Geoff Colvin

He did a great job. He was dead on. Said what we needed to hear. A total HIT.

– Vanguard Health Systems

About

Geoff Colvin’s regular column in Fortune magazine, his frequent cover stories for the magazine, and his broadcasts on the CBS Radio Network, have garnered him millions of eyes and ears who count on and respect his insights on the issues driving change in business and the economy. One of the most respected voices in business journalism, Colvin helps business look ahead at the key issues impacting business today: the global economy; government regulation; the impact of Washington politics/policy on the business environment and the economy; health care; leadership and management; global competitiveness and more.

Speech Topics

LEADING AHEAD OF WHAT'S NEXT - THE NEW RULES OF BUSINESS

NAVIGATING DISRUPTION, UNCERTAINTY: MANAGING, LEADING AND COMPETING

The whole world of business is changing in historic and profound ways – technological disruption, government’s role, and the balance of global economic power are shifting massively  and it’s happening fast! Successfully navigating the tumult is every leader’s great challenge today and Geoff Colvin helps them meet it. Colvin has a unique perspective rooted in long-standing relationships with the world’s top leaders in business and government. He knows what they’re seeing, thinking, and planning and reveals how they’re leading, making choices, and responding to today’s challenges in ways that others can learn from.

Some of what Colvin sees the best performers doing now:

-They’re creating new business models, often light on traditional capital and heavy on innovative ideas. Today’s winning new models take advantage of a friction-free economy in which labor, information, and money move easily, cheaply, and almost instantly.

-They’re integrating all the parts of the business to create great total customer experiences. That’s what every company wants to do, of course, but most fall short. They rarely (or never) bring together the people who actually create the elements of the customer experience, instead holding high-level meetings of cost and revenue managers who oversee the creators. The result is always frustratingly sub-optimal. By contrast, top performers are devising new management models to bring out the best that’s inside every company.

-They’re building human capital, which has become the most valuable asset in every kind of business. That means developing employees, especially future leaders, confident that the investment will pay off not just in better performance but also in attracting and keeping higher-caliber employees – a virtuous circle. It also means embracing the extraordinary power of culture, shaping it deliberately and carefully.

-They’re developing the new high-value skills of deep personal interaction. As technology advances and takes over more of the work previously done by people, the way that humans add value is changing like never before. The traditionally important linear, logical, left-brain skills remain important, but they’re the skills that machines do better every day. Top companies in every industry are focusing instead on right-brain skills of human relationships – empathy, creative collaboration, storytelling – as the new keys to creating high value.

Competing and winning in business today requires extraordinary leadership at every level of the organization. In a presentation that’s as relevant as the day’s headlines, Colvin explains what’s important, what isn’t, and what’s next – offering audiences specific strategies they can put to work right now to navigate the future.

TALENT IS OVERRATED - UNEXPECTED TRUTHS OF GREAT PERFORMANCE

ARE TOP PERFORMERS JUST NATURALLY TALENTED…HARD WORKERS…OR IS IT SOMETHING ELSE?

What if everything you know about raw talent, hard work, and great performance is wrong? Scientific research on great performance shows that what most of us believe is off-base – which means we’ll never perform as well as we could. Geoff Colvin, author of the groundbreaking international bestseller Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers From Everybody Else, explains the findings and relates them to real life in real organizations.

In this engaging, entertaining talk, he shows how most organizations value the wrong things – how passion, honesty, and learning are more valuable than what people generally believe are the sources of great performance. For example, while many great performers seem to work very hard, simple hard work isn’t enough. And though top performers often seem smart, high intelligence and memory aren’t the key either. Most important, the factor that most people deeply believe is the real secret, a mysterious natural gift, isn’t the explanation. Decades of scientific research show that great performance in any field results from highly specific behaviors that every person and organization can adopt.

The critical behaviors constitute what researchers call “deliberate practice.” It isn’t quite what most people think of as practice, and getting it right is crucial. But it isn’t complicated, and Colvin explains exactly how it works, illustrating his points with examples from real people and real organizations. The world’s great performers, in business, sports, music, medicine, or any other realm, all engage in these basic behaviors. Remarkably, there seems to be no limit to the performance that can be achieved by continuing deliberate practice. It’s just as effective with groups as with individuals. It improves performance not only in particular skills but also in broad, high-level abilities, such as strategizing and innovating. The result is that those who apply these key principles gain a tremendous advantage.

No one says the path to great performance is easy. But the liberating message from the research is that it isn’t reserved for a pre-ordained few. On the contrary, it’s available to everyone – including you and your organization.

HUMANS ARE UNDERRATED: BUILDING THE NEW HIGH-VALUE SKILLS

It’s one of the largest questions facing organizations and individuals today: What will people do better than computers? As technology gallops ahead, taking over more skilled and highly paid work, how will people keep adding value? A leading economist says these issues are “the defining economic feature of our era.” Geoff Colvin explains the issues and answers the questions, showing how people can keep adding value – more than ever – by becoming excellent at the deepest, most essentially human skills.

Among the most important:

-Empathy. It doesn’t just mean feeling someone else’s pain. It means discerning what another person is thinking or feeling – whether it’s pain, interest, confusion, fear, desire, or anything else – and responding in an appropriate way. An ability to do that in any setting is crucial to building powerful relationships and is the foundation of all the other high-value skills.

-Creative problem-solving in groups. The problems that most organizations face today are too complex for anyone to solve alone. The work must be done by teams, and the key to team effectiveness isn’t what most people think. Rather than IQ, cohesion, or motivation, the critical factor is the members’ social sensitivity, their ability to “read” one another. That’s more important than all the other factors combined.

-Storytelling. Organizations haven’t traditionally valued storytelling. Instead they value charts and graphs. Companies will always have to make decisions based on rational analysis of data – but that’s exactly what technology does so well, encompassing more data and stronger analysis every day. Human value is migrating elsewhere. And if you want to change people’s minds, if you want to inspire them to act, tell them a story.

While some think of these skills as traits (you’ve got them or you don’t), Colvin shows how they are trainable skills and how leading organizations are developing them right now. We can all get better at them, and we all will have to.

Based on his new book Humans Are Underrated, which The New York Times calls “profound,” Colvin’s talk is inspiring, entertaining, mind-opening, and highly practical.

THE ECONOMIC OUTLOOK

TRENDS IN INVESTING, GOVERNMENT REGULATION, AND THE GLOBAL ECONOMY

It’s the question on every business leader’s mind: in what direction is the economy going?

Today’s economic environment is more volatile and uncertain than at any time in memory. The forces driving the economy are also moving faster than ever. In the days before the emergence of the global economy, it seemed easier to anticipate where things might be headed next. The consequences of misjudgment seemed more forgiving. The likelihood of a bubble bursting somewhere else in the world and putting investors and companies into freefall seemed much more remote.

These days a meltdown of the financial markets in China can ripple globally and take down a trillion dollars in assets in a single day – and this volatility is becoming more commonplace. In this environment the stakes of decision-making feel much greater. Even though the madness of crowds now possible on a global scale, Colvin argues, counterintuitively, that all this inter-connectedness isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We live increasingly in one big capitalist world. The world’s capital is more willing and able than ever to go anywhere, moving around the globe as comfortably as Beyoncé or the Rolling Stones on tour. The ability of capital to move free actually is a great buffer against the worldwide system falling down flat, Geoff says. Much has changed, he argues, since the global financial crisis in 2007.

But what should you make of the economy right now? That’s the question Geoff answers in his talks. He provides audiences with relevant information on the economic forces that will drive their industry and business. Geoff’s presentations draw on the first-hand conversations he’s had with top policy makers and business leaders around the world – people he knows personally and has covered for many of his 36 years at Fortune. Geoff explains what they’re seeing – and how they’re reacting and planning for the future.

Geoff reflects on the varied forces driving economic change and offers a glimpse of where each may take us. Governments are influencing the economic climate more than ever, through monetary policy and protectionist/isolationist policies that impact trade. Robots and smart technology are eliminating more jobs than they create. The EU and China are wild cards – each with widespread implications. And surging social and demographic changes are creating new challenges and opportunities. The economic picture changes by the day and Geoff Colvin has a brilliant perch at Fortune to view it all to get ahead of official statistics to uncover what’s going on. Engaging, energetic, and topical, Geoff helps his audience anticipate the economic future more clearly.

THE 21ST CENTURY CORPORATION - WINNING IN A FRICTION-FREE WORLD

CLOUD-BASED TOOLS, SCANT HARD ASSETS, TRANSPARENT LEADERSHIP, NEW IDEAS AND INGENUITY – THE GAME PLAN FOR NEW WINNERS IN A NEW WORLD

Imagine an economy without friction – a new world in which labor, information, and money move easily, cheaply, and almost instantly. Psst – it’s here. Is your company ready?

We see it all around us: Sweeping new realities are changing the rules of success. The most successful companies right now are forming starkly new, more fluid relationships with customers, workers, and owners. They’re rethinking the role of capital (as traditionally defined) and finding they can thrive while owning less and less of it. They are creating value in new ways as they reinvent R&D and marketing. And finally, they’re measuring their performance by new metrics because traditional gauges no longer capture what counts.

These are 21st-century corporations, new winners in a new world, and Geoff Colvin knows them and their leaders well. These companies aren’t all glamorous Silicon Valley startups. They can be of any age and in any industry. Every company will have to become one, creating value in innovative ways, or lose out to competitors that do so, often with capital-light, Internet-enabled business models.

As Geoff reveals in his conversational, engaging style, this is good news. Accelerating change, creative destruction, and new business models present historically great opportunities. Geoff presents specific strategies and next steps for seizing those opportunities, based on eye-opening examples. A unifying theme as the economy transforms is that in almost every business, barriers to entry are coming down.

In every presentation Geoff focuses on examples and drivers of these changes appropriate for the audience. For instance:

The ways new apps and cloud-based tools are the bloodstream of the enterprise – turning far-flung workers into hives of collaboration – and connecting companies to their customers like never before. How 3D models close the gap between engineering and manufacturing – allowing rapid iteration of products. Sensors can monitor operating conditions to improve performance and keep downtime to a minimum. Real-time dashboards give managers the information they need to constantly increase productivity.


Who needs physical assets? More companies are creating high value with scant hard assets, even if – like Apple, Fitbit, J&J, and Tesla – they make tangible products. How what’s expected from leaders has changed and who’s doing it best. Ways the pact between employers and employees continues to evolve with top companies developing new levels of transparency, creating stronger career paths for employees to retain talent and unleashing the full talent of the organization by aligning around a set of core values and shared vision that gets everyone focused on the same mission.

Geoff’s message in this presentation is optimistic and energizing: Opportunity is more widely available than ever. Every organization, and every person, can possess the 21st century’s most valuable assets – openness to new ideas, ingenuity, and imagination. Geoff makes the point – in this new world someone’s going to win – it may as well be you!

PANEL MODERATOR, DISCUSSION LEADER, EMCEE/HOST

Geoff Colvin is an event planner’s secret weapon. He can brilliantly moderate panels, lead conversations onstage and act as host/emcee for the entire conference proceedings. His talent for these roles is second nature and can transform ordinary events into something quite special.

Geoff’s honed his skills for three decades at Fortune magazine’s most prestigious conferences worldwide including the Fortune Global Forum, Brainstorm Tech, Brainstorm Energy|Tech|Sustainability and others. Top corporations, associations and organizations also regularly engage Geoff to play those roles because he has a gift for getting the most out of participants; asking the right questions, listening intently to what’s being said on stage and responding to that  keeping the discussion relevant and the energy high. He is so skilled that many top firms can’t imagine doing an important program without him. As an attendee at a recent conference told the event organizer, “Geoff Colvin literally made this conference.”

One of the premiere business journalists in America, Geoff brings a wealth of experience to the stage. He understands how public policy, global competition and the rapid pace of technological change combine to create a challenging business environment which has leaders struggling to adapt and innovate as fast as the world around them.

Geoff has interviewed a remarkable range of notable figures on stage at live events including Alan Greenspan, Rudy Giuliani, Madeleine Albright, Tony Blair, George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, Henry Kissinger, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, The Prince of Whales, Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, Ben Bernanke, Russell Simmons, IBM Chairman & CEO Ginni Rometty, Bill Gates, Jack Welch, Ted Turner, Richard Branson, Jamie Dimon, Hank Paulson, Mohamed El-Erian, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon, Citigroup CEO Michael Corbat, Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault, AOL founder Steve Case and many more.

Playing the role of panel moderator and discussion leader is a unique talent. Geoff does his homework to prepare for each event and in order to draw out the best from those he’s speaking to. Colvin keeps the spotlight squarely on the topics and the guests – not himself. He keeps the conversation moving; making certain the audience is totally engaged. Given the breadth of Geoff’s expertise, he’s comfortable moderating and leading discussions on a wide range of topics impacting the business climate, competitiveness, the technological future, the economy, leadership challenges, and more.

The true testament of Geoff’s effectiveness in the role of interviewer, panel moderator and host/emcee is the impressive number of organizations who make it a habit to engage his talents for their most important events. One Fortune 100 firm has had Geoff speak at their annual high impact conference every year since 2002.

Speakers Videos

Leading, Managing & Competing

Talent Is Overrated

Three Unique Human Skills

Books & Media

   

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KEYWORDS: Business of Healthcare, Change, Competition, Innovation, Leadership, Peak Performance, Trends