Michael Gelb Profile

Leading authority on the practical application of genius thinking, Michael J Gelb is a pioneer in the fields of creative thinking, change management, accelerated learning and innovative leadership. He has been a professional speaker, seminar leader and organizational consultant for over twenty-eight years, working for blue-chip organizations including DuPont, IBM, Merck, Microsoft, Nike and YPO.

Gelb has authored a dozen books relating to the application of genius to everyday creativity and innovation. His international bestseller How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day has been translated into twenty-five different languages and featured on the bestseller lists of the Washington Post, the New York Times and

Having once performed with the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan as a professional juggler, Gelb was a pioneer in the concept of teaching juggling to assist learning and teambuilding. His book Innovate Like Edison: The Five Step System for Breakthrough Business Success (co-authored with Sarah Miller Caldicott, the great grand niece of Thomas Edison) was described by Professor Vijay Govindarajan as “a must have for anyone who wants to turn creative ideas into profitable reality.”

Michael Gelb has been honored with the Brain Trust Charity’s “Brain of the Year” award, sharing it with former US Senator John Glenn (other recipients include Professor Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates and Garry Kasparov). He has also been awarded a Batten Fellowship at the University of Virginia’s Darden Business School.

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    Michael J. Gelb is the world’s leading authority on the application of genius thinking to personal and organizational development. He is a pioneer in the fields of creative thinking, accelerated learning, and innovative leadership. Gelb leads seminars for organizations such as DuPont, Merck, Microsoft, Nike, Roche and YPO. He brings more than 35 years of experience as a professional speaker, seminar leader and organizational consultant to his diverse, international clientele.

    Michael Gelb is the author of 14 books on creativity and innovation including the international best seller How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day. (1998) How to Think Like Leonardo has been translated into 25 languages and has appeared on the Washington Post, Amazon, and the New York Times best seller lists.

    In 2007 Gelb released Innovate Like Edison: The Five Step System for Breakthrough Business Success, co-authored with Sarah Miller Caldicott, the great grand niece of Thomas Edison. As Professor Vijay Govindarajan, author of Ten Rules for Strategic Innovators noted, “This book is a must have for anyone who wants to turn creative ideas into profitable reality.”

    In 1999, Michael Gelb won the Brain Trust Charity’s “Brain of the Year” award; other honorees include Prof. Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates, Garry Kasparov and Gene Rodenberry. In 2003, Michael was awarded a Batten Fellowship by the University of Virginia’s Darden Graduate School of Business. Michael co-directs the acclaimed Leading Innovation Seminar at Darden with Professor James Clawson. From 2008 to 2012, Michael Gelb also served as the Director of Creativity and Innovation Leadership for the Conscious Capitalism Institute.

    A former professional juggler who once performed with the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan, Gelb introduced the idea of teaching juggling as a means to promote accelerated learning and team-building. He is the author of The 5 Keys to High Performance: Juggling Your Way to Success. A fifth degree black belt in the Japanese martial art of Aikido, Gelb is co-author with International Grandmaster Raymond Keene, of Samurai Chess: Mastering Strategic Thinking Through the Martial Art of the Mind. Michael Gelb is also a certified teacher of the Alexander Technique, (the method taught at The Juilliard School for cultivating commanding stage presence), and the author of the classic work: Body Learning: An Introduction to the Alexander Technique. Michael’s 1988 release Present Yourself! Captivate Your Audience with Great Presentation Skills guides readers to develop the communication strategies they need to generate support for their innovative ideas.

    Michael has also created many best selling audio programs, including: Mind Mapping: How to Liberate Your Natural Genius, Work Like Da Vinci: Gaining the Creative Advantage in Your Business and Career and The Spirit of Leonardo.

    Michael’s passion for applying genius thinking to personal and organizational development is also expressed in his Harper Collins release (2002) Discover Your Genius: How To Think Like History’s Ten Most Revolutionary Minds.

    Published in 2010, Wine Drinking For Inspired Thinking: Uncork Your Creative Juices, offers a unique, original and very enjoyable approach to team building.

    In January 2012 Michael released Brain Power: Improve Your Mind As You Age, (New World Library).

    His new book Creativity On Demand: Ignite and Sustain the Fire of Genius is published by Sounds True.

Michael Gelb Speaking Videos

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Michael Gelb's Speech Descriptions

Whether in a keynote speech or workshops running from half a day to two days, Michael Gelb provides a dynamic and highly interactive approach to creativity, accelerated learning and leadership. He draws on the insights of geniuses from history, particularly Leonardo da Vinci and Thomas Edison, to demonstrate how you can develop new ways of thinking which will enable you to create and innovate.

Gelb also runs programs that present ways for increasing and optimizing mental powers. Using a series of supremely practical suggestions he explains how diet and exercise can stave off the effects of ageing on the brain. In another very popular program he applies his experience of juggling to the corporate world, so that his audience comes out not only with new approaches to managing complexity and creating cooperative learning environments but also knowing how to juggle!

How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci
Audience: Leaders, managers, professionals, people working in teams (special adaptations for trainers, engineers, financial services, marketers and salespeople)
Competencies: Creativity, accelerated-learning, leadership
Program formats: Keynote speech, half-day to two-day workshop

Based on the book How to Think Like Leonard da VinciThinking creatively, learning faster and leading change, these abilities are at a premium in a highly competitive global business environment. What if you could call on history’s greatest genius, Leonardo da Vinci, to be your personal mentor in cultivating these highly prized elements of human capital? Anatomist, architect, botanist, city planner, chef, humorist, engineer, equestrian, inventor, geographer, geologist, military scientist, musician, painter, philosopher and raconteur, Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519) helped bring the Western world out of the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance. Now, as we move from the Bureaucratic/Industrial Age into the Information/Imagination Age, his approach to optimizing human potential is more relevant than ever.

This dynamic, highly-interactive program brings da Vinci’s genius to life through fascinating biographical and historical information, setting the stage for an introduction to seven principles for thinking “a la Leonardo.”

Participants are then guided to apply the principles, through a proven series of practical exercises, to your organization’s greatest challenges. Participants will learn how to:

  • Think creatively.
  • Cultivate independent thinking.
  • Improve learning ability with age.
  • Find opportunity in uncertainty.
  • Improve memory and problem solving.
  • Balance mind and body to reduce stress.
  • Nurture creativity and innovation in the workplace.

Leonardo invented the parachute before anyone could fly! Imagine what your organization could accomplish with that kind of innovative thinking.

Innovate Like Edison
The 5-Step System for Breakthrough Business Success

Audience: Leaders, managers, professionals, people working on innovation teams
Competencies: Individual innovation literacy, cultivating an organizational culture that supports innovation
Program formats: keynote to three-day workshop

Leonardo was probably the most creative person who ever lived but Thomas Edison is history’s greatest practical innovator. Beyond his invention of the phonograph, motion pictures and a system to light the world, Thomas Edison invented the rigorous, disciplined process of innovation.

In addition to creating the world’s first Industrial Research and Development laboratory, Edison was also a master at promoting a culture of innovation. Moreover, he understood that the principles of personal success and organizational innovation go hand-in-hand. Personal success and fulfillment requires you to learn how to think like an innovator; and, for your organization to be successful, innovation is now more important than ever.

This program introduces Edison’s Five Competencies of Innovation™. They are:

  • Solution-Centered Mindset
  • Kaleidoscopic Thinking
  • Full-Spectrum Engagement
  • Master Mind Collaboration
  • Super-Value Creation

Each competency will be brought to life with specific, practical “take-home” applications. This program is readily adaptable to specific organizational challenges. It can also be combined with “How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci” to focus on optimizing creativity AND innovation.

BRAIN POWER: Improve Your Mind as You Age
Audience: Anyone with a brain who is aging
Competencies: Creative longevity, memory improvement, wellness
Program formats: Keynote speech, half-day to three-day workshop

In the last 30 years the scientific evidence supporting the notion that your mind can improve through the years has become overwhelming. Clearly, the question is no longer whether your mind can improve with age, but rather how you can optimize your mental powers as you get older.

This program presents practical, evidence-based information on improving your mind throughout life. Most of us were raised with faulty ideas about our mental capacity – such as the notion that IQ is fixed at age 5, that brain cells degrade yearly after age 30, and that memory and learning ability inevitably decline with age.

These notions, based on the scientific understanding that was prevalent in the 1950s, are myths – dangerous myths that can stifle our ability to flourish in the second half of life.

Just as Copernicus overturned the myth that the earth was at the center of the universe, so contemporary neuroscience has revolutionized our understanding of the potential to improve mental functioning as we age.

In this compelling, inspirational and supremely practical program you’ll be presented with the evidence for this new paradigm and, most importantly, you will learn to incorporate this new way of understanding aging so you can improve your mind every year of your life.

Topics include:

  • The New Paradigm: A Whole New Brain
  • Think Counterclockwise: Adopting the Most Adaptive Attitudes
  • Be a Life-Long Learner: How to Improve Your Memory and Learning Ability
  • Exercise for More Brain Power: The Most Beneficial Activities
  • Mind Your Diet to Nourish Your Mind: 7 Simple Elements of a Brain-Friendly Diet
  • How to Create a Brain-Enhancing Environment
  • Investing in Your Social Wealth: Cultivate Healthy Relationships (and Stay Sexy!)
  • Sleep, Naps and Meditation: Rest Peacefully to Delay Resting in Peace
  • Applied Neuroplasticity: The Brain That Changes Itself

Conscious Capitalism: The 8 Characteristics of Transformational Leaders
Audience: Leaders interested in Conscious Capitalism
Competencies: Transformational leadership
Program formats: Keynote speech, half-day to two-day workshop

The 8 Characteristics of Transformational Leaders are:

  • Authenticity
  • Passion
  • Creativity
  • Self Knowledge/Awareness
  • Interpersonal Intelligence/Sensitivity
  • Integrity
  • Clarity of Purpose
  • Global Awareness

Michael J. Gelb provides inspiring examples and practical guidance on how to cultivate these traits individually and organizationally.

Juggling in Business and Life: Five Keys to High Performance
Audience: Managers, professionals, people working in teams
Competencies: Accelerated learning, teamwork
Program formats: Keynote speech or half-day workshop

This program creates a fun, cooperative learning environment. Participants coach one another in the art of juggling, and pick up the balls for each other as they drop! In the process, everyone learns the core principles of accelerated learning and organizational high performance.

The ability to learn is life’s most important skill. This delightful program uses juggling as a metaphor for learning how to learn.

Participants will learn how to:

  • Manage complexity and thrive on chaos by gracefully keeping a number of things “up in the air” at the same time.
  • Approach mistakes creatively as you learn to “let the balls drop.”
  • Use teamwork to create a cooperative learning environment.
  • Learn anything you want to as well and as fast as you can.
  • Apply the principles of accelerated learning to become a more effective coach for your colleagues, subordinates, family, and friends.
  • Juggle!

Discover Your Genius
How to Think Like History’s Ten Most Revolutionary Minds

Audience: Leaders, managers, professionals, and employees working in teams
Competencies: Manage change, develop creative thinking skills, cultivate emotional intelligence, promote “learning organization”
Program formats: Keynote speech, half-day to two-day workshop

In this compelling, multi-media presentation you will have the opportunity to get to know ten of the most amazing people who have ever lived. Each of these extraordinary individuals embodies a special “Genius” characteristic that you will be invited to integrate into your daily life and apply to your most important organizational challenges. Each genius will be introduced through specially commissioned original watercolor portraits and a brief biography illustrating the role of the key principle in his or her life and work. You will then explore how that principle can and does relate to you and your organization.

The full Genius “Dream Team” includes:

  • Plato (circa 428 – 348 BC): “Deepening your love of wisdom”
  • Filippo Brunelleschi (1377 – 1446): “Expanding your perspective”
  • Christopher Columbus (1451 – 1506): “Going perpendicular: Strengthening your optimism, vision and courage”
  • Nicholas Copernicus (1473 – 1543): “Re-organizing your vision of the world”
  • Queen Elizabeth I (1533 – 1603): “Wielding your power with balance and effectiveness”
  • William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616): “Cultivating your emotional intelligence
  • Thomas Jefferson (1743 – 1826): “Celebrating your freedom in the pursuit of happiness”
  • Charles Darwin (1809 – 1882): “Developing your power of observation and cultivating an open mind”
  • Mahatma Gandhi (1869 – 1948): “Applying the principles of spiritual genius to harmonize spirit, mind and body”
  • Albert Einstein (1875 – 1955): “Unleashing your imagination and ‘combinatory play”

The “Genius Modules” are easily customized to focus on your most important concerns. A recent program for a global construction management group, for example, emphasized the life of Filippo Brunelleschi, the world’s first design-builder; while a program for a computer sales force emphasized Columbus’ optimism and Shakespeare’s “Emotional Intelligence.”

Michael Gelb on Speaking

I want [my audiences] to understand that they are more creative than they may have previously imagined.

SPEAKING.COM: What do you want people to learn / take away from your presentations?

GELB: I want them to understand that they are more creative than they may have previously imagined. I want to see them smile and have a light go “ON” in their eyes. And I want them to take away practical skills that will help solve their most important business problems.

SPEAKING.COM: How do you prepare for your speaking engagements?

GELB: My life is preparation. My speaking is a reflection of who I am. And I prepare for each engagement by tuning in to the client and focusing on achieving the results that are most important for them.

SPEAKING.COM: Have you had any particularly memorable speaking engagements?

GELB: Yes. Many! Among the most memorable:

• I spoke to a group of 1000 in Ankara for Turkish Innovation Week. The sponsors handed out my Edison book in Turkish as a gift. They invited high school and college students to attend and the enthusiasm of these young people is something I will always remember.

• I followed His Holiness The Dalai Lama as a keynoter in Australia for an audience of 3,000. People asked if it was hard to follow such a powerful presence but actually it was one of my easiest engagements as the audience was already in Bliss when I began to speak.

• I had the privilege of speaking to a group of company presidents at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence (They arranged for exclusive access). I spoke about How to Think Like Leonardo while standing in front of the Maestro’s paintings!

SPEAKING.COM: What types of audiences would most benefit from your message?

GELB: Over the years I’ve spoken to people from all walks of life and many different professions. And, my keynotes are especially popular with groups that are predominantly analytical: PhDs, engineers, financial analysts, MBAs. My presentations open their minds to the more imaginative and intuitive aspects of intelligence.

SPEAKING.COM: Why would you recommend that clients use you as a speaker for their next event?

GELB: Here are 10 reasons:

Energy: Clients describe my energy as “scintillating,” “inspiring,” “electric,” “charismatic,” and “enlivening.”

Experience: With more than 35 years experience, I will deliver an excellent program under all conditions.

Reliability: In 35 years I have appeared at every scheduled engagement on-time.

Originality: Learn from an original thinker and creator.

Authenticity: All keynotes are an expression of my lifetime interests.

Passion: My passion for inspiring your group will lead to a presentation that exceeds your expectations.

Global: I have spoken in more than 25 countries and have extensive experience working with multi-national and multi-cultural groups.

Relevance: After careful consultation I will focus my message on your most important organizational issues.

Humor: People learn better when they laugh and I inspire laughter in the most serious groups.

Results: I focus on achieving the results that are most important to you. I’m frequently invited to keynote the same conference in multiple years because people get real benefit from my presentations.

SPEAKING.COM: Which of your keynote topics are the most popular?

GELB: How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci is my most popular program. It’s an expression of my unique study of Leonardo’s advice to his students and how that advice is relevant in our world. Innovate Like Edison is also very popular. Edison is the supreme role model for anyone who wants to profit from innovation.

SPEAKING.COM: How much do case studies, personal stories and humor factor into your keynote speech content?

GELB: Examples, stories and humor make a presentation engaging so I use them liberally.

If you want to innovate you need to have a critical mass of people who know how to think like innovators.

SPEAKING.COM: How can people nurture independent thinking, creativity and innovation in the workplace?

GELB: First, they need to learn the skills for thinking creatively. Then they must understand how to facilitate a culture of innovation. I call this: Innovation Literacy. If you want to innovate you need to have a critical mass of people who know how to think like innovators. It helps to have positive role models, so I use Leonardo da Vinci and Thomas Edison, among others. Exclusive Interview with Michael Gelb
Thinking Like Leonardo da Vinci and Thomas Edison with Michael Gelb
Michael Gelb discusses:

  • Thomas Edison's Five Competencies of Innovation.
  • Tips for balancing mind and body to reduce stress.
  • How people can improve their mind as they age.
  • Elements of a great presentation. Read the Full Interview
  • "The ability to adapt and learn has become the most important sustainable competitive advantage."
    - Michael Gelb

    What People are Saying about Seeing Michael Speak

    Rating Entries

    What Clients Say About Michael…

    “We use Michael Gelb′s mind mapping for all our strategic planning… it works!”
    Mary Damsma, Director Pension Fund Administration, Amoco Corporation

    “For me personally, Michael Gelb′s approach to mind mapping is more powerful than the computer. It gives me a way to intermix creativity, logic and planning to make better use of what the computer can do.”
    Linda Schultz, Precess Re Engineering Expert, Hercules Corporation

    “Inspiring and educational… Michael Gelb brings out the best in people. I recommend his program wholeheartedly.”
    Delano E. Lewis, President of National Public Radio

    “It′s never been so easy for me to come up with incredible solutions and ideas. My entire family including my children now use Michael′s techniques.”
    Anne Callahan, Senior Product Manager, Nightngale-Conant-Corporation

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    Books by Michael Gelb:

    How to Think like Leonardo Da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day

    Michael Gelb′s How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci is an inspiring and inventive guide that teaches readers how to develop their full potential, using the principles of Da Vincian thought identified by the author.

    Beginning with a brief historical biography of Da Vinci and an overview of the astounding advances made in the arts and sciences during the Renaissance, Gelb illustrates the seven fundamental elements of Da Vinci′s thought process:

    • Questionare: A questing, insatiably curious approach to life
    • Dimostrazione: A commitment to test knowledge through experience
    • Sensazione: The continual refinement of the senses, especially sight, as the means to clarify experience
    • Sfumato: A willingness to embrace ambiguity, paradox and uncertainty
    • Arte/Scienza: The development of the balance between science and art, logic and imagination. “Whole-brain” thinking
    • Corporalita: The cultivation of ambidexterity, fitness and poise
    • Connessione: A recognition and appreciation for the interconnectedness of all things and phenomena. “Systems” thinking.

    Loaded with practical exercises, quotes, sidebars, illustrations and material drawn directly from Da Vinci′s personal notebooks, How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci is both a tribute to his great achievements and a call to carry on his legacy in our everyday lives by utilizing our potential to the best of our ability.

    Order Here

    Brain Power: Improve Your Mind as You Age

    Brain Power presents practical, evidence-based information on improving your mind throughout life. Michael J. Gelb and Kelly Howell present an accessible and fun-to-read survey of the leading experts in the field of healthy aging, including physicians, gerontologists and neuroscientists. They′ve also studied the habits and practices of men and women who are paragons of healthy aging. Their approach isn’t just based on scientific theory and academic research. They actually apply everything they recommend in these pages and will guide you to apply these methods so that you will improve your mind every year of your life.

    Order Here

    Innovate Like Edison
    Innovate Like Edison presents Edison′s world-changing innovation methods as a cohesive, practical, and immediately applicable system. Based on three years of research, Innovate Like Edison offers readers an in-depth view of Edison′s comprehensive innovation approach – an analysis which has never previously been documented. Readers will learn to apply Edison′s Five Competencies of Innovation™ either to their work lives or their personal lives, following the timeless principles Edison used to generate his record-breaking 1,093 U.S. patents.

    Order Here

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