Adam Grant, Organizational Psychologist, The Wharton School of Business; Bestselling Author; Host: WorkLife, a TED Original Podcast, will present the keynote address at Journey Summit on May 5, 2020 in Philadelphia 

Adam’s speech, Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, will challenge us to originate new ideas, policies, and practices without risking it all. As an organizational psychologist, he studies how we can find motivation and meaning, and lead more generous and creative lives. Adam will discuss choosing to champion novel ideas and values that go against the grain, battle conformity, and buck outdated traditions. 

When asked what he wants the audience to feel and remember when he speaks, Adam said: 

“Inspired? No. I’m a teacher, not a preacher. Leave inspiration to gurus leading people on spirit walks across hot coals and then trying to inspire their second-degree burns to heal in a flash.

Confident? Definitely not; too Stuart Smalley. Choked up? Nope, not comfortable with anyone breaking down into tears.

Eventually, I settled on three emotions: surprised, fascinated, and amused. It’s probably not a coincidence that these are my three favorite emotions to feel when I’m sitting in an audience—we all want to deliver the talks we most love to watch.

Surprise appeals to me because we learn the most when our assumptions are challenged or our expectations are shattered. It also resonates because I used to be a magician (though my wife is fond of reminding me of a Family Guy mantra: magicians are on the second-to-last rung of the hierarchy of entertainers, right between ventriloquists and mimes).

Fascination matters because it means we’re not just awake but jazzed to learn more. As for amusement, laughter is as much fun to give as to receive—and it’s also the most audible and visceral cue that the audience is on board.

[I’m reminded of] something I learned from Mohamed El-Erian, a brilliant economist and the undisputed king of humility among executives.

Mohamed was asked recently to give a speech about the global economy to a group of traders. Just before taking the stage, he was warned by the organizers that the group tended to have a short attention span, had already been drinking at a cocktail reception, and had even thrown bread rolls at one speaker in a prior conference.

When he stepped on stage, he did something unusual. He said “I’m scared.”

Then he told them why. “I’ve heard you wouldn’t be interested or engaged for long. You might be a rowdy audience. And since you threw rolls at a prior speaker, I’m ready to use the front table as a shield.”

Then he said he was ready to put them to sleep with 62 slides.

They laughed. He said he was just kidding and then started telling them not only what he would want to know about the economy if he were in their position, but also how they could think about the world. 

They sat riveted for over half an hour. Then, after the 20-minute Q&A period, there were still many hands up.

Mohamed understood that the people who make the best impressions aren’t aiming to impress others. They’re focused on connecting with others. By acknowledging that he was scared, he made himself human and vulnerable. He showed that he cared about what the audience thought of him and understood their perspective.

Good communicators make themselves look smart. Great communicators make their audiences feel smart.”

We hope you can join us to hear Adam Grant at Journey Summit on May 5, 2020 in Philadelphia.