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Polly LaBarre

Leadership Expert & Founding Writer, Fast Company

For more than 20 years, LaBarre has used her writing, business consulting, and speaking to help organizations unleash and organize human potential in ever more powerful ways. Polly’s field-tested insights help organizations change the way they change. She helps leaders make their organizations more resilient, innovative, and inspiring. Polly provides audiences a “Maverick Manual” for hacking the status quo to ramp up originality, invention, and game-changing disruption.

Stanford, CT, USA

Presentations

A Maverick Agenda for Inventing the Future: How to disrupt like an insurgent
When the world stands still, size, strength, and stability offer an advantage. But in a world of relentless change, it’s the most creative and disruptive organizations that win. The challenge: most organizations are programmed to safeguard the status quo. So, how do you unleash your organization’s inner insurgent? How do you build a company with the drive to disrupt the status quo and the capacity to change ahead of change? Polly unpacks a set of actionable strategies drawn from her research and work inside some of the world’s most successful and innovative organizations.  Audiences learn a completely new mindset for changing the way they change.

Liberation Leadership: The end of leadership as we know it
The era of the heroic, all-knowing, all-powerful leader is over. Leadership is no longer a function of your title or where you sit in the organization. It’s a function of your capacity to get things done with other people. In this presentation, Polly shows what this actually looks like in practice at bold and successful organizations that have transformed their leadership mindset and reaped the rewards. She offers fresh and practical approaches using vivid storytelling.  You’ll walk away understanding the most important things you need to do to “leader-proof” your organization. 

Turn Your Company Into A Lab: Creating a culture of everyday, everywhere experimentation
Catching the future depends less on planning for what will come next and more on continuously experimenting with what could come next. In order to innovate and adapt in this creative, disruptive economy, every organization must develop the capacity (and the appetite) for experimentation and even failure. Despite the life or death stakes, this is not natural behavior for most organizations. Polly shows how the best companies today manage this. Her rich stories and practical perspectives and practices show how you can spread the mindset and methods of experimentation. Audiences leave knowing the five strategies for turning their organization into a lab for perpetual innovation.

The Human Edge: Unleashing the most powerful force in business
For every leader unsettled by rampant disruption, unbounded competition, relentless commodification, there is a powerful antidote already inside the organization: the untapped audacity, imagination, energy, resourcefulness, curiosity, intuition, and artistry of its people. Those fundamental human qualities are the engine of the creative economy – the source of all value. And yet, too few organizations are designed to unleash, mobilize, and amplify that human edge. In this presentation, Polly takes audiences on a journey to the far front edge of organizational life and offers a look deep inside the “positive deviants” gaining advantage from their human edge. The lessons Polly draws from their success will inspire organizations looking to transform their cultures and position themselves for the future.

 

These are just a sample of Polly’s presentations. View a full list of her presentations here.

Platform Plus

Moderator, Interviewer, Emcee and Sense-Maker

Polly LaBarre brings a world of experience to the stage when she engages panels and guests to explore the important issues facing business. For nearly two decades, she has designed and hosted events, led panels, interviewed celebrated thinkers and doers on stage and on television, and earned accolades for her ability to connect the dots and draw out deep insights during the course of an event. At Fast Company, Polly co-created and hosted Real Time, the magazine’s 600+-person signature events; developed and hosted the Women’s Leadership Summit; and created and moderated the televised Fast Talk series. She has moderated and hosted a number of high profile events, including: IBM’s Centennial event (keynoter, interviewer, and panel leader); HSM’s World Innovation Forum and World Business Forum (emcee and panel leader); SXSW panel leader; NYU Social Innovation panel leader; Wavelength events (interviewed and moderated panels with progressive CEOs and leaders from the social innovation world); PopTech (series of interviews with thought leaders and sense-making for live stream); CNN interviewer/moderator. Whether hosting, interviewing one-on-one or moderating a panel discussion, Polly LaBarre has a talent to create a lively, informative and memorable occasion.

  • 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 company DNA, was a hit!

    - President and CEO, Aerospace Industries Association
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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!

    - Global Human Resource Officer, COACH

Summary Profile

Polly is a co-founder of the Management Lab, a “think-and-do” tank dedicated to rebooting management for the 21st century. Along with her partners at MLab (pronounced “M-Lab”), Polly has developed a pioneering method and platform for changing how large organizations change. They run large-scale, real-world experiments in “hacking management” to build the deep organizational capabilities crucial for thriving in a creative, disruptive world: adaptability, innovation, and inspiration.

In addition to running global “management hackathons,” MLab has also built the Management Innovation eXchange (MIX), the world’s largest community of management innovators, created a clearinghouse of management hacks and innovation stories, and launched a series of events.

Polly has traveled the world to study and work with the courageous contrarians, management mavericks, and pioneering progressives who are inventing the future of organizations and business.  While these are organizations of every stripe that hail from every realm of endeavor, they do share a common credo: that all change is against the rules; that the future belongs to the mavericks, the misfits, and the heretics daring enough to stand up to the status quo; that inspiring, unleashing, and amplifying human creativity, passion, and resourcefulness is the most important work of all; that the most winning organizations are animated by an utterly distinctive and deeply-felt point of view – a set of ideas with the power to fundamentally reshape the sense of what’s possible; that work is personal, values rule, freedom is a bigger game than power, and nobody wins unless everybody wins.

Early in her career, Polly was part of the founding team of Fast Company magazine.  There she played a central role in the remarkable success of a magazine that recast the conventional wisdom on power, competition, work, leadership, innovation, and change.  The magazine introduced the world to a new universe of organizations and leaders whose management models were as distinctive as their business models were disruptive.

Polly is the co-author of the award-winning book Mavericks at Work: Why the Most Original Minds in Business Win, which was a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and BusinessWeek bestseller. Published in over 20 territories, Mavericks was a “Business Book of the Year” for the Financial Times, the Miami Herald, and The Economist, which called the book “a pivotal work in the tradition of In Search of Excellence and Good to Great.” CNN, CNBC, and GMA all created series around the book.

Polly’s writing has appeared in a variety of publications, including Fast Company, The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review online, Fortune.com, the McKinsey Quarterly, and she has served as business and innovation correspondent for CNN.