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As the co-founder and founding editor of Fast Company, Bill Taylor has dedicated his career to showcasing companies around the world who are getting ahead by breaking the rules. The best-selling author of three books, he continues to break stories about cutting edge leaders and business practices. His most recent title, Simply Brilliant, examines how organizations in ordinary fields accomplish extraordinary things and drive meaningful transformation within their industries and customers' lives.

In 1993, Taylor and his colleague, Alan Webber, took a risk and left their editorial positions at Harvard Business Review to launch their passion project - a magazine that would spotlight how business and technology were rapidly transforming each other as well as the up-and-coming leaders and teams at the helm of change. Though it took them nearly two years to find a publisher who believed in them, Fast Company eventually gained a loyal following among entrepreneurs and executives, transcending it from a magazine to a vibrant community. Fast Company has won numerous awards, and 20 years later, is one of the few magazines still standing, having survived both the Internet Economy Crash of 2000 - 2002 and the 2008 Financial crisis.

While at Fast Company, Taylor's work allowed him to explore the front lines of innovation, as he and his team helped put organizations, business models, and leaders on the map before they were "safe" success stories. In 2010, Taylor left his operational duties at the magazine to focus on his love of business storytelling. He is a frequent blogger for , the creator of the New York Times' "Under New Management" column, and one of the few people to be named a “Champion of Workplace Learning and Performance” by the American Society of Training and Development.

Full Profile

William C. Taylor is an agenda-setting writer, speaker and entrepreneur who chronicles the best ways to compete, innovate and succeed. His new book, Simply Brilliant: How Great Organizations Do Ordinary Things in Extraordinary Ways, offers a set of messages and a collection of case studies about how to unleash breakthrough creativity and cutting-edge performance in even the most familiar, slow-to-change fields. Simply Brilliant was published on September 20, 2016 by Portfolio, the business imprint of Penguin Random House. The book offers leadership lessons from organizations that are doing exciting, compelling, truly extraordinary things, but in traditional, accessible, ordinary settings. It draws on in-depth access to retail banks, insurance companies, fast-food joints, department stores, an office-cleaning service, heartland manufacturers, industrial distributors, even a parking garage. It also draws on case studies that are not businesses per se: a nationwide campaign to end homelessness, the health-care system for Native Alaskans, a project to revitalize a major city.

Simply Brilliant is a sequel of sorts to Bill’s book, Practically Radical: Not-So-Crazy Ways to Transform Your Company, Shake Up Your Industry, and Challenge Yourself, which was published in January 2011. Bestselling author Daniel H. Pink called Practically Radical “the most powerful and instructive change manual you’ll ever read.” Anne Mulcahy, former chairman and CEO of Xerox, called it “a handbook for successful transformation and a great tutorial for implementing your change agenda.” Arianna Huffington says: “The ideas are fresh, the advice is stuff you can actually use, and the results will be tangible.”

Before Practically Radical, Bill published Mavericks at Work: Why the Most Original Minds in Business Win. “I didn’t just ‘read’ this book, I devoured it!” declared Tom Peters when Mavericks appeared. James J. Cramer, co-founder of TheStreet.com and host of CNBC’s Mad Money with Jim Cramer, had this to say: “If Mavericks at Work had come out before I started TheStreet.com, I could have saved my investors (and myself) $100 million—because I would have been able to take the lessons in the book and apply them every day to my business.” Just weeks after its release, Mavericks became a New York Times Best Seller, a Wall Street Journal Business Best Seller and a BusinessWeek Best Seller. The Economist called the book “a pivotal work in the tradition of In Search of Excellence and Good to Great.” The Economist also named Mavericks one of its “Books of the Year” for 2006, as did The Financial Times.

Bill’s three books are just the latest chapter in a career devoted to challenging conventional wisdom and showcasing the power of business at its best. As cofounder and founding editor of Fast Company, he launched a magazine that won countless awards, earned a passionate following among executives and entrepreneurs around the world—and became a legendary business success. In less than six years, an enterprise that took shape in some borrowed office space in Harvard Square sold for $340 million.

Fast Company has won just about every award there is to win in the magazine world, from “Startup of the Year” to “Magazine of the Year” to three National Magazine Awards. In recognition of Fast Company’s impact on business, Bill was named “Champion of Workplace Learning and Performance” by the American Society of Training and Development. Past winners include Jack Welch of GE and Fred Smith of FedEx. Bill has published numerous essays and CEO interviews in the Harvard Business Review, and his column, “Under New Management,” ran in the Sunday Business section of The New York Times. He now writes a popular management blog for Harvard Business Review.

A graduate of Princeton University and the MIT Sloan School of Management, he lives in Wellesley, Massachusetts, with his wife and two daughters.


Bill Taylor Speaker Videos Back to top

Bill Taylor, Leadership Keynote Speaker: Transforming Your Company and Challenging Yourself


Leadership keynote speaker, Bill Taylor reveals how to unleash long-lasting change in fast-moving times. He emphasizes that contrary to common belief, you don't have to be a start-up to be a game-changing innovator. In fact, as far back as 1994, Taylor and Fast Company were already exploring with strategists and marketing professionals ways that iconic companies could build off their legacies and adapt their business models to navigate giant shifts in technology and customer expectations.

The famed magazine co-founder cautions businesses that offering a service or product that is a "bit better" than the competition is no longer enough to maintain a competitive advantage; rather, organizations must stand for an important value or idea. "The most successful companies I've gotten to know don't just say to themselves, 'How do we outcompete our rivals?'" Taylor shares. "They say to themselves, 'How do we redefine the terms of competition in our field by embracing one-of-a-kind ideas in a world filled with me-too-copycat-thinking?'"

Bill Taylor, Leadership Keynote Speaker: Speech Excerpt


Bill Taylor, Leadership Keynote Speaker: Keynote, Powering the People



Speeches / Speaking Engagements Back to top


Bill Taylor sweeps aside the notion that game-changing breakthroughs are limited to "innovation" hubs like Silicon Valley or Austin, Texas, as he demonstrates that any organization, despite its history, field, or location, can redefine what's possible for their industry and customers. Not only does Taylor unpack the crucial questions that successful leaders and organizations ask themselves, he goes a step further, relating each prompt to your people, area, and circumstances. Whether you come from an insurance agency or an empire of parking garages , you will gain valuable insights on harnessing your team's talent, doing compelling work, and setting your company apart.

RULES FOR TRANSFORMING YOUR ORGANIZATION AND CHALLENGING YOURSELF
“THE HARD WORK OF BIG CHANGE”
In an era of hyper-competition and non-stop disruption, the most urgent work for organizations everywhere is the work of making meaningful, deep-seated change. When customers have higher expectations than ever, digital technologies and new business models create more choices than ever, and political and social trends create more turmoil than ever, then familiar strategies and established ways of working are less effective than ever. That means even the most successful companies have to rethink and reimagine every aspect of how they do business and deliver results—building on their past success, as they build out a new perspective on the future. But how do you break new ground when there is so much pressure to avoid mistakes? How do you keep people focused and confident in a world that seems so uncertain? In short, how do you unleash long-lasting, positive change in turbulent, fast-moving times?

These are the questions Bill Taylor addresses in his provocative and energizing keynote. His message is designed to help leaders from all walks of life transform their organizations, shake up their industries, and challenge themselves. He brings his message to life with colorful stories of organizations that are unleashing innovations and driving transformations in all sorts of fields—from retail to software, automobiles to financial services, hotels to hospitals. Ultimately, Bill’s message, lessons, and stories amount to a manifesto for change and a manual for achieving it—at a moment when change is the name of the game. Here are some of the themes he emphasizes:

  • In a fast-changing world, the most successful organizations embrace strategies that allow them to stand for something special and inspire others to stand with them. Competition is no longer about being the best at what lots of others already do. It’s about being the only one who does what you do. What do you promise that only you can promise? What do you deliver that no one else can deliver? In a ferociously competitive world, ordinary is not an option.
  • The more things change, the more the worries about change remain the same. That’s why the first job of leaders who are serious about making change is convincing their colleagues (and themselves) that playing it safe is the riskiest course of all. Change beings when individuals and organizations conclude that the risk of trying something new is less than the cost of clinging to the status quo. That a huge shift in mindset, but it’s the mindset that makes a difference.
  • In a world disrupted by technology, change is about recognizing the power of emotion and psychology. Success is no longer just about price, features, quality—pure economic value. It’s also about passion, emotion, identity—sharing your values. The best organizations don’t just make everything they do more efficient and reliable. They strive to become more memorable to encounter. For change agents and their organizations, it’s just as important to be kind as it is to be clever.
  • You can’t be serious about changing unless you’re also serious about failing. One big reason so many organizations are slow to change is that they are reluctant to fail. But reimagining how you do business means working with dramatically new technologies, experimenting with different business models, rethinking how you engage with customers—all of which are bound to involve setbacks and disappointments. When it comes to change, failure is an option—because if you’re not failing, you’re not really changing.

    DON’T LET WHAT YOU KNOW LIMIT WHAT YOU CAN IMAGINE
    “LEADERSHIP IN AN AGE OF DISRUPTION”
    In a world being remade before our eyes, leaders who make a difference are the ones who can reimagine what’s possible at their organization and in their field, and who can turn bold strategies into relentless execution. And they’re not just CEOs; they’re executives running business units, managers in charge of key departments, engineers or marketers running project teams, entrepreneurs building a company from scratch. Regardless of their formal role or title in the organization, high-impact leaders exude both originality and utility—provocative thinking that energizes their colleagues, a roll-up-the-sleeves approach to work and culture that shapes how everyone shares ideas and solves problems.

    Put simply, the best leaders are the most insatiable learners and the most effective communicators. In this inspiring and instructive keynote, Bill Taylor offers hands-on thinking gleaned from the most extraordinary leaders he’s studied over the last 25 years. These leaders have many different personalities and styles, they’ve built very different kinds of companies and organizations, but they’ve all wrestled with the defining questions that face leaders everywhere—questions whose answers amount to a new agenda for leadership. The challenge for leaders today is to help their organizations see things that other organizations don’t see, and do things that other organizations can’t or won’t do. Bill’s insights, stories, and takeaways prepare leaders at every level to master that challenge.

    Here are some of the questions Bill asks and answers:

  • Are you prepared to rethink the conventions of success in your field and the logic of your success as a leader? The “paradox of expertise” is one of the most dangerous occupational hazards for leaders. Often, the more closely you’ve looked at a field, the longer you’ve been working and succeeding in a field, the more difficult it can be to see new patterns, new prospects, new possibilities. Without intending it, accomplished leaders can let what they know limit what they can imagine.
  • Are you learning, as an organization and as a leader, as fast as the world is changing? That’s how you overcome the paradox of expertise. Plenty of leaders work hard to make themselves and their organizations more interesting; that’s how you stand out from the crowd. The best leaders work to keep themselves interested—interested in big ideas, interested in small innovations, interested in the enduring mission of the enterprise and all-new ways to bring that mission to life. The best leaders are the most insatiable leaders.
  • Do you know how to “talk the walk”? Leadership isn’t just about out-thinking the competition, it’s about out-executing the competition as well. That’s why the best leaders work hard to explain, in language that is unique to their field and compelling to their colleagues and customers, why what they do matters and how they expect to win. A leader’s ideas are only as powerful as the organization’s capacity to bring those ideas to life.
  • Are you as humble as you are hungry? In businesses built on new ideas, generating and evaluating ideas has to be everybody’s business. That’s why the best leaders are both ambitious for their organizations and humble about their ability to do everything that matters. Indeed, humility in the service of ambition is the most effective mindset for leaders who aspire to do big things in a world with huge unknowns. The best leaders create the conditions that allow ordinary people to make extraordinary contributions.

    SUCCEEDING IN A WORLD WHERE THE SMART TAKE FROM THE STRONG
    “NEW RULES FOR ENTREPRENEURS”
    There has never been a more exciting time to be an entrepreneur, whether it’s building a company from a blank sheet of paper, launching or investing in a franchise, or starting something new inside an established organization. In the old world of business, the strong took from the weak. If you had the deepest pockets, the biggest factories or labs, the best-known brands, you won by virtue of your power. In the new world of business, the smart take from the strong. The most successful entrepreneurs don’t try to out-compete their bigger rivals; they redefine the terms of competition by embracing one-of-a-kind ideas in a world filled with me-too thinking. Thanks to the revolutions in computing, communications, and social media, along with an explosion of new business models and new sources of financing, smaller and smaller groups of people can do bigger and bigger things.

    In this provocative and pragmatic keynote targeted to entrepreneurs, small-business leaders, and franchise owners and operators, Bill Taylor offers a set of principles and a collection of case studies drawn from some of the world’s most successful company-builders: founders of small banks, restaurants, retailers, consumer-product companies, software firms, franchises, even a parking garage. These hard-charging entrepreneurial leaders are winning big by changing the game in their fields. Bill offers a new business plan for entrepreneurial growth, and hands-on advice for turning goals into results.

    Among the themes he emphasizes:

  • Originality is the litmus test of entrepreneurial strategy. The best entrepreneurs figure out how their products and services can stand out from the crowd—even as the crowd gets bigger, better, and noisier all the time. They have a definition of success for their business that allows them to stand for something special and inspires customers to stand with them.
  • The best entrepreneurial companies work as distinctively as they compete. You can’t create something special and compelling in the marketplace unless you also create something special and compelling in the workplace. For entrepreneurial companies, “who we are” as an energetic and nimble organizations is as important as “what we sell.” They don’t just think differently from everyone else, they can care more than everyone else—about customers, about partners, about the community.
  • Small gestures can send big signals—and create huge value. One of the virtues or being small, nimble, and agile, is that it allows entrepreneurial companies to be more than just efficient or reliable. It allows them to be memorable to encounter, to create emotional and psychological relationships with their customers that separate them from bigger, more bureaucratic rivals. That’s why entrepreneurs who aspire to do big things don’t lose sight of the small things that make such a huge impression inside and outside the organization.
  • The smartest entrepreneurs get the best contributions from the most people. It may be lonely at the top, but entrepreneurship is not a game best played by loners. These days, the most powerful contributions often come from the most unexpected places—the hidden genius inside your company, the quiet genius of colleagues who are easy to overlook. That’s why real entrepreneurial geniuses don’t pretend to know everything. They understand that their job is to get the best ideas from the most people—whomever and wherever those people may be.

    HOW TO UNLEASH AND SUSTAIN FIERCE EXECUTION AND NONSTOP INNOVATION
    TALENT, CULTURE AND THE NEW WORLD OF WORK
    Business today is about distinctive competitive strategies, game-changing technologies, and creative social media and marketing. But the most successful organizations, those built on fierce executive and nonstop innovation, work as distinctively as they compete. The first question great organizations can answer is: What separates us from our rivals in the marketplace? But the next question is: What holds us together as colleagues in the workplace? In an era of brash ideas and disruptive business models, organizations that create the most extraordinary value are the ones that generate the most widely shared sense of commitment, connection, and compassion among colleagues.

    Whether you’re in a fast-moving technology field or a more traditional, slow-to-change industry, your organization can’t be exceptional in the marketplace unless it creates something exceptional in the workplace. In a keynote that is at once highly strategic and deeply human, Bill Taylor draws on his access to some of the world’s most high-performing and creative workplaces to explore how organizations can unleash and sustain a culture of fierce execution and nonstop innovation. His ideas, lessons, diagnostics, and case studies are a pragmatic guide to the new world of work and a cutting-edge agenda for recruiting, evaluating, organizing, and retaining talent.

    Among the questions he helps organizations and their leaders answer are:

  • Why should great people join your organization? The best leaders understand that the best rank-and-file performers aren’t motivated primarily by money. Great people want to work on exciting projects. Great people want to feel like impact players inside their organizations. Great people want to be surrounded with and challenged by other great people. Put simply, great people want to feel like they’re part of something greater than themselves.
  • Do you know a great person when you see one? In the most high-performing organizations, character counts for as much as credentials. In other words, at organizations that are serious about competing on talent, who you are as a person is as important as what you know at a moment in time. There’s a hard-headed business logic to this soft-hearted mindset. Companies with a distinctive set of ideas about how to create value in the marketplace need people whose values are in sync with that strategy. So the challenges becomes designing ways to figure out what makes people tick, not just how smart they are.
  • Are you great at teaching great people how your organization works and wins? Even the most highly focused specialists (programmers, designers, marketers) are at their best when they appreciate how the whole business operates and what determines whether it wins or loses in the marketplace. That’s partly a matter of sharing financial statements: Can every person learn how to think like a businessperson? But it’s mainly a matter of shared understanding: Can smart people work on making everyone else in the organization smarter about the business?
  • Does your organization work as distinctively as it competes? It’s a simple question with huge implications for productivity and performance. Leaders who are determined to elevate the people factor in business understand that the real work begins once talented people walk through the door. As you fill your organization with stars, it’s up to you to keep them aligned—to master the interaction between stars and systems that defines what it means to be a member of your organization and the sorts of promises and commitment colleagues make to one another.


  • Bill Taylor Speaker Testimonials Back to top

    “The standing room only crowd was a testament to both Bill Taylor’s content and style and the incredible interest our participants had in his material.”
    —Jewish Federations of North America

    “Bill Taylor did a fantastic job. He inspired us and made us think.”
    —Panera Bread

    “Bill Taylor knocked it out of the park! He had a great style and delivery, and the message was bang-on what we were looking for. He also did the best job I’ve ever seen of tying his message back to comments and examples from internal speakers that spoke before him. We really enjoyed having him.”
    —General Mills

    “Bill Taylor was outstanding. He was an entertaining storyteller who did a great job of connecting the dots between our business and his knowledge of client experience and innovation.”
    —Shook, Hardy and Bacon

    “Bill Taylor’s attention-getting, audience-grabbing style and message really worked with our team. He was enjoyed by the entire audience.”
    —Philips Healthcare

    “Bill Taylor’s presentation was excellent! I was sitting next to one of our senior officers who was VERY impressed with his message. I got a lot of positive feedback from the attendees on his presentation. He was a pleasure to work with.”
    —LIMRA




    * Please note that while this speaker’s specific speaking fee falls within the range posted above (for Continental U.S. based events), fees are subject to change. For current fee information or international event fees (which are generally 50-75% more than U.S based event fees), please contact us.

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    “The standing room only crowd was a testament to both Bill Taylor’s content and style and the incredible interest our participants had in his material.”
    —Jewish Federations of North America

    “Bill Taylor did a fantastic job. He inspired us and made us think.”
    —Panera Bread

    “Bill Taylor knocked it out of the park! He had a great style and delivery, and the message was bang-on what we were looking for. He also did the best job I’ve ever seen of tying his message back to comments and examples from internal speakers that spoke before him. We really enjoyed having him.”
    —General Mills

    “Bill Taylor was outstanding. He was an entertaining storyteller who did a great job of connecting the dots between our business and his knowledge of client experience and innovation.”
    —Shook, Hardy and Bacon

    “Bill Taylor’s attention-getting, audience-grabbing style and message really worked with our team. He was enjoyed by the entire audience.”
    —Philips Healthcare

    “Bill Taylor’s presentation was excellent! I was sitting next to one of our senior officers who was VERY impressed with his message. I got a lot of positive feedback from the attendees on his presentation. He was a pleasure to work with.”
    —LIMRA


    Simply Brilliant
    Cofounder of Fast Company magazine and bestselling author of Mavericks at Work and Practically Radical shows how true business innovation can spring from the unlikeliest places.

    Far away from Silicon Valley, in familiar, traditional, even unglamorous fields, ordinary people are unleashing extraordinary advances that amaze customers, energize employees, and create huge economic value. Their secret? They understand that the work of inventing the future doesn’t just belong to geeks designing mobile apps and virtual-reality headsets, or to social-media entrepreneurs hoping to launch the next Facebook. Some of today’s most compelling organizations are doing brilliant things in simple settings such as retail banks, office cleaning companies, department stores, small hospitals, and auto dealerships.

    Bill Taylor, cofounder of Fast Company and best-selling author of Practically Radical, traveled thousands of miles to visit these hotbeds of simple brilliance and unearth the principles and practices behind their success. He offers fascinating case studies and powerful lessons that you can apply to do ordinary things in extraordinary ways, regardless of your industry or profession.

    As Taylor writes: “The story of this book, its message for leaders who aim to do something important and build something great, is both simple and subversive: In a time of wrenching disruptions and exhilarating advances, of unrelenting turmoil and unlimited promise, the future is open to everybody. The thrill of breakthrough creativity and breakaway performance . . . can be summoned in all sorts of industries and all walks of life, if leaders can reimagine what’s possible in their fields.” Simply Brilliant shows you how.


    Practically Radical
    “The most powerful and instructive change manual you’ll ever read. It will persuade and inspire you to change your business, your work, and maybe your life.” —Daniel H. Pink, bestselling author of A Whole New Mind In Practically Radical, William C. Taylor, the New York Times bestselling co-author of Mavericks at Work offers a refreshing, rigorous new look at pragmatic ways to shake things up and make positive change in difficult times. Anything but your typical business book, Practically Radical is a must-own for small business owners and CEOs, for managers at all levels, and innovators and entrepreneurs of every stripe.


    Mavericks at Work
    Business as usual is a bust . . .

    In industry after industry, organizations that were once dismissed as upstarts, wildcards—mavericks—are making serious waves and growing fast. From high-profile innovators such as HBO and Google to funky sandwich shop chains, the truly imaginative and unconventional businesses are changing the way things are done—providing new approaches, strategies, and outlooks, as well as better ways to compete, lead, and succeed in the twenty-first century.

    The first book to document this change, Mavericks at Work is business “edutainment” for a smart, ambitious readership, profiling some of the most exciting—and often eccentric—CEOs in the United States, while detailing their remarkable strategies for success.

    RULES FOR TRANSFORMING YOUR ORGANIZATION AND CHALLENGING YOURSELF
    “THE HARD WORK OF BIG CHANGE”
    In an era of hyper-competition and non-stop disruption, the most urgent work for organizations everywhere is the work of making meaningful, deep-seated change. When customers have higher expectations than ever, digital technologies and new business models create more choices than ever, and political and social trends create more turmoil than ever, then familiar strategies and established ways of working are less effective than ever. That means even the most successful companies have to rethink and reimagine every aspect of how they do business and deliver results—building on their past success, as they build out a new perspective on the future. But how do you break new ground when there is so much pressure to avoid mistakes? How do you keep people focused and confident in a world that seems so uncertain? In short, how do you unleash long-lasting, positive change in turbulent, fast-moving times?

    These are the questions Bill Taylor addresses in his provocative and energizing keynote. His message is designed to help leaders from all walks of life transform their organizations, shake up their industries, and challenge themselves. He brings his message to life with colorful stories of organizations that are unleashing innovations and driving transformations in all sorts of fields—from retail to software, automobiles to financial services, hotels to hospitals. Ultimately, Bill’s message, lessons, and stories amount to a manifesto for change and a manual for achieving it—at a moment when change is the name of the game. Here are some of the themes he emphasizes:

  • In a fast-changing world, the most successful organizations embrace strategies that allow them to stand for something special and inspire others to stand with them. Competition is no longer about being the best at what lots of others already do. It’s about being the only one who does what you do. What do you promise that only you can promise? What do you deliver that no one else can deliver? In a ferociously competitive world, ordinary is not an option.
  • The more things change, the more the worries about change remain the same. That’s why the first job of leaders who are serious about making change is convincing their colleagues (and themselves) that playing it safe is the riskiest course of all. Change beings when individuals and organizations conclude that the risk of trying something new is less than the cost of clinging to the status quo. That a huge shift in mindset, but it’s the mindset that makes a difference.
  • In a world disrupted by technology, change is about recognizing the power of emotion and psychology. Success is no longer just about price, features, quality—pure economic value. It’s also about passion, emotion, identity—sharing your values. The best organizations don’t just make everything they do more efficient and reliable. They strive to become more memorable to encounter. For change agents and their organizations, it’s just as important to be kind as it is to be clever.
  • You can’t be serious about changing unless you’re also serious about failing. One big reason so many organizations are slow to change is that they are reluctant to fail. But reimagining how you do business means working with dramatically new technologies, experimenting with different business models, rethinking how you engage with customers—all of which are bound to involve setbacks and disappointments. When it comes to change, failure is an option—because if you’re not failing, you’re not really changing.

    DON’T LET WHAT YOU KNOW LIMIT WHAT YOU CAN IMAGINE
    “LEADERSHIP IN AN AGE OF DISRUPTION”
    In a world being remade before our eyes, leaders who make a difference are the ones who can reimagine what’s possible at their organization and in their field, and who can turn bold strategies into relentless execution. And they’re not just CEOs; they’re executives running business units, managers in charge of key departments, engineers or marketers running project teams, entrepreneurs building a company from scratch. Regardless of their formal role or title in the organization, high-impact leaders exude both originality and utility—provocative thinking that energizes their colleagues, a roll-up-the-sleeves approach to work and culture that shapes how everyone shares ideas and solves problems.

    Put simply, the best leaders are the most insatiable learners and the most effective communicators. In this inspiring and instructive keynote, Bill Taylor offers hands-on thinking gleaned from the most extraordinary leaders he’s studied over the last 25 years. These leaders have many different personalities and styles, they’ve built very different kinds of companies and organizations, but they’ve all wrestled with the defining questions that face leaders everywhere—questions whose answers amount to a new agenda for leadership. The challenge for leaders today is to help their organizations see things that other organizations don’t see, and do things that other organizations can’t or won’t do. Bill’s insights, stories, and takeaways prepare leaders at every level to master that challenge.

    Here are some of the questions Bill asks and answers:

  • Are you prepared to rethink the conventions of success in your field and the logic of your success as a leader? The “paradox of expertise” is one of the most dangerous occupational hazards for leaders. Often, the more closely you’ve looked at a field, the longer you’ve been working and succeeding in a field, the more difficult it can be to see new patterns, new prospects, new possibilities. Without intending it, accomplished leaders can let what they know limit what they can imagine.
  • Are you learning, as an organization and as a leader, as fast as the world is changing? That’s how you overcome the paradox of expertise. Plenty of leaders work hard to make themselves and their organizations more interesting; that’s how you stand out from the crowd. The best leaders work to keep themselves interested—interested in big ideas, interested in small innovations, interested in the enduring mission of the enterprise and all-new ways to bring that mission to life. The best leaders are the most insatiable leaders.
  • Do you know how to “talk the walk”? Leadership isn’t just about out-thinking the competition, it’s about out-executing the competition as well. That’s why the best leaders work hard to explain, in language that is unique to their field and compelling to their colleagues and customers, why what they do matters and how they expect to win. A leader’s ideas are only as powerful as the organization’s capacity to bring those ideas to life.
  • Are you as humble as you are hungry? In businesses built on new ideas, generating and evaluating ideas has to be everybody’s business. That’s why the best leaders are both ambitious for their organizations and humble about their ability to do everything that matters. Indeed, humility in the service of ambition is the most effective mindset for leaders who aspire to do big things in a world with huge unknowns. The best leaders create the conditions that allow ordinary people to make extraordinary contributions.

    SUCCEEDING IN A WORLD WHERE THE SMART TAKE FROM THE STRONG
    “NEW RULES FOR ENTREPRENEURS”
    There has never been a more exciting time to be an entrepreneur, whether it’s building a company from a blank sheet of paper, launching or investing in a franchise, or starting something new inside an established organization. In the old world of business, the strong took from the weak. If you had the deepest pockets, the biggest factories or labs, the best-known brands, you won by virtue of your power. In the new world of business, the smart take from the strong. The most successful entrepreneurs don’t try to out-compete their bigger rivals; they redefine the terms of competition by embracing one-of-a-kind ideas in a world filled with me-too thinking. Thanks to the revolutions in computing, communications, and social media, along with an explosion of new business models and new sources of financing, smaller and smaller groups of people can do bigger and bigger things.

    In this provocative and pragmatic keynote targeted to entrepreneurs, small-business leaders, and franchise owners and operators, Bill Taylor offers a set of principles and a collection of case studies drawn from some of the world’s most successful company-builders: founders of small banks, restaurants, retailers, consumer-product companies, software firms, franchises, even a parking garage. These hard-charging entrepreneurial leaders are winning big by changing the game in their fields. Bill offers a new business plan for entrepreneurial growth, and hands-on advice for turning goals into results.

    Among the themes he emphasizes:

  • Originality is the litmus test of entrepreneurial strategy. The best entrepreneurs figure out how their products and services can stand out from the crowd—even as the crowd gets bigger, better, and noisier all the time. They have a definition of success for their business that allows them to stand for something special and inspires customers to stand with them.
  • The best entrepreneurial companies work as distinctively as they compete. You can’t create something special and compelling in the marketplace unless you also create something special and compelling in the workplace. For entrepreneurial companies, “who we are” as an energetic and nimble organizations is as important as “what we sell.” They don’t just think differently from everyone else, they can care more than everyone else—about customers, about partners, about the community.
  • Small gestures can send big signals—and create huge value. One of the virtues or being small, nimble, and agile, is that it allows entrepreneurial companies to be more than just efficient or reliable. It allows them to be memorable to encounter, to create emotional and psychological relationships with their customers that separate them from bigger, more bureaucratic rivals. That’s why entrepreneurs who aspire to do big things don’t lose sight of the small things that make such a huge impression inside and outside the organization.
  • The smartest entrepreneurs get the best contributions from the most people. It may be lonely at the top, but entrepreneurship is not a game best played by loners. These days, the most powerful contributions often come from the most unexpected places—the hidden genius inside your company, the quiet genius of colleagues who are easy to overlook. That’s why real entrepreneurial geniuses don’t pretend to know everything. They understand that their job is to get the best ideas from the most people—whomever and wherever those people may be.

    HOW TO UNLEASH AND SUSTAIN FIERCE EXECUTION AND NONSTOP INNOVATION
    TALENT, CULTURE AND THE NEW WORLD OF WORK
    Business today is about distinctive competitive strategies, game-changing technologies, and creative social media and marketing. But the most successful organizations, those built on fierce executive and nonstop innovation, work as distinctively as they compete. The first question great organizations can answer is: What separates us from our rivals in the marketplace? But the next question is: What holds us together as colleagues in the workplace? In an era of brash ideas and disruptive business models, organizations that create the most extraordinary value are the ones that generate the most widely shared sense of commitment, connection, and compassion among colleagues.

    Whether you’re in a fast-moving technology field or a more traditional, slow-to-change industry, your organization can’t be exceptional in the marketplace unless it creates something exceptional in the workplace. In a keynote that is at once highly strategic and deeply human, Bill Taylor draws on his access to some of the world’s most high-performing and creative workplaces to explore how organizations can unleash and sustain a culture of fierce execution and nonstop innovation. His ideas, lessons, diagnostics, and case studies are a pragmatic guide to the new world of work and a cutting-edge agenda for recruiting, evaluating, organizing, and retaining talent.

    Among the questions he helps organizations and their leaders answer are:

  • Why should great people join your organization? The best leaders understand that the best rank-and-file performers aren’t motivated primarily by money. Great people want to work on exciting projects. Great people want to feel like impact players inside their organizations. Great people want to be surrounded with and challenged by other great people. Put simply, great people want to feel like they’re part of something greater than themselves.
  • Do you know a great person when you see one? In the most high-performing organizations, character counts for as much as credentials. In other words, at organizations that are serious about competing on talent, who you are as a person is as important as what you know at a moment in time. There’s a hard-headed business logic to this soft-hearted mindset. Companies with a distinctive set of ideas about how to create value in the marketplace need people whose values are in sync with that strategy. So the challenges becomes designing ways to figure out what makes people tick, not just how smart they are.
  • Are you great at teaching great people how your organization works and wins? Even the most highly focused specialists (programmers, designers, marketers) are at their best when they appreciate how the whole business operates and what determines whether it wins or loses in the marketplace. That’s partly a matter of sharing financial statements: Can every person learn how to think like a businessperson? But it’s mainly a matter of shared understanding: Can smart people work on making everyone else in the organization smarter about the business?
  • Does your organization work as distinctively as it competes? It’s a simple question with huge implications for productivity and performance. Leaders who are determined to elevate the people factor in business understand that the real work begins once talented people walk through the door. As you fill your organization with stars, it’s up to you to keep them aligned—to master the interaction between stars and systems that defines what it means to be a member of your organization and the sorts of promises and commitment colleagues make to one another.

  • Bill Taylor, Leadership Keynote Speaker: Transforming Your Company and Challenging Yourself


    Leadership keynote speaker, Bill Taylor reveals how to unleash long-lasting change in fast-moving times. He emphasizes that contrary to common belief, you don't have to be a start-up to be a game-changing innovator. In fact, as far back as 1994, Taylor and Fast Company were already exploring with strategists and marketing professionals ways that iconic companies could build off their legacies and adapt their business models to navigate giant shifts in technology and customer expectations.

    The famed magazine co-founder cautions businesses that offering a service or product that is a "bit better" than the competition is no longer enough to maintain a competitive advantage; rather, organizations must stand for an important value or idea. "The most successful companies I've gotten to know don't just say to themselves, 'How do we outcompete our rivals?'" Taylor shares. "They say to themselves, 'How do we redefine the terms of competition in our field by embracing one-of-a-kind ideas in a world filled with me-too-copycat-thinking?'"

    Bill Taylor, Leadership Keynote Speaker: Speech Excerpt


    Bill Taylor, Leadership Keynote Speaker: Keynote, Powering the People