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John Kao

Founder and CEO, EdgeMakers
Chairman, Thayer Mahan

John Kao founded EdgeMakers because he is convinced that the passion and talent of teenagers is one of the most underutilized resources on the planet. He’s been working in the field of innovation for thirty years and is excited about sharing his knowledge with young people worldwide.

John has not had a conventional, linear career. He was called “Mr. Creativity” by The Economist, and the “innovation sherpa” by the U.S. government because of his emphasis on getting innovation done. He himself prefers the nickname “innovation activist.” Among his accomplishments, there has been a common theme: how to cultivate and drive creativity through entrepreneurship to make things happen.

He was a Harvard Business School professor for 14 years and launched the innovation curriculum there. He started the Institute for Large Scale Innovation in 2008 because of the need for a global network of innovation leaders. Representatives to the Institute now come from more than 40 countries. He’s been a professional musician who apprenticed to rock legend Frank Zappa and was recently made Yamaha’s first-ever “artist in innovation.” He’s advised numerous governments and companies on innovation strategy. He is a best selling author of “Jamming: the Art and Discipline of Business Creativity” and “Innovation Nation,” as well as a Tony-nominated producer of stage and film.

John earned a BA from Yale University in philosophy and behavioral sciences, an MBA with a concentration in entrepreneurship from Harvard Business School, and an MD focused on psychiatry and social medicine from Yale School of Medicine.
In short, John is the original EdgeMaker, always looking for the edge that links different fields together and that locates opportunities in between what exists and what is possible.