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John Kao

Chairman, Thayer Mahan

Dubbed “Mr. Creativity” and a “Serial Innovator” by The Economist, John is a thought leader, practitioner and activist, who has played a leading role in the fields of innovation and business creativity for over 30 years.  He blends the perspectives of former Harvard Business School professor, best-selling author, serial entrepreneur, musician, master facilitator, Harvard-trained psychiatrist, and Tony-nominated producer of film and stage.  Recently, Yamaha Music Corporation named him their first “innovation artist.”  He is a trusted advisor to leaders of companies, startups and nations who are on the hot seat to deliver meaningful innovation strategies and action agendas.

John’s work also reflects an ongoing engagement with advanced, disruptive technologies.  His advisory and venture development activity has embraced fields as diverse as innovation learning, blockchain credentialing for education, AI and big data models for microbiome research and ocean surveillance, data ownership and privacy, immersive gaming, collaboration technology and more.

In the summer of 1969, John apprenticed to rock legend Frank Zappa.  In his spare time, he plays jazz piano.