Polly LaBarre Profile

  • Authority on Leading Organizational Change

  • Co-founder, Management Lab

  • Founding Team, Fast Company; and Co-author, Mavericks at Work
  • For almost two decades, Polly LaBarre has worked to help leaders make their organizations more resilient, innovative, inspiring and accountable. Her speeches inspire through their use of brilliant storytelling and provocative ideas.

    Polly is co-founder of MIX (Management Innovation eXchange), a pioneering initiative that gathers together the best business minds from across the world to share their ideas and methodologies. Partnered by the Harvard Business Review and Fortune, MIX runs the world’s leading management ideas contest (the Harvard Business Review/McKinsey M-Prize for Innovation) as well as the MIX Mashup, a yearly symposium for the world’s best management innovators, which Polly designs and hosts.

    Polly is co-author of Economist Book of the Year Mavericks at Work: Why the Most Original Minds in Business Win, which has been published in sixteen countries. She appears as a business and innovation correspondent on CNN, regularly introducing features on big ideas and best practices from around the world.

    Much in demand for her speaking, interviewing and moderating skills, Polly has appeared before hundreds of thousands of people around the world. Her written work has been featured in Fast Company, The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review online,, the McKinsey Quarterly, and The Huffington Post, among many others. Her popular blog, The Fresh MIX, his widely syndicated and she appears regularly on PBS, CNBC and ABC World News This Morning and Good Morning America.

    • View Extended/Alternate Bio

      In a world awash in profound change and at a time when everything is on the table, Polly LaBarre helps leaders make sense of and creatively respond to the forces buffeting their organizations.  A bestselling author, speaker, and thinker who’s advised top global organizations, Polly’s mission for the past 20 years has been to make every kind of organization fundamentally more resilient, innovative and inspiring. Her insights embolden and equip leaders at every level to make a meaningful impact. Polly is an inspiring and provocative voice on the big ideas and important questions that will shape the future of organizations, work, and collective progress.

      Polly’s work is driven by three core questions: 1) How do we support human flourishing? 2) How do we cultivate the audacity of imagination required to tackle our most intractable problems? 3) And, how do organizations and individuals change how they change to become endlessly resilient?

      To make genuine progress on those questions, Polly studies and works with progressive organizations, creates curriculum, and runs experiments for unleashing creativity, expanding collaboration, and accelerating change.

      As cofounder of the Management Lab (with Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini), Polly spent the last decade working to develop a methodology, platform and practical tools for building organizational capability and accelerating change. Polly and her colleagues deployed that pioneering approach to collaborative innovation in a range of large-scale experiments in “hacking management” inside leading companies and across a global community of some 35,000 management innovators.

      Polly is the coauthor of the bestselling book Mavericks at Work: Why the Most Original Minds in Business Win (which The Economist named a “Book of the Year” and called “a pivotal work in the tradition of In Search of Excellence and Good to Great”). She was a member of the original team of Fast Company magazine, where she played a central role in the remarkable success of a magazine that recast the conventional wisdom on working, leading, and winning.

      A sought-after speaker, moderator, and interviewer, Polly has delivered hundreds of keynote addresses around the world and developed and hosted numerous events. Her writing has appeared in a variety of publications, including Fast Company, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review,, the McKinsey Quarterly, and The Huffington Post. In addition to frequent television appearances on CNBC, PBS’s Nightly Business Report, Good Morning America, and the Today Show, Polly has also been a business and innovation correspondent for CNN where she produced regular segments on big ideas and best practices from the world of business and beyond.

      Polly is a passionate (and experimental) gardener, an ardent cook, and a devoted yogi. She serves on the board of CitySeed, a nonprofit working to build a just and healthy food system and economic opportunity in New Haven, CT. A graduate of Yale University, Polly lives with her family in New Haven.

    Polly LaBarre Speaking Videos

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    Polly LaBarre's Speech Descriptions

    Polly uses her storytelling ability and expert knowledge of innovation and entrepreneurship to present a series of gripping and life-changing keynote speeches. Her subjects include innovation, making organizations human, building a social organization and the end of leadership. To all these subjects she brings her characteristic, high-energy delivery, entertaining style and profound insight.

    Polly also has a wealth of experience as a moderator, interviewer and MC. She has designed and hosted many events, panels and interviews both on stage and television and is renowned for her ability to get the best out of those on stage with her and to interpret clearly for audiences when necessary.


    A monster wave of change has set off a vast reckoning with our taken-for-granted beliefs about every aspect of how and where work gets done. Every leader today must grapple with the inescapable imperative to create and embrace a comprehensive agenda for meaningful change on the design of work and the interconnected urgent challenges of our time—deep inequities, structural dehumanization, environmental calamity. Polly LaBarre takes leaders on a journey across this new landscape—inspiring them with fresh thinking on the work of leadership and equipping them with powerful new approaches for this new work order, including:

    • How to transcend the seemingly intractable tradeoffs between performance imperatives and responsibility for people and planet
    • How to cultivate an “audacity of imagination” and galvanize people around a shared sense of purpose
    • How to “leader-proof” your organization
    • How to design platforms for involving, equipping, and connecting people
    • How to build organizational respond-ability by enlarging individual responsibility
    • How to grow your own resilience in the face of daunting uncertainty


    Who hasn’t been rocked by change in the last few years? While we’ve all been forced to rethink, adjust, and adjust again, the gravitational pull of the status quo remains a stealthy enemy of innovation. What does it take to wake up an organization’s inner insurgent to change ahead of change? These times demand every organization dramatically amp up its agility, inventiveness, and adaptability. Drawing on her research and work inside some of the world’s most innovative and progressive organizations, Polly LaBarre lays out actionable strategies for building a perpetual innovation engine:

    • What mindsets, practices and behaviors allow you to see the world differently and subvert the status quo
    • Where to look for the future—and how to generate a whole new map of possibility
    • How to embed innovation as a social process
    • What it takes to create a robust architecture of collaboration for a distributed, ever-evolving cohort of innovation peers and partners
    • How to build a resilient organizational microbiome by embedding the mindset and methods of experimentation into everything you do


    Today’s whirlwind of challenges—pandemic, social turbulence, economic uncertainty, looming climate catastrophe—has revealed just how inhospitable our organizations are to the human beings who work inside them. It’s not enough to ask which is the right hybrid work policy. It’s past time to ask: what kinds of organizations would we design if we genuinely believed in the inherent value, fundamental goodness, and unlimited potential of every person? Short answer: they’d be very different. In this talk, Polly LaBarre unpacks design rules for unleashing your organization’s full human and creative capacity and lays out a path for humanizing work, including:

    • How to unleash, mobilize and amplify the often unruly, but essential human qualities—imagination, energy, resourcefulness, curiosity, intuition, empathy, artistry, eccentricity, passion, and more—without losing control
    • How to cultivate a culture of agency, activism, and ownership where every person makes it their job to change things for the better
    • How to equip and involve every person in the organization as a creator, strategist, and entrepreneur
    • How to build a community of peers that amplifies belonging, contribution, and voice
    • How to maximize engagement by investing in wellbeing and widening the circle of care


    Change is an inside-out job. It’s not about reacting to external events or chasing trends, so much as it’s about developing your respond-ability—your elasticity, maturity, plasticity, openness, emotional dexterity, regulatory power, and more. Organizations that deliberately develop that capacity in every individual shore up their own resilience. In other words, “adult development” doesn’t just promote individual growth, it’s a cornerstone of organizational flourishing. Polly LaBarre takes the audience on a quick tour of the organizations and leaders investing in human flourishing in powerful new ways—and offers up a short course in “adult development,” including:

    • How to begin, again (and again)
    • How to change your mind—cultivating consciousness, mediating mindsets, biases, blinders
    • How to develop intuition—learning to tune into your inner knowing
    • How to train like an artist, a monk, and an athlete
    • How to design and run self-experiments to accelerate your growth loops
    • Principles for adult capacity building

    What People are Saying about Seeing Polly Speak

    Rating Entries

    “The feedback on the conference has been unbelievable! We can’t thank you enough. Your message that today’s leaders can come from all directions and different roles and that power is a product of contribution, not position, resonated deeply with our clients. We will follow up with a formal thank you with great stats and feedback from the conference, but we wanted to send you this note ahead of time because we can’t express our gratitude enough for being the keynote speaker at our conference.”
    – Bank of America

    “Man, you knocked it out of the park this morning! The room was full, attendees were snapping pictures of your slides – clearly you hit a sweet spot. Thank you so much for being here and inspiring our partners to innovate.”
    – Content Manager, Microsoft Inspire

    “…after your session other speakers were referring back to your speech, the result being that the content felt connected with the various presentations referencing common key points and take-a-ways. Your session also received great feedback in our conference survey. 98% of the audience rated your session as a 4 or greater out of 5, and 75% gave it a prefect 5 out of 5! An excellent rating.”
    – Prophix Software

    “She was spot on. Did exactly what we needed. I love that woman!”
    – Ontario Municipal Employee Retirement System (OMERS)

    “Her keynote was exceptional. Powerful messages, spot on delivery – great way to end this conference experience on a high note.”
    – Experient

    “Polly hit it out of the park. She was warm and well received. Attendees loved how she kept the concepts simple and digestible. We loved having her.”
    – Senior Director, HireVue

    “She is truly gifted in making connections and keeping all engaged.”
    – Business Specialist, Baldrige Performance Excellence Program

    “We could not have had a better presentation to close out our Wednesday session. Your insight on innovation in the workplace as well as how we can better incorporate innovation into our core company DNA was a hit!”
    – President and Chief Executive Officer, Aerospace Industries Association

    “I had high expectations, but you completely exceeded them! You were absolutely brilliant on all fronts: content, delivery, timing, storytelling, and more. Everyone I talked to cited your talk as the highlight of our conference.”
    – CEO, Perkins+Will

    “Polly was FABULOUS!!! Articulate, provoking, exciting, strategic, practical, humble…a good representation for women!!! Everything I was hoping for. I would recommend her!”
    – Vice President, Farm Credit Services of America

    “I would like to tell you that the Planetree audience loved your presentation! Great job! I heard comments that you were the best keynote we have ever had by far! Thank you again for the presentation and also meeting with our staff afterwards. It was sensational!”
    – Chief Creative Officer, Planetree

    “Thanks so much, Polly was a HUGE hit. We couldn’t have asked for a better suited speaker. So much so that a lot of our attendees are asking for the video footage of the day so they can re-watch it.”
    – Director of Marketing, Vision Critical

    “Thanks so much for coming to Santa Barbara for our NBC retreat. You were both energetic and inspiring – and, trust me, I would have been thrilled to have one or the other! You gave us a lot to think about and you set the perfect tone for a lot of the issues that are facing us right at this moment.”
    – Chairman, NBC Entertainment

    “Thanks again for speaking at our Women’s Leadership Forum. Your remarks made quite an impact with our younger leaders, in particular. I spoke with several of them later and they were so energized by your talk, they are off implementing change!”
    – Vice President, Narrowband Communications and Program Manager, Lockheed Martin

    “Polly was the perfect addition to our conference. Her keynote was the ideal complement to those that both preceded and followed her. She was very approachable, engaging and a true pleasure to work with – both for the accompanying speakers and the technical and production teams. The rave reviews continue to roll in.”
    – Regional Vice President Marketing, INFOR

    “Many thanks for the session you ran for us on Friday. As you could tell – it was energizing and fun and I really think it helped to move the ball forward for us. Not only did it surface some great ideas we can adopt immediately but we learned how to hack problems and opportunities which I hope will become part of our DNA!”
    – Sarah Dunn, Global Human Resource Officer, COACH

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    Books by Polly LaBarre:

    Mavericks at work-Polly LaBarre

    Mavericks at Work: Why the Most Original Minds in Business Win –

    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

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