Mitchell Weiss

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Leading Public Entrepreneurship Expert; Professor of Management Practice, Harvard Business School; Author, “We the Possibility” (2020)

Biography

Can we solve public problems anymore? Can we – private entrepreneurs, citizens, and the people we put in office – accomplish new things? Harvard Business School Professor Mitchell Weiss believes that we can … if.  If we move toward “possibility government” and find new ways to generate solutions to public problems, to try them and to scale them. He helps public leaders and private ones take up their role in bringing about this shift toward possibility within their own organizations and their own communities. He shares with them the tools and techniques of possibility leadership and possibility citizenship.

Weiss is an inspiring and sought-after speaker and teacher. In addition to his work with startups and other businesses, he has presented at 10 Downing Street, the World Bank and Code for America. He has received awards for his innovative teaching and community leadership at Harvard Business School (HBS). He is a senior advisor to the Bloomberg-Harvard City Leadership Initiative. Weiss is also the course head for The Entrepreneurial Manager at HBS, a course that reaches all 900+ MBA students. The Public Entrepreneurship course, which he created and teaches, is a popular and demanding course in the second-year program at Harvard Business School, for which he has written 20 HBS cases and from which he’s met hundreds of incredible students. He’s taught portions of the course to world leaders at all levels of government and in the private sector. Weiss’ research has covered the hoverboard that crossed the English Channel, the world’s first city built “from the internet up”, the testing of autonomous vehicles and the rise and fall and follow-up of dock-less bike-sharing. Mitch’s work and the Public Entrepreneurship course have been referenced in The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, Politico and other media outlets. He is the author of the forthcoming book, “We the Possibility” from Harvard Business Review Press (2020).

Before joining Harvard Business School, Weiss was one of these possibility leaders himself as Chief of Staff and partner to Boston’s Mayor Thomas Menino. He was a co-founder of New Urban Mechanics and helped make Boston’s innovation work a global model for peer-produced government and change. He also championed Boston’s innovation district as a regional platform for entrepreneurship and growth. Weiss led speechwriting for the Mayor’s Inaugural and State of the City addresses. In April 2013, he guided the Mayor’s Office response to the Marathon Bombings and played a key role in starting One Fund Boston.

Weiss is Professor of Management Practice at Harvard Business School and the Richard L. Menschel Faculty Fellow. He holds a Master in Business Administration from Harvard Business School, where he was a George Baker Scholar, and an A.B. with Honors in Economics from Harvard University.

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

Videos

Books & Research

We The Possibility

(Harvard Business Review Press, 2020)

A-Z Name

Weiss, Mitchell

Biography

Can we solve public problems anymore? Can we – private entrepreneurs, citizens, and the people we put in office – accomplish new things? Harvard Business School Professor Mitchell Weiss believes that we can … if.  If we move toward “possibility government” and find new ways to generate solutions to public problems, to try them and to scale them. He helps public leaders and private ones take up their role in bringing about this shift toward possibility within their own organizations and their own communities. He shares with them the tools and techniques of possibility leadership and possibility citizenship.

Weiss is an inspiring and sought-after speaker and teacher. In addition to his work with startups and other businesses, he has presented at 10 Downing Street, the World Bank and Code for America. He has received awards for his innovative teaching and community leadership at Harvard Business School (HBS). He is a senior advisor to the Bloomberg-Harvard City Leadership Initiative. Weiss is also the course head for The Entrepreneurial Manager at HBS, a course that reaches all 900+ MBA students. The Public Entrepreneurship course, which he created and teaches, is a popular and demanding course in the second-year program at Harvard Business School, for which he has written 20 HBS cases and from which he’s met hundreds of incredible students. He’s taught portions of the course to world leaders at all levels of government and in the private sector. Weiss’ research has covered the hoverboard that crossed the English Channel, the world’s first city built “from the internet up”, the testing of autonomous vehicles and the rise and fall and follow-up of dock-less bike-sharing. Mitch’s work and the Public Entrepreneurship course have been referenced in The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, Politico and other media outlets. He is the author of the forthcoming book, “We the Possibility” from Harvard Business Review Press (2020).

Before joining Harvard Business School, Weiss was one of these possibility leaders himself as Chief of Staff and partner to Boston’s Mayor Thomas Menino. He was a co-founder of New Urban Mechanics and helped make Boston’s innovation work a global model for peer-produced government and change. He also championed Boston’s innovation district as a regional platform for entrepreneurship and growth. Weiss led speechwriting for the Mayor’s Inaugural and State of the City addresses. In April 2013, he guided the Mayor’s Office response to the Marathon Bombings and played a key role in starting One Fund Boston.

Weiss is Professor of Management Practice at Harvard Business School and the Richard L. Menschel Faculty Fellow. He holds a Master in Business Administration from Harvard Business School, where he was a George Baker Scholar, and an A.B. with Honors in Economics from Harvard University.

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

Speech Topics

Possibility Leadership

Across the globe people are turning on each other out of frustration with the status quo. Mitchell Weiss offers inspiring guidance for leaders – public and private – who want to help wary communities turn toward possibility instead. Weiss articulates a vision for governments that can invent, and describes the roles that all of us – elected officials, appointed public servants, entrepreneurs, and others – would need to play.

This kind of government would have to overcome much skepticism. Many people don’t believe in government. They see with their own eyes where it is broken. They wonder, amid artificial intelligence and other new advances, if our governments have even moved on from pen and paper. They see technology companies stepping in where government used to lead. They are either unnerved by this or delighted by this, but in either case, they doubt whether government has the know-how to keep pace. Weiss shares the techniques of possibility leadership so that governments, working in concert with their publics, can in fact start new things.

Drawing from his forthcoming book, “We the Possibility,” Weiss shares captivating stories of possibility leaders from around the globe. He focusses mostly on possibility leadership inside governments, but their efforts contain lessons for leaders in institutions of all types. Large companies, long-established NGO’s … they all struggle with how to reorient often risk-averse workers and other stakeholders toward trying new approaches. Borrowing from modern startup techniques, but also harvesting the tools of government invention that go all the way back since government was invented, Weiss offers hope for generating new ideas, for experimenting, and for scaling them, even in the hardest of places.

New Urban Mechanics

Mitchell Weiss’s first tour in government came as GPS and GIS were making their way into cities, and his second go-round happened as the smartphones ushered in a transformation in city-service delivery. Now, amid the rush toward sensors and autonomy and other contemporary advances, the question is how (if) cities should absorb these technologies. Weiss offers some warnings, some hope and some answers. He believes, as his mayor did, that fundamental to leading city-change in this new era is embracing the notion that, “we are all urban mechanics” and suggests working toward these new technologies in ways that engage the public and the crowd. He draws on some of the latest government blockchain experiments, AI pilots, novel data-sharing agreements and sensor-driven community partnerships in sketching a way forward.

Selling to the World’s Largest (Toughest?) Customers

They work in the world’s largest markets, yet still, some startups shy away from them, investors steer founders clear of them and companies with relevant products and services in adjacent spaces don’t even think of them. Who are these customers … the ones that spend billions a year we don’t want to access or can’t? They’re governments, at all levels and all around the world. Somebody is selling to them, but just not you?

Mitchell Weiss identifies some of the challenges for startups and other firms selling to governments, like “They don’t trust you and they don’t trust themselves,” and shares some advice for surmounting these obstacles. He provides guidance on selecting the right government customers, understanding their buying processes, and defining the right value proposition. An executive selling “smart”, connected devices to cities once said, “Our competition is the status quo.” Weiss shares thoughts on how to get past that formidable foe.

Regulating the Future

A local official commenting on e-scooter regulation told a reporter, “Three months ago, the city thought the next big thing would be dock-less bicycles.” Indeed. In an age when regulatory uncertainty about car-sharing gave way to similar questions about bike-sharing, scooter-sharing and then delivery drones and flying taxis, it can feel impossible to keep up. How should governments regulate “new” markets and how should companies enter them? Mitchell Weiss provides a framework for experimenting with new technologies in so-called regulatory “gray zones.” And when these new technologies leverage “platform approaches” as they often do, Weiss shares tips for business and governments for architecting those platforms and for fixing them when they are broken.

Media

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Books & Research

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Recommendations

“You were fantastic – your keynote was a great mix of mission, story-telling, and takeaways which is hard to pull off…You had the highest ranking of any speaker or session in the 2 days.”

– Steve Ressler, Former President of GovLoop

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