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John Danner

Wall Street Journal and Amazon Best-selling Business Author, Built For Growth; Harvard Business Review Press and Senior Fellow: UC Berkeley-Haas School of Business; Visiting Faculty, Princeton University

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Business | Colleges & Universities | Editor's Choice | Leadership & Strategic Management

John Danner is a thought leader, Wall Street Journal and Amazon bestselling author, trusted adviser and respected teacher at the intersection of leadership, innovation, strategy and entrepreneurship. For over four decades, John has helped senior business, nonprofit and government executives around the world navigate rapidly changing environments like high tech, healthcare, energy, financial services, and consumer products. He is a professor at both UC Berkeley and Princeton, co-author of Amazon bestseller The Other ‘F’ Word: How Smart Leaders, Teams, and Entrepreneurs Put Failure To Work, and founder of TED U[niversity].

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TED Global: John Danner

Greece in 2030: On top of innovation | John Danner | TE ...

The Other "F" Word: Put Failure To Work | John Danner | ...

Speaker Resources

  •  John  Danner
  •  John  Danner

John Danner is a thought leader, Wall Street Journal and Amazon bestselling author, trusted advisor and respected teacher at the intersection of leadership, innovation, strategy and entrepreneurship. For over four decades, John has helped senior business, nonprofit and government executives around the world navigate rapidly changing environments like high tech, healthcare, energy, financial services, and consumer products.

He is the co-author of the Wall Street Journal bestseller, Built for Growth: How Builder Personality Shapes Your Business, Your Team, and Your Ability to Win, about the personality characteristics of highly successful entrepreneurs; as well as the Amazon bestseller, The Other ‘F’ Word: How Smart Leaders, Teams, and Entrepreneurs Put Failure to Work. His articles and interviews have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Financial Times, Entrepreneur, Inc., Forbes, The Economist, Chief Executive and many other US and global media channels.

John teaches at two of the nation’s finest universities: The University of California Berkeley and Princeton University. As a Senior Fellow at University of California Berkeley’s Haas Business School, Mr. Danner teaches MBA courses in entrepreneurship, leadership and innovation. He also launched a popular campus-wide course on entrepreneurship to address global challenges, and advises the Global Social Venture Competition. As a visiting faculty member at Princeton University each fall semester, he teaches interdisciplinary courses on entrepreneurship and launched a pilot venture development program for campus entrepreneurs. He also anchors executive education programs on five continents, including Aspen Institute leadership seminars. He created the idea for TED University, and is a popular keynote speaker for executive and industry audiences globally.

As a management consultant, Mr. Danner has worked closely with senior executive teams on a broad range of strategic issues in a diverse array of industry settings - from energy and healthcare to consumer products and multimedia. His clients have included Fortune 500 global enterprises as well as high-tech startups; and his work has involved issues ranging from long-range business strategy and diversification initiatives to change management, technology integration, executive training and high-profile project management. He frequently works for clients on an industry-exclusive basis, often over several years.

John has held senior-level state and federal positions, working as a senior aide to then-Governor Bill Clinton, and later to Secretary of Education Shirley Hufstedler in establishing the US Department of Education. In addition, at Morrison & Foerster, he represented major legal clients in telecommunications, real estate, energy, and investment banking.

Mr. Danner holds the JD, MPH and MAEd degrees from the University of California, Berkeley; and served as Assistant Editor of the California Law Review. He received his AB cum laude from Harvard College.

He and his wife live in Berkeley, CA and New York City, and have three adult sons. He enjoys travel, cartography and information graphics, among many other interests.

This speech can be paired with Chris Kuenne.

Growth is Job One for every business, nonprofit and government agency – to expand their reach, improve their operations, reward their employees and sponsors, and better serve their customers and clients.  Our economy depends on growth – for wider opportunity, better wages, and improved standard of living.  We understand that.

But who builds that growth?  Entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs do.  They start the independent businesses and new ventures inside existing corporations that create new value for customers, jobs for employees and payback for investors.  Yet most of these efforts fail to achieve the growth they seek.  We need new answers to this challenge.

John Danner and Chris Kuenne’s research into the personality characteristics of highly successful entrepreneurs has discovered four types of Builder Personality– the Driver, Explorer, Crusader, and Captain. These are the men and women who build businesses that scale and last; and they each do it very differently.  Chris and John will share their insights and show every member with your audience what they can do to put those insights to work.


This speech can be paired with Chris Kuenne.

Building a business – whether as a standalone startup or new venture inside an established company – is a complex and difficult challenge. It’s like a marathon. Many people and organizations think about entering the race, but most don’t because they’re afraid of the risk, don’t think they’re in good enough shape, or would rather just watch from the sidelines. Lots of people do enter the race, but face many falters along the way and result with only a few wins. Who are those winners, and how do they succeed when so many others don’t?

In this talk, your audience – whether they are runners or sideliners, trainers or sponsors, crew members or colleagues – will learn about the men and women who win that marathon of entrepreneurial success. These are the people who build the businesses that fuel growth in our economy and opportunity in our communities. Chris and John will share their fascinating stories and the personalities behind their success.


This speech can be paired with Chris Kuenne.

Growth is the fuel for creating value in standalone startups and new ventures inside corporations. Many experts have developed theories about how to accelerate growth, and all approaches focus on the mechanics of growth strategies, rather than the dynamics orchestrated by the protagonist at the very center of those growth aspirations, the builder him or herself.

In this talk, Chris Kuenne and John Danner will demonstrate how personality-based insights can help audiences systematically understand the behavior of the two parties most essential to growth: the builders at the center of the company and the customers it serves.

Second, after understanding the who of building, Kuenne and Danner show the power of applying the same technique to identifying the highest potential customers for a company, enhancing product-market fit, accelerating profitable revenue growth and ultimately, enterprise value.

Through vivid stores and concrete case studies, Chris and John will arm audience members with the key takeaways so they can return to their office and begin to put these techniques to work.


Failure is a daily fact of life in business. Most of us treat it as a shameful, regrettable event. Smart leaders, teams, and entrepreneurs know the truth: Failure can be a game-changing strategic resource that can help you achieve the greater success you want. You and your company can choose to defy it, deny it, or ignore it; but doing so means you will never capture its benefits as a truly strategic resource for building growth, accelerating innovation, and strengthening a great workplace culture.

John’s latest keynote focuses on pragmatic ways to: reduce the fear of failure which stifles innovation, growth, and engagement, anticipate failure and respond to it productively, and leverage failure to drive innovation, performance, results, and culture.


For several decades, John Danner has advised leaders across a wide spectrum of business, nonprofit and government organizations – from corporate CEOs, foundation presidents and startup entrepreneurs to Cabinet Secretaries, governors and mayors. Throughout his career – as consultant, lawyer, entrepreneur and professor – he has helped executives and students try to innovate and win in their own challenging environments. He understands how difficult it is for leaders to find the right balance between managing the business of today while exploring for the enterprise of tomorrow. And that’s the territory for this talk: how to reconcile the imperative of innovation with the natural reluctance to leave what’s already working.

His talk will be peppered with stories, examples and pragmatic suggestions that will help your audience figure out what’s holding them back from taking the action necessary to lead in their setting, and decide how best to get moving in that direction.


There’s probably no annual report of a business, nonprofit or even government organization in the world today that does not pay lip service to innovation: “we’re an innovative company,” “we believe in innovation,” “innovation is one of our core strategies,” etc., etc., etc. It seems like everybody wants to get to ‘I’ Land, that place where innovation reigns supreme, where it’s part of the air we breathe and the everyday work culture we share. CEOs talk about it, analysts and investors may reward it, customers expect it, but too often employees and managers are confused – or even bored and turned off by it. Why?

He thinks many organizations approach innovation completely backwards. First, they focus on, and expect, the kind of “disruptive” innovation that other authors stress; but the reality is that very few organizations ever achieve that degree of innovation, and perhaps some don’t even need to in order to grow and sustain themselves. Second, they tend to view innovation as an exclusive, versus inclusive, exercise; and that in turn stifles the flow of ideas that fuels real innovation in organizations. Third, they treat innovation as an isolated, manageable endeavor rather than a more pervasive but perhaps less predictable effort, one that may call for as much humility as hubris from top executives. And probably require new storytelling to both inside and outside stakeholders.

This talk will challenge some of the common wisdom and “blah blah” about innovation. It will offer your audience specific ideas for how they can get to ‘I’ Land with a more invitational approach to innovation – at all levels and across your organization. And it will offer examples of how other organizations have not just imagined or even visited ‘I’ Land, but have actually become full-time residents there.