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Learn More About Hal Gregersen

Navigating transitions. Mapping uncertainty. Sensing external trends. Picking up signals. Anticipating the future. Brainstorming better. These are some of the key areas leadership and innovation expert Hal Gregersen explores when helping managers and teams solve problems and innovate. And in a post-pandemic future, such themes will be front and center as organizations in every sector navigate change by helping people adjust to new roles, acquire new capabilities, and manage emotional energy productively.

“We’re experiencing a massive cross-cultural adjustment as we try to define and enter into the next normal,” says Gregersen, who is very familiar with transitions, having traveled the globe and even studied high-performing teams at Everest Base Camp. “Going back to the office or shifting to a new workplace model will be like a repatriation process, which for most is tougher to navigate than moving to a foreign country.”

Co-founder of The Innovator’s DNA research firm, an Innosight Fellow, and a senior lecturer at MIT Sloan School of Management who previously served as executive director of MIT’s Leadership Center, Gregersen has dedicated his extensive career to helping companies stay ahead in an accelerating world. While working closely with leaders at top organizations – including Chanel, Danone, Disney·Pixar, Ernst & Young, Fidelity, Genentech, Patagonia, Salesforce and Zappos – he’s discovered that the most successful companies are those with a relentless focus on discovery by asking and answering value-creating questions. During his interactive workshops, like “Leading Successful Transitions in a Digitally-Driven World,” he teaches his powerful “Question Burst” framework, which goes deep to help executives and teams identify and solve challenges by asking a series of catalytic questions. Gregersen consistently receives high marks for helping organizations build more resilient, agile and innovative cultures that are better able to pivot and drive growth in the face of uncertainty.

The Question Burst framework Gregersen meticulously curated is based on his Nautilus award-winning book, “Questions Are the Answer: A Breakthrough Approach to Your Most Vexing Problems at Work and in Life” (Harper Business, 2018). The book continues to garner high praise from top business leaders around the world, including Salesforce Chairman and CEO Marc Benioff who said it “reveals the power of cultivating a beginner’s mind, deep listening and continuous reflection in search of the right questions. Read it and you will find a path to meaningful answers.”

Citing his innovative work with companies such as Adobe, Patagonia, Salesforce and Amazon, which have systems in place to see what’s coming around the corner, Gregersen shows leaders and teams how to use a discovery-fueled process to see through uncertainty and spark the next step in exponential growth. In his thought-provoking advisory meetings, keynotes and workshops, he teaches audiences how to transform themselves into innovative powerhouses by implementing a culture of inquiry within their own organizations.

“Questioning is a superpower that helps us navigate every stage of a transition, especially when facing uncertainty,” says Gregersen. “The Question Burst framework is a method for moving things forward. What’s the challenge? What’s the goal? Organizations can identify and solve problems and innovate with creative muscle they never knew they had, if they know what questions to ask.”

# # #

Hal Gregersen is a senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management, the former executive director of the MIT Leadership Center and ranked as one of the world’s 50 most influential management thinkers by Thinkers50. He is the author of 10 books, including “Questions Are the Answer: A Breakthrough Approach to Your Most Vexing Problems at Work and in Life” (Harper Business, 2018), “The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators” (Harvard Business Review, Revised 2019) and “It Starts With One: Changing Individuals Changes Organizations” (Pearson FT Press, 2008). He’s published more than 75 articles, book chapters and cases on leading innovation and change, and his research has been cited over 15,000 times. His work has been covered by major media outlets, including the BBC, CNN, The Economist, Fast Company, The Financial Times, Forbes, Fortune, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and WIRED. He received the Thinkers50 2017 Distinguished Achievement Award and, in 2020, he was named a Top 30 Global Guru. He is an Innosight Fellow and a co-founder of The Innovator’s DNA. He has taught at INSEAD, London Business School, Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, Brigham Young University, Aalto University, and was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship in Finland. 

Hal Gregersen available to advise your organization via virtual and in-person consulting meetings, interactive workshops and customized keynotes through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers & Advisors, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

Hal Gregersen was last modified: November 8th, 2023 by Justin Louis

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Managing the Return to a Changed Workplace

As more people get vaccinated, organizations are trying to build a new workplace model and figure out how to acculturate employees in a way that keeps them connected, productive and healthy. MIT senior lecturer Hal Gregersen, a renowned expert on leadership, innovation and creative cultures, views this transition period as a cross-cultural adjustment process. There is an initial “honeymoon” period, followed by a stressful six to nine months of culture shock, after which people start to adjust and master new roles and routines. Gregersen says asking the right questions before, during and after the transition can help people through this process, especially leaders who are tasked with shepherding their teams. In this presentation, Gregersen helps participants prepare for what’s ahead by sharing results from a recent global research project on navigating transitions and from his years of research and teaching the “Question Burst” framework, which is based on his award-winning book “Questions Are the Answer: A Breakthrough Approach to Your Most Vexing Problems at Work and in Life.”

Leading Transitions in a Digital Age

Disruptive technologies are fueling digital transformation at unprecedented levels, demanding us to rethink our roles and tasks, adopt new responsibilities, and manage the range of emotions that result from all the above. Navigating the transitions sparked by digitally-driven change requires deep awareness —of ourselves and others, says MIT leadership expert Hal Gregersen. This cutting-edge keynote leverages current research on over fifty leaders of digital transitions to deliver a structured process and transition toolkit for leaders tackling the question, “how do we recognize and successfully navigate digitally-driven transitions when change happens?” Gregersen shares unique insights, tools, and frameworks for navigating the human side of digitally-driven change and helps people adapt to new identities, acquire new capabilities, and productively manage emotional energy in the process.

Navigating the Human Side of Transitions in an Ocean of Change

For all of us, the pandemic turned the world upside down in terms of what we do, where we do what we do, how we do it, and when we do it. Whether we like it or not, we are being forced to give up habits that worked well in the past and navigate our way through entirely unknown and uncomfortable territory. As individuals and leaders, we are struggling to figure out what’s next, meaning “What new skillset or mindset is worth the effort to engage with?” so that we can make progress in times of extreme transition. In this session, Hal Gregersen explores the power of transition curve leadership and the role of catalytic inquiry in moving ourselves and others forward.

During this presentation, Gregersen will tap into twenty years of transition curve research  (see Questions are the Answer, The Innovator’s DNA, and It Starts With One) to help leaders:

  • Identify what’s next when facing extreme uncertainty and learn how to descend and ascend the toughest parts of a transition curve
  • Explore how to acknowledge and manage the emotional arc of unexpected transitions, such as how to tolerate “not knowing” or rushing too fast into action mode
  • Harness the surprising power of inquiry to summit new transition curves successfully

Also see: Transition-Curve Leadership in a Digital Age

Questions Are the Answer: Discovering the Power of Inquiry in the Innovation Process

When confronted with a problem, our typical response is to look for a pre-packaged solution. But in a world increasingly transformed by technology and riddled with uncertainty, we face problems that have no ready-made answer or past precedent. Employees may think their role is to have all the answers, but in fact, says Hal Gregersen, they should be asking questions – especially when operating on the edge of uncertainty. In this presentation based on his book, “Questions Are the Answer: A Breakthrough Approach to Your Most Vexing Problems at Work and in Life” (Harper Collins, November 2018), Gregersen outlines his Question Burst method, which is designed to transform companies into hotbeds of innovation by teaching leaders and employees to rediscover their powers of inquiry. Drawing upon his first-hand research on innovative companies and leaders at Amazon, Pixar, Tesla, Zymergen and more, Gregersen demonstrates how asking questions inevitably leads not only to solutions but to valuable new and transformative ideas.

Bursting the CEO Bubble: Asking Catalytic Questions – Before It’s Too Late

Powerful organizational and industrial forces can keep any senior leader from hearing (or asking) uncomfortable questions, and creating a “good news cocoon,” at his or her own peril. It’s what Hal Gregersen calls “The Leader’s Dilemma,” and it can be exceedingly dangerous in an era when dramatic market shifts can happen unexpectedly. In this session, Gregersen discusses how leaders and organizations can escape the innovator’s most dangerous blind spot, the space where “we don’t know what we don’t know.” Based on in-depth interviews with more than 200 of the world’s best question-asking leaders, including Charles Schwab’s Walt Bettinger, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Bain’s Orit Gadiesh, Tesla’s Elon Musk, Fidelity’s Abigail Johnson, and General Stanley McChrystal, he reveals five daily disciplines these leaders rely on to surface the right questions. Gregersen also helps audience members become better questioners in real time by sharing key questioning tools and helping them unlock solutions, innovations and processes.

Building a Sustainably Creative Company: Putting People, Processes & Philosophies to Work

Innovative leaders hold the power to create monumental impact throughout an organization by acting and thinking innovatively themselves. However, if leaders don’t empower others to do the same, the breadth of a company’s innovation capacity – and consequently, its growth potential – rises and falls with them alone. In this session, Hal Gregersen discusses how today’s most innovative leaders, including Disney·Pixar’s Ed Catmull, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Patagonia’s Rose Marcario, and’s Marc Benioff, are relentless problem solvers who build a culture of innovation by decentralizing the source of ideas and instilling a creative problem-solving capacity from the bottom up – and why it’s the single most important legacy leaders can leave behind. As Benioff put it, “It’s my job to create a culture of innovation.”

The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators

Is an innovator born or made? This is the question Hal Gregersen, along with the late Clayton Christensen and Jeff Dyer, set out to answer for their bestselling book, “The Innovator’s DNA.” Drawing on his firsthand conversations with 100+ game-changing founders and CEOs – and research from more than 15,000 creative leaders around the world – Gregersen discusses five key skills that innovators leverage to solve challenging problems and discover new markets to fuel economic growth. Gregersen also focuses attendees’ energy on actively developing these skills through brief, high-energy learning activities so they leave thinking and acting differently in their professional work and personal lives.

Master Moderator: Creating Conference-wide Question-Centric Culture

Having interviewed more than 200 top leaders in his decades of research and writing, leadership and innovation expert Hal Gregersen expertly moderates panel discussions that create deeper participation in the material from everyone involved. Consider Gregersen as a moderator for the entire event: In his opening keynote, he’ll encourage a new way of thinking about the forthcoming sessions through the lens of questioning. During the event, he’ll serve as a catalyst for attendees to practice their questioning skills as they learn new material and engage in deeper conversations with other conference attendees. At the close of the event, Gregersen may facilitate a session that recaps how the questioning techniques served participants throughout the event. Not only will they have spent the entire conference practicing questioning techniques, but they’re equipped to immediately apply those methods to their work.

Ask us about Hal Gregersen’s hands-on experiences that take learning beyond the boardroom.

Hal Gregersen’s Workshops

Outline Sample: Becoming a Sustainably Innovative Leader and Company

4.9/5 Stars! Reviews for Hal Gregersen’s Virtual MIT course: Questions Are the Answer: A Breakthrough Approach to Creative Problem Solving, Innovation & Change

Developing Your Innovative Potential: An Interactive Workshop

Hal Gregersen’s half-, one-, and two-day interactive, tailored workshops are designed to help audiences apply lessons directly in driving innovation and growth within their organizations. A gifted teacher, Gregersen immerses audiences in the principles and practices which make for more successful enterprises. These sessions will equip you with the tools you need to enhance your organization at work, the very next day. The following is a sample of focus areas and industries Gregersen has worked directly with:

Focus Areas:

  • Navigating transitions
  • Leading innovation
  • Inquiry-driven leadership for individuals and teams
  • New markets/avenues of growth
  • Becoming higher impact leaders
  • Job performance and productivity
  • Collaboration
  • Risk identification and mitigation

Industries (including but not limited to):

  • Aerospace
  • Consumer packaged and luxury goods
  • Technology & engineering
  • Consulting & professional services
  • Finance
  • Automotive
  • Telecommunications & mobile
  • Communications & media
  • Higher education
  • Health care

“I connected with this book’s message because I lived it. Everything changed for the better when I realized that I, like so many others, was asking the wrong question. Our culture chases conventional notions of success instead of nurturing what would really make us thrive. Hal Gregersen is absolutely right — the best way to get to a better answer is to start with a better question, and we can all learn to do that.”

Arianna Huffington, Founder & CEO, Thrive Global and Founder, The Huffington Post

“It’s a great insight that, if you want to arrive at a better answer, you should start with a better question. Hal Gregersen takes that observation further, exploring how to put it into daily practice. I love this book’s emphasis on creating the conditions in which creative thinking will thrive, and I love its bighearted storytelling.”

Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos and Author of #1 New York Times Bestseller "Delivering Happiness"

“In his new book, Hal Gregersen reveals the power of cultivating a beginner’s mind, deep listening and continuous reflection in search of the right questions. Read this remarkable book and you will find a path to meaningful answers.”

Marc Benioff, Chairman & Co-CEO, Salesforce

“Do you already know that questions lie at the heart of creativity? Yes. Do you know how to ask better questions? Probably not—but thankfully, Hal Gregersen is here to guide you. This book illuminates a path toward sparking new ideas.”

Adam Grant, New York Times Bestselling Author of "Originals," "Give and Take" and "Option B" with Sheryl Sandberg

“Hal Gregersen is one of those rare educators who always practices what he preaches. Deliberately, he pushes himself out of his comfort zones, and consistently, he surfaces those great questions that unlock better answers. I think it’s wonderful that, with Questions Are the Answer, he is equipping so many more people to do the same.”

Clayton M. Christensen, Kim B. Clark Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School

“If you want a simple answer to the question of what matters most to creativity, then look no further than the title of this book. Mastering the art of questioning is not easy, but Hal Gregersen describes a wealth of valuable approaches that will serve you well — no matter what kinds of problems you are trying to solve.”

Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO and Author of "Design for Change"

“I have always been fascinated by the rebels among us–the iconoclasts who see things differently and make things change in positive and constructive ways. Questions Are the Answer gives essential insight into how these “deviant” types consistently manage to challenge their own going-in positions–and the most stubborn assumptions of the people around them. A key addition to the literature on creative thinking.”

Francesca Gino, Professor, Harvard Business School and Author of "Rebel Talent"

“Creating an open environment where every manager can ask questions without fear is the first step in bringing innovation to achieve the betterment of a corporation. The author brings out how asking the right questions is the responsibility of a successful leader. A ‘must’ read for every corporate person aspiring to succeed as a leader.”

N. R. Narayana Murthy, Founder of Infosys

“Curiosity can’t be taught. Or can it? Good question. The answer is yes, it can — by absorbing the hard-earned but highly accessible wisdom Hal Gregersen offers. This is a book for business leaders but also for artists and anyone else who cares to grow their ability to find answers through sustained, skillful question-asking. I wish I’d had it when I was first heading out into the world.”

Sam Abell, National Geographic Staff Photographer and Author of "Stay This Moment" and "The Life of a Photograph"

“People start out in life as fearless questioners, but most learn as time goes by to suppress that impulse. This book has a simple premise—that we can rebuild our questioning capacity by adapting the habits and skills of persistently creative thinkers—and it delivers on that premise powerfully. An invaluable guide for today’s leaders.”

Amy C. Edmondson, Professor, Harvard Business School and Author of "The Fearless Organization"

“In this masterful work, Hal Gregersen shows how educators and parents can teach the ability to ask good questions and the habit of curiosity to all young people—and why these skills are so essential. Questions are the Answer is an invaluable contribution to the reimagination of education for the 21st century.”

Tony Wagner, Bestselling Author of "The Global Achievement Gap" and "Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World"

“We were privileged to have Hal moderate a discussion at our flagship annual customer event – the TCS Summit. He curated a thought provoking discussion between 4 leading CEOs/Chairpersons on how boardrooms need to build companies that constantly innovate and disrupt themselves. The tremendous intellectual power, impeccable credentials, innate ability to draw out insights and get people to open up, that Hal brings to the table makes him a terrific conversationalist. No surprise then that his session was highly rated by the audience of 400+ CLevel executives as one of the most compelling discussions they had attended across any event this year.”

Abhinav Kumar, Chief Marketing & Communications Officer – Global Markets, Tata Consultancy

“Hal delivered his “A” game. Thoughtfulness, rigor, and genuineness/passion that resonated with our audience of executives. Both his keynote and in the collaboration session were the right delivery and engagement that got the audience to think and absorb.”

Co-Producer, digitalNow, an Executive Summit for Association/Non-Profit Leaders

“It was such a pleasure to meet you in Orlando. Thank you for participating in the FCIS Convention. We appreciate your support of independent schools in Florida and your willingness to share your knowledge and expertise with Heads of School and administrators from around the state. Many independent schools in Florida are young and constantly evolving. Your keynote definitely struck a chord with the audience.”

Alison Carlson, Director of Professional Development, Florida Council of Independent Schools

“Hal Gregersen’s highly interactive 90-minute presentation on the Innovator’s DNA was the keynote presentation for an internal conference on innovation for our key executives, product managers, and marketing managers. Not only did Hal exceed our expectations, he held the entire audience spellbound. Hal’s combination of superior intellect, his willingness to share many years of scholarship and field work on innovation, his warm personal style, natural curiosity, and humility resonated exceptionally well with the audience and they rewarded him with their undivided attention and a standing ovation. Both during and after his presentation, our executives came up to me and praised everything about Hal and his message. Hal’s presentation set the tone for the rest of the conference and attendees referred to Hal’s concepts repeatedly over the next three days. I would recommend him to any company that is serious about becoming a leading innovator in your industry.”

Larry Yokell, CenturyLink

“Thank you for your inspiring keynote presentation during Confluence in Berlin. You were our highest-rated speaker and the highlight of the event for a lot of our attendees. You brought strategic insight, humour and practical advice that I know people will take home and use in their daily lives, as I have been doing.”

Claire Hockin, Infosys