Josh Linkner


Josh Linkner

Award-Winning Entrepreneur | Creativity Expert

Josh Linkner is on a mission to make the world more creative. Named the “Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year” and as a “President Barack Obama Champion of Change” award recipient, Linkner both inspires and entertains: in speeches and workshops alike, he provides powerful and practical techniques to jumpstart creativity, getting people thinking out of the box in business and at home.

Linkner was the founder and CEO of four successful technology companies over the past 24 years.  He was founder and former CEO of ePrize, the world’s largest interactive promotion agency that provides digital marketing services for 74 of the top 100 brands. Prior to ePrize, he was founder and CEO of three other successful technology companies. Each of his start-ups enjoyed successful exits with a combined value of over $200 million. He’s been involved in the launch and growth of over 100 businesses, raised over $150 million of venture capital, employed thousands of people, and fought through the dot-com crash, 9/11 and the 2008 financial meltdown.

Linkner is the CEO and Managing Partner of Detroit Venture Partners. Together with business partners Earvin “Magic” Johnson and NBA team owner Dan Gilbert, he is actively rebuilding urban areas through technology and entrepreneurship. He is also Adjunct Professor of Applied Creativity at the University of Michigan.

As a writer, Linkner is the author of the bestselling Disciplined Dreaming: A Proven System to Drive Breakthrough Creativity and his second book, The Road to Reinvention: How to Drive Disruption and Accelerate Transformation, was named a New York Times bestseller in its first week on store shelves and was named the 2014 Best Leadership/Management Book by 800-CEO-READ.

Linkner is a regular columnist for Forbes, The Detroit Free Press, and Inc. Magazine.  His work has been featured consistently in the media, including The Wall Street JournalHarvard Business Review, USA Today, and The New York Times.

The Gravity-Defying Leader: Innovative Approaches To Hyper-Growth Leadership

With disruptive forces assaulting business from every direction, creativity has been labeled the single-most important business attribute.  To succeed, leaders must be focused on creating a resilient culture where everyone’s engaged; a torrent of innovative ideas needs to flow from every level of the organization.  Top leaders then employ a secret weapon: a systematic approach to selecting and launching the ideas that will best drive growth and innovation.  Josh Linkner weighs in with a fresh perspective on this critical leadership challenge.  A highly successful serial entrepreneur and now a tech investor, Linkner shows leaders how to employ his simple but effective framework to ramp up the creativity and identify/launch ideas that will break through and defy gravity.

This presentation will help leaders:

  • Challenge assumptions and conventional wisdom
  • Build courage to foster responsible risk taking
  • Authentically express your own creativity and tap into the hidden creativity of your team members
  • Develop “everyday creativity” to attack business problems of all sizes
  • Deploy creativity beyond R&D to reimagine processes, drive efficiency, and improve operations
  • Uncover fresh approaches for reinvention and growth

Entrepreneurial Fire: Think And Act like a Startup (Even If You’re Not)

Entrepreneurs look at the world differently.  We celebrate them for their bold vision and courage – they drive game-changing innovation that creates enormous economic success while making a profound impact on the world.   What is it about the entrepreneurial mindset that helps these mavericks seize opportunity that others miss?   A five-time successful tech entrepreneur, Linkner shows leaders and organizations how to embrace the creativity, grit, and vision of a startup and then channel this approach to drive growth, innovation, efficiency, and customer delight.

Josh Linkner decodes the entrepreneurial DNA to help leaders of any size company in any industry or profession:

  • Understand how an entrepreneur would attack their organization with the specific goal of dislodging it
  • Reimagine their role through the lens of an entrepreneur
  • Harness the ferocity of entrepreneurial thinking
  • Embrace “startup speed” to increase velocity in your own organization
  • Learn the five best approaches used by startups to create disruption
  • Avoid the weaknesses that plague entrepreneurs by exposing the four biggest startup death traps

The Music of Business: Translating Improvisational Thinking From The Jazz Stage To The Business World

Be prepared to be amazed. Josh Linkner, a jazz guitarist since age 14, credits a musical background for giving him a different way of looking at business.  In this stunning interactive presentation, a live jazz performance by Josh and his band is woven with stimulating dialogue.  You’ll actually hear, through their music, fresh ways to unleash your organization’s creative mojo.  In jazz, 99% of the notes are improvised; created in real-time.  Yet it’s the structure of a jazz combo – not the inherent talent of individual musicians – that allows for such breathtaking creative expression.  In today’s business landscape of dizzying speed, exponential complexity, and ruthless competition, we can no longer just play the notes on the written page.

You will learn powerful lessons inspired by jazz musicians (a/k/a “real-time innovators”) to help you:

  • Develop your own ability to improvise, no matter what job title you hold
  • Establish team dynamics that foster creative thinking and risk taking
  • Uncover fresh approaches to previously unchallenged assumptions
  • Break free from traditional thinking and uncover vast new possibilities
  • Learn 5 secret techniques used by jazz musicians to foster creativity, which can easily be adapted to your own organization
  • Expand your ability to deal with ambiguity and recover from setbacks

A Streetfighter’s Guide to Reinvention – Lessons from the Front Lines of Detroit’s Rebirth

Detroit’s fight back from the brink is an inspiring tale of resilience told first-hand by Josh Linkner whose grit and passion are playing a critical role in the city’s revitalization.   Linkner is a driving force in Detroit’s comeback; among his many honors – “Detroit Executive of the Year”, the region’s “CEO of the Year” and “Michiganian of the Year.”  As the CEO of Detroit Venture Partners, he is helping the city he loves rise from the ashes and reconnect to its entrepreneurial and technological roots.   Linkner’s heartfelt talk energizes audiences with the power of possibility.  It’s also a cautionary tale of how Detroit, once a birthplace of innovation and a vibrant city, succumbed to the evil forces of protectionism, blame, and bureaucracy.

The lessons in this powerful comeback story – still in progress – help you:

  • Understand the 4 most common reasons organizations decay
  • Connect the dots between urban renewal and business reinvention, and learn how to apply the same approaches to your own organization
  • Embrace the 5 unexpected lessons of underdogs and learn to fight out of seemingly impossible situations
  • Gain inside perspective from the passionate leaders who are leading Detroit’s courageous turnaround
  • Uncover best practices from ‘streetfighter’ mentality – on scrappiness, determination, resilience and conquering adversity

Live Interactive Jazz

(This is an add-on program to any of the above topics)

Performing jazz guitar at a professional level for over 30 years, Josh often incorporates live music into his keynote presentations.  Using live jazz music as a metaphor for innovation, this interactive session is both memorable and impactful.  In addition to his own live musical performance, Josh will hire two local musicians (upright bass and drums) to accompany him.  The up-charge covers the cost of musicians, equipment, coordination, and all related details.

Picture this… the musicians will be on stage when Josh is introduced.  As he takes the stage, he grabs his guitar and jumps right into a brief, attention-getting live jazz work.  Next, Josh will ask the musicians to have a seat in the audience while he delivers a high-impact business innovation talk.  For the last 20 minutes of the time slot, Josh bring the musicians back on stage and helps the audience see their own business challenges through the lens of a jazz musician.   The session’s finale has the audience helping to compose a song in real-time.  To help perform the new composition, Josh invites three audience members to jam with the band (he supplies percussion instruments and some costume flair).  In addition to being highly entertaining, the audience gains a hands-on perspective on risk-taking, real-time innovation, collaboration, and improvisation.  The experience is rich and engaging leaving audience members a memorable framework for driving results and crafting innovative solutions to real-world problems.