John Kao – Biography

Dubbed “Mr. Creativity” by The Economist, John calls himself an innovation activist.  He is chairman of the Institute for Large Scale Innovation, whose i20 group is an association of 30 national ‘Chief Innovation Officers.’  John coined the term “large scale innovation” to refer to innovation as a societal agenda.  He has advised numerous nations and regions on innovation strategy and execution, including Finland, Singapore, the City of San Francisco, Abu Dhabi and elements of the US government as well as the European Union innovation policy team.

John is a leader in creating and delivering high end innovation leadership executive programs for both public and private sectors.  He was a member of the Harvard Business School faculty from 1982-96, where he created executive and MBA programs on innovation. He wrote 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. 

Currently John serves as director of the Bay Area Science and Innovation Consortium, founding member of Cisco System’s Innovation Commission, and chairman of the Global Advisory Council on Innovation of the World Economic Forum.  He is contributing editor to The Daily Beast’s innovation channel.  He is also a director of TwoFour54 a Mubadala company and Phylotech, a company that bridges cleantech and life sciences. 

John has long been an angel investor in emerging technology companies and a Tony-nominated producer of film (sex, lies and videotape, Mr. Baseball) and stage (Golden Child, Flower Drum Song).  He is a graduate of Yale College (philosophy), Yale Medical School (psychiatry) and Harvard Business School (management).  A jazz pianist at heart, he apprenticed to rock legend Frank Zappa in 1969.