Bill Taylor

Speaker


Bill Taylor

Entrepreneur | Co-Founder, Fast Company | Bestselling Author

Bill Taylor has encouraged a generation of executives and company-builders to think differently about change, leadership, and the new world of work. A spirited and hard-charging entrepreneur, Bill co-founded Fast Company, easily the most influential voice on business and innovation in the last two decades. Fast Company chronicles the revolution in management and competition driven by technology, and profiles the mavericks and rule breakers who achieve outsize success by taking a different path. In less than six years, a magazine that took shape in borrowed office space in Harvard Square sold for $340 million.

In addition to writing, Bill’s passion has always been speaking – bringing audiences groundbreaking new ideas and techniques to compete, innovate, and succeed. He’s also authored three bestselling books on leadership, culture, and change. His latest, Simply Brilliant: How Great Organizations Do Ordinary Things in Extraordinary Ways, was named “Best Strategy & Leadership Book of 2016” by 800CEORead. His previous books include Practically Radical and Mavericks at Work. Bill created the “Under New Management” column for The New York Times and has published numerous essays and CEO interviews in the Harvard Business Review, where he now blogs regularly.

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. At 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.

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.

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


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.

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.

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.