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M atthew E. May has a deep passion for ideas--the lifeblood of innovative thinking and the main event of the imagination. But not just any ideas. Only ideas that solve a difficult problem in an elegant way. Matt defines an elegant solution as one that is both uncommonly simple and surprisingly powerful, and that achieves the maximum effect with minimum means.

Matt-actionMatt shares his passion for elegant solutions when addressing audiences who want to create meaningful change, which makes him a popular keynote speaker, seminar leader, and workshop facilitator. He regularly speaks to conferences, companies, governments, associations and universities all over the world on achieving elegance and simplicity at the crossroads of business, innovation, and design.

Matt aims to achieve four things in every address:

  1. inspire new thinking
  2. share a unique perspective
  3. tell compelling stories
  4. deliver practical takeaways

He blends his frontline experience as a creative catalyst and innovation strategist with case studies and stories in his books in order to deliver useful concepts with immediate application.

Matt does not fancy himself a "motivational speaker" or "business guru," but rather a practitioner of business strategy and innovation with powerful lessons learned and war stories to tell from years in the trenches with companies ranging from small startups to companies as large and multinational as Toyota.

Consider Matt if you'd like to engage the imagination of the audience at your next event!



A s a rule, Matt tailors keynote messages and interactive sessions to resonate with your audience, underscore event themes, and reinforce the objectives of your event. The following topics represent Matt's most popular talks, drawing on his books, articles, and research in his three specialty areas: innovation, culture, and strategy.



6 Simple Rules for Winning in the Age of Excess Everything

LoS175 A daunting challenge for everyone, no matter their walk in life: how do you stand out and stay relevant in a world that is massively distracting and mostly disruptive.

We live in the age of excess everything. Success in this new age looks different, and demands a new skill: Subtraction.

Subtraction is defined simply as the art of removing anything excessive, confusing, wasteful, unnatural, hazardous, hard to use, or ugly . . . or the discipline to refrain from adding it in the first place. And if subtraction is the new skill to be acquired, we need a guide to developing it.

Enter The Laws of Subtraction.

In this keynote which draws upon his book, Matthew outlines six simple rules for winning in the age of excess everything, and delivers a single yet powerful idea: When you remove just the right things in just the right way, something very good happens.



The 5 Dimensions of an Effective Strategy

S trategy means different things to different people. Some define strategy as a vision, some as a plan. Others define it as optimizing the status quo, or perhaps following best practices. Still others deny that strategy is even possible, especially in times of great and rapid change.

Matt defines strategy as it was taught to him by colleague and mentor Roger Martin: as an integrated set of choices that enable a player in a given space to create the competitive advantage needed to win.


It's the act of making and acting on choices produces winners. Clear, tough choices force your hand, confine you to a path, but free you to focus on what matters most. Great firms don't choose to simply play.

They choose to win.

At the heart of strategy lie two key decisions: whereto play, and how to win. In this highly engaging talk, Matthew reviews the essence of how great companies have used the where-to-play/how-to-win framework to deliver superior value to their customers and dominate their market.

Based on Matt's work with Roger Martin, Matt delivers three key takeaways, including an understanding of how strategy really works, a clear framework for making strategic choices, and a process for developing strategy that is simple, fun, and effective.



7 Traditional Thinking Traps…and How to Tame Them

Layout 1 A simple problem is posed. One far less complex than the typical daily business problem. Yet less than ten percent of the audience will arrive at the elegant solution, the one that achieves the maximum effect with minimum means.

The reasons? The seven deadly sins of solutions.

In this provocative and interactive session based on a chapter from his critically acclaimed book In Pursuit of Elegance, Matt reveals the obstacles to innovative thinking, then shows you how to neutralize them with the powerful creative method used by the world's best problem-solvers: design thinking.

Design thinking has moved rapidly to the forefront of the current business zeitgeist as a fresh take not just on how to rethink key products and services, but also how to reframe everyday processes and projects. With the ultimate goal of creating a companywide culture of constant creativity and collaboration, the method embeds a consistent innovation process across the organization. Blending creativity and logic in order to solve real business problems.

Given the high energy, interactivity, and application, this is one of Matt's most popular and requested topics. Time permitting, Matt will treat the audience to "the eighth sin"!



4 Creative Qualities to Innovate By

Layout 1 W hat made The Sopranos finale one of the most-talked-about events in television history? Why is sudoku so addictive and the iPhone so irresistible? What did Jackson Pollock have in common with theoretical physicists and Buddhist monks?


In this thought-provoking exploration of why certain events, products, and people capture our attention and imaginations, Matt examines the elusive quality behind so many innovative breakthroughs in fields ranging from physics and marketing to design and popular culture.

Combining unusual simplicity and surprising power, elegance is characterized by four key elements—seduction, subtraction, symmetry, and sustainability. Based on his critically acclaimed book In Pursuit of Elegance, this compelling, story-driven talk that sheds light on the need for elegance in design, engineering, art, urban planning, sports, and work, while offering surprising evidence that the best ideas have something missing…on purpose.

According to Dan Pink, Matt delivers "a fascinating intellectual romp that will change the way you look at your surroundings. As he takes readers from Jackson Pollock paintings to Dutch intersections to the secret menu at In-N-Out Burger, Matt reveals the hidden elements beneath genuine innovation. Surprising, compelling, and, yes, extremely elegant.”



7 Japanese Principles for Inspiring Simplicity

Shibumi175 W hen Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. said, "I would not give a fig for simplicity on this side of complexity, but I would give my life for simplicity on the other side of complexity, he might well have been referring to the kind of elegant, "to die for" simplicity achieved through the artful application of Zen aesthetic ideals.

Irrespective of whether they come in the form of a strategy, product, service, or process, an idea or solution has little chance of success unless simplicity is the hallmark of its design. No better set of design principles exist than the aesthetic ideals found in Zen art, architecture, and gardening.

According to biographer Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs, perhaps the most iconic innovator of our time, held  Zen philosophy close to heart and was greatly influenced by its principles and practices.

Can Zen principles hold the key to becoming a better innovator?

In this thoughtful and inspiring talk based upon his award-winning business fable The Shibumi Strategy, Matt calls upon his years of deep experience inside a Japanese company to explain and illustrate his short answer to that very question, which is a resounding "yes."

The seven principles include: kanso (simplicity), koko (austerity), shizen (naturalness), yugen (subtlety), fukinsei (asymmetry), seijaku (quietude), and datsuzoku (break from routine). Supported by three Zen practices, genchi genbutsu (observation), hoshin kanri (alignment), and hansei (reflection), these principles become a cohesive design strategy for achieving the ultimate experience, known as shibumi (effortless effectiveness).

Matt brings these ancient Eastern principles to life by showing how the most engaging experiences in Western business are, in reality, imbued with one or more Zen qualities.

This talk is a favorite among offsite retreat planners!



10 Winning Practices for Companywide Innovation

TES175 T he business world is waking up to the fact that innovation is taking on a new shape. Smart leaders know that what’s next is all about thinking differently at every level, creating compelling customer value, flowing that value through streamlined processes, and about embedding a cultural discipline around constant creativity and continuous innovation.

No better example of the post-industrial innovative organization exists than that of Toyota. In an industry with flat demand and product parity, Toyota is able to consistently gain the lion's  share of the consumer's garage. Behind their ability to perform at a completely different level than their competitors is a focused and structured approach to everyday innovation resulting in over 3000 ideas implemented each day – one million ideas a year. They are an old school firm with new school rules.

Driving the Toyota approach is a companywide quest for elegant solutions – solutions that deliver optimal customer value and impact with the minimal burden, effort and expense.

Based on his bestselling book The Elegant Solution and success in applying the collective wisdom gleaned from nearly a decade of working with Toyota, Lexus, and Scion to other organizations, Matt offers a vital prescription of ten key cultural practices that are a must-have for organizations seeking new inroads to innovation.


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A full arsenal of videos may be found on Matt's YouTube and Vimeo channels. Here, though, are a few favorites.






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A sampling of noteworthy keynote addresses: 



TEDx Bay Area

California College of the Arts

Intuit Innovation Network

Commission Junction/ValueClick

Intuit Strategic Partner Summit

McGraw-Hill Nat'l Sales Meeting

Hy-Tech Drilling Canada

American Assn. of Medical Society Executives

Computer Associates (CA World)

Forrester Research (IT Forum)


TED Salon London

World at Work

Red 7 Media (Event Marketer Summit)

Catholic Healthcare Parters

BringDialog Norway

Stena Group Sweden

Harman International

Fletcher Allen Healthcare






Sears Holdings

Fidelity Investment

Reed Elsevier

3M Corporation


Pfizer Pharmaceuticals

Razorfish/Avenue A

Kaiser Permanente

Manheim Auctions


Lockheed Martin

The Conference Board

Hospitality Design Magazine

Pacific Coast Builders Conference

Orion Health

Massachusetts Hospital Assn.

National Reconnaissance Office

Department of Defense

National Restaurant Association

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Book Matthew E. May For Your Next Event!

Matt is exclusively represented by Keynote Speakers Inc. To inquire about Matt's schedule and availability, please contact Katrina Smith, president, at (650) 325-8711 or simply send her an inquiry email by clicking the button below.

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