Hal Gregersen

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Global Authority on Working with Leaders to Build Innovative Companies; Executive Director, MIT Leadership Center; Co-Author, “The Innovator’s DNA”; Author, “Questions Are the Answer” (Harper Collins, November 2018)

Biography

Every company wants to be the next Amazon or Apple, the firm with a permanent spot in the news for its cutting-edge products and a name synonymous with innovation. But it takes a special set of qualities to get there, and Hal Gregersen has dedicated his career to finding out what kind of skills, corporate culture and set of practices produce innovative powerhouses. As executive director of the MIT Leadership Center, and Senior Lecturer in Leadership and Innovation at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, Gregersen has created a methodology by which corporate leaders can raise their companies’ levels of creative inquiry, unleash the potential of their employees, and make a meaningful impact on their industries and on the world.

The crux of Gregersen’s argument, spelled out in his new book “Questions Are the Answer: A Breakthrough Approach to Your Most Vexing Problems at Work and in Life” (Harper Collins, November 2018), is while business leaders and employees alike are programmed to look for answers, the real catalyst for innovative change is questioning. The most successful companies are those that facilitate brainstorming and thinking outside the box. Gregersen has devised a three-step methodology, based on his research on the most innovative leaders and firms in the world, which shows how company cultures can be overhauled and transformed to habitually seek (and produce) pioneering breakthroughs.

Gregersen co-authored, with Clay Christensen and Jeff Dyer, “The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators” (Harvard Business Review Press, 2011), a guide to cultivating the personal skills embodied by the most successful CEOs and entrepreneurs. Having deeply researched and interviewed ground-breaking leaders like Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and P&G’s A.G. Laffey, Gregersen draws on personal experience and rigorous research and analysis to successfully advise the world’s largest corporations. His framework for redesigning a company culture around constructive questioning has been implemented by Chanel, Danone, Disney, Ernst & Young, Fidelity, Genentech and Salesforce, among others.

Ranked one of the world’s 25 most influential management thinkers by Thinkers50 and winner of the 2017 Distinguished Achievement Award for leadership, Gregersen regularly delivers inspirational keynote speeches, motivational executive seminars and transformational coaching experiences. Along with ten books, Gregersen is the author of more than 50 articles, book chapters, and cases on leading innovation and change (with more thanr 10,000 citations by other scholars). His research has been highlighted in global media such as BBC, CNN, The Economist, Fast Company, Financial Times, Forbes, Fortune, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal.

Gregersen’s tenure at MIT is the culmination of an illustrious academic journey that has included teaching posts at INSEAD, London Business School, Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, Brigham Young University, and a Fulbright Fellowship in Finland. Prior to his academic career, Gregersen was an advisory board member at Pharmascience, a Montreal-based pharmaceutical company, and he remains a senior fellow at the global innovation consulting firm Innosight.

Hal Gregersen is available for paid speaking engagements, including keynote addresses, speeches, panels and conference talks, and advisory/consulting services, through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

Videos

Media

How to Ask Questions the Way Great Business Leaders Do: CFO Summit

November 30, 2018

To Find a Better Solution, Ask a Better Question

November 19, 2018

Forbes logo

Hal Gregersen's Forbes Column

Ed Catmull on How He Helped Foster Creative Collaboration at Disney and Pixar

November 13, 2018

How These Leading CEOs Use Questions to Drive Success

November 8, 2018

How to Unlock the Power of Innovative Inquiry

October 4, 2018

Book Review: Questions Are The Answer

September 2018

Your Tech Strategy May Be Asking The Wrong Questions About AI

August 29, 2018

Digital Transformation Opens News Questions - and New Problems to Solve

August 28, 2018

How to Be the World's Most Innovative Leader

May 31, 2018

Forbes logo

How We Rank The Most Innovative Companies 2018

May 29, 2018

The Power of Leaders Who Focus on Solving Problems

April 16, 2018

Brainstorming is Killing Your Creativity

April 2, 2018

What Kind of Leadership Works Best at Your Company?

March 19, 2018

Questions (Not Answers) Are the Key To Innovation

February 21, 2018

Minds Worth Meeting

How Problem-Led Leadership is Changing the World With Hal Gregersen (Audio)

January 30, 2018

strategy+business logo

How to Cultivate Leadership That Is Honed to Solve Problems

October 30, 2017

MIT Press Journals logo

Why Do You Ask?

Fall 2017

Forbes logo

How Does Amazon Stay At Day One?

August 8, 2017

We Need to Ask How We Can Make Economic Growth More Inclusive

April 25, 2017

The Atlantic logo

Being Quiet Is Part of Being a Good CEO

March 2, 2017

Forbes logo

Leading Across Boundaries: Respect, Leadership and the Future Of Work

December 2, 2016

Harvard Business Review logo

What Great Leaders Can Learn from Great Photographers

October 4, 2016

Harvard Business Review logo

When Was the Last Time You Asked, Why Are We Doing It This Way?

April 1, 2016

Want to Foster Innovation? Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

March 18, 2016

How The Most Successful People Ask Questions

February 8, 2016

How To Train Yourself To Excel In Uncomfortable Situations

November 6, 2015

Fortune logo

What VW Can Learn From Gen. Stanley McChrystal About Imperfect Leaders

October 14, 2015

Biography

Every company wants to be the next Amazon or Apple, the firm with a permanent spot in the news for its cutting-edge products and a name synonymous with innovation. But it takes a special set of qualities to get there, and Hal Gregersen has dedicated his career to finding out what kind of skills, corporate culture and set of practices produce innovative powerhouses. As executive director of the MIT Leadership Center, and Senior Lecturer in Leadership and Innovation at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, Gregersen has created a methodology by which corporate leaders can raise their companies’ levels of creative inquiry, unleash the potential of their employees, and make a meaningful impact on their industries and on the world.

The crux of Gregersen’s argument, spelled out in his new book “Questions Are the Answer: A Breakthrough Approach to Your Most Vexing Problems at Work and in Life” (Harper Collins, November 2018), is while business leaders and employees alike are programmed to look for answers, the real catalyst for innovative change is questioning. The most successful companies are those that facilitate brainstorming and thinking outside the box. Gregersen has devised a three-step methodology, based on his research on the most innovative leaders and firms in the world, which shows how company cultures can be overhauled and transformed to habitually seek (and produce) pioneering breakthroughs.

Gregersen co-authored, with Clay Christensen and Jeff Dyer, “The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators” (Harvard Business Review Press, 2011), a guide to cultivating the personal skills embodied by the most successful CEOs and entrepreneurs. Having deeply researched and interviewed ground-breaking leaders like Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and P&G’s A.G. Laffey, Gregersen draws on personal experience and rigorous research and analysis to successfully advise the world’s largest corporations. His framework for redesigning a company culture around constructive questioning has been implemented by Chanel, Danone, Disney, Ernst & Young, Fidelity, Genentech and Salesforce, among others.

Ranked one of the world’s 25 most influential management thinkers by Thinkers50 and winner of the 2017 Distinguished Achievement Award for leadership, Gregersen regularly delivers inspirational keynote speeches, motivational executive seminars and transformational coaching experiences. Along with ten books, Gregersen is the author of more than 50 articles, book chapters, and cases on leading innovation and change (with more thanr 10,000 citations by other scholars). His research has been highlighted in global media such as BBC, CNN, The Economist, Fast Company, Financial Times, Forbes, Fortune, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal.

Gregersen’s tenure at MIT is the culmination of an illustrious academic journey that has included teaching posts at INSEAD, London Business School, Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, Brigham Young University, and a Fulbright Fellowship in Finland. Prior to his academic career, Gregersen was an advisory board member at Pharmascience, a Montreal-based pharmaceutical company, and he remains a senior fellow at the global innovation consulting firm Innosight.

Hal Gregersen is available for paid speaking engagements, including keynote addresses, speeches, panels and conference talks, and advisory/consulting services, through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

Speech Topics

Questions Are the Answer: Discovering the Power of Inquiry in the Innovation Process

When confronted with a problem, our typical response is to look for a pre-packaged solution. But in a world increasingly transformed by technology and riddled with uncertainty, we face problems that have no ready-made answer or past precedent. CEOs and other business leaders may think their role is to have all the answers, but in fact, says Hal Gregersen, they should be asking questions. In this presentation based on his upcoming book, “Questions Are the Answer: A Breakthrough Approach to Your Most Vexing Problems at Work and in Life” (Harper Collins, November 2018), Gregersen outlines his “Question Burst” method, which is designed to transform companies into hotbeds of innovation by teaching leaders and employees to rediscover their powers of inquiry. Drawing upon his first-hand research on innovative companies and leaders at Amazon, Pixar, Tesla and more, Gregersen demonstrates how asking questions inevitably leads not only to solutions but to new and exciting transformative ideas.

Bursting the CEO Bubble: Asking Catalytic Questions – Before It’s Too Late

Powerful organizational and industrial forces can keep any senior leader from hearing (or asking) uncomfortable questions, and creating a “good-news cocoon,” at his or her own peril. It’s what Hal Gregersen calls “The Leader’s Dilemma,” and it can be exceedingly dangerous in an era when dramatic market shifts can happen unexpectedly. In this session, Gregersen discusses how leaders and organizations can escape the innovator’s most dangerous blind spot, the space where “we don’t know what we don’t know.” Based on in-depth interviews with more than 200 of the world’s best question-asking leaders, including Charles Schwab’s Walt Bettinger, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Tesla’s Elon Musk, and General Stanley McChrystal, he reveals five daily disciplines these leaders rely on to surface the right questions. Gregersen also helps audience members become better questioners in real time by sharing key questioning tools and helping them unlock solutions, innovations and processes.

Building a Sustainably Creative Company: Putting People, Processes & Philosophies to Work

Innovative leaders hold the power to create monumental impact throughout an organization by acting and thinking innovatively themselves. However, if leaders don’t empower others to do the same, the breadth of a company’s innovation capacity – and consequently, its growth potential – rises and falls with them alone. In this session, Hal Gregersen discusses how today’s most innovative leaders, including Pixar’s Ed Catmull, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Salesforce.com’s Marc Benioff, build a culture of innovation by decentralizing the source of ideas and instilling a creative capacity from the bottom up – and why it’s the single most important legacy leaders can leave behind. As Benioff put it, “It’s my job to create a culture of innovation.”

The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators

Is an innovator born or made? This is the question Hal Gregersen, along with Clayton Christensen and Jeff Dyer, set out to answer for their bestselling book, “The Innovator’s DNA.” Drawing on his firsthand conversations with game-changing founders and CEOs – and research from more than 15,000 creative leaders around the world – Gregersen discusses five key skills that innovators leverage to solve challenging problems, discover new markets and fuel economic growth. Gregersen also focuses attendees’ energy on actively developing these skills through brief, high-energy learning activities so they leave thinking and acting differently in their professional work and personal lives.

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Recommendations

Advance Praise for “Questions are the Answer”

“I connected with this book’s message because I lived it. Everything changed for the better when I realized that I, like so many others, was asking the wrong question. Our culture chases conventional notions of success instead of nurturing what would really make us thrive. Hal Gregersen is absolutely right — the best way to get to a better answer is to start with a better question, and we can all learn to do that.”

—Arianna Huffington, Founder & CEO, Thrive Global and Founder, The Huffington Post

“It’s a great insight that, if you want to arrive at a better answer, you should start with a better question. Hal Gregersen takes that observation further, exploring how to put it into daily practice. I love this book’s emphasis on creating the conditions in which creative thinking will thrive, and I love its bighearted storytelling.”

—Tony Hsieh, CEO, Zappos, and author of #1 New York Times bestseller Delivering Happiness

 “In his new book, Hal Gregersen reveals the power of cultivating a beginner’s mind, deep listening and continuous reflection in search of the right questions. Read this remarkable book and you will find a path to meaningful answers.”

—Marc Benioff, Chairman & Co-CEO, Salesforce

“Do you already know that questions lie at the heart of creativity? Yes. Do you know how to ask better questions? Probably not—but thankfully, Hal Gregersen is here to guide you. This book illuminates a path toward sparking new ideas.”

—Adam Grant, New York Times bestselling author of Originals, Give and Take, and Option B with Sheryl Sandberg

“I see it over and over again. People with huge potential to make their mark in the world, and make the world better, don’t make enough progress because they aren’t starting with the right questions—mainly of themselves. Questions are the Answer is a great read, but more important, I think for anyone trying to solve big problems it will make a huge difference.”

—Tony Robbins, America’s #1 Life and Business Strategist

“Hal Gregersen is one of those rare educators who always practices what he preaches. Deliberately, he pushes himself out of his comfort zones, and consistently, he surfaces those great questions that unlock better answers. I think it’s wonderful that, with Questions Are the Answer, he is equipping so many more people to do the same.”

—Clayton M. Christensen, Kim B. Clark Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School

“If you want a simple answer to the question of what matters most to creativity, then look no further than the title of this book. Mastering the art of questioning is not easy, but Hal Gregersen describes a wealth of valuable approaches that will serve you well — no matter what kinds of problems you are trying to solve.”

—Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, and author of Design for Change

“As machines become exceedingly proficient at providing answers, it becomes more and more important for people to be asking the right questions. Hal Gregersen is exactly right that this is a skill we can learn — and must teach.”

—Joi Ito, Director, MIT Media Lab, and author of Whiplash

“I have always been fascinated by the rebels among us–the iconoclasts who see things differently and make things change in positive and constructive ways. Questions Are the Answer gives essential insight into how these “deviant” types consistently manage to challenge their own going-in positions–and the most stubborn assumptions of the people around them. A key addition to the literature on creative thinking.”

—Francesca Gino, Professor, Harvard Business School, and author of Rebel Talent

“Creating an open environment where every manager can ask questions without fear is the first step in bringing innovation to achieve the betterment of a corporation. The author brings out how asking the right questions is the responsibility of a successful leader. A ‘must’ read for every corporate person aspiring to succeed as a leader.”

—N. R. Narayana Murthy, Founder of Infosys

“Curiosity can’t be taught. Or can it? Good question. The answer is yes, it can — by absorbing the hard-earned but highly accessible wisdom Hal Gregersen offers. This is a book for business leaders but also for artists and anyone else who cares to grow their ability to find answers through sustained, skillful question-asking. I wish I’d had it when I was first heading out into the world.”

— Sam Abell, National Geographic staff photographer, and author of Stay This Moment and The Life of a Photograph

“People start out in life as fearless questioners, but most learn as time goes by to suppress that impulse. This book has a simple premise—that we can rebuild our questioning capacity by adapting the habits and skills of persistently creative thinkers—and it delivers on that premise powerfully.  An invaluable guide for today’s leaders.”

Amy C. Edmondson, Professor, Harvard Business School, and author of The Fearless Organization

“In this masterful work, Hal Gregersen shows how educators and parents can teach the ability to ask good questions and the habit of curiosity to all young people—and why these skills are so essential. Questions are the Answer is an invaluable contribution to the reimagination of education for the 21st century.”

Tony Wagner, bestselling author of The Global Achievement Gap and Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World

“It was such a pleasure to meet you in Orlando. Thank you for participating in the FCIS Convention. We appreciate your support of independent schools in Florida and your willingness to share your knowledge and expertise with Heads of School and administrators from around the state. Many independent schools in Florida are young and constantly evolving. Your keynote definitely struck a chord with the audience.”

— Alison Carlson, Director of Professional Development, Florida Council of Independent Schools

“Hal Gregersen’s highly interactive 90-minute presentation on the Innovator’s DNA was the keynote presentation for an internal conference on innovation for our key executives, product managers, and marketing managers. Not only did Hal exceed our expectations, he held the entire audience spellbound. Hal’s combination of superior intellect, his willingness to share many years of scholarship and field work on innovation, his warm personal style, natural curiosity, and humility resonated exceptionally well with the audience and they rewarded him with their undivided attention and a standing ovation. Both during and after his presentation, our executives came up to me and praised everything about Hal and his message. Hal’s presentation set the tone for the rest of the conference and attendees referred to Hal’s concepts repeatedly over the next three days. I would recommend him to any company that is serious about becoming a leading innovator in your industry.”

Larry Yokell, CenturyLink

“Thank you for your inspiring keynote presentation during Confluence in Berlin. You were our highest-rated speaker and the highlight of the event for a lot of our attendees. You brought strategic insight, humour and practical advice that I know people will take home and use in their daily lives, as I have been doing.”

Claire Hockin, Infosys

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