum Song, Jitney).

John was a Harvard Business School professor from 1982-96, where he taught innovation and entrepreneurship. He authored Jamming: The Art and Discipline of Business Creativity, a BusinessWeek best-seller, and Innovation Nation, published in October, 2007 about America’s growing innovation challenge.

His education includes BA and MD degrees from Yale, a residency at the Massachusetts General Hospital and an MBA from the Harvard Business School.

In the summer of 1969, John was an apprentice to rock legend Frank Zappa. He was recently named a Yamaha concert artist. In his spare time, he plays jazz piano.