The Lavin Agency Speakers Bureau

A speakers bureau that represents the best original thinkers,
writers, and doers for speaking engagements.

Lavin Weekly #43: Maeda, Samuel, & Scudamore

1. “Money Isn’t the Enemy”—John Maeda in Good Magazine


Design speaker John Maeda has some blunt advice for young creatives: make money. Maeda recently dropped by Good Magazine to impart something he learned working under graphic designer Paul Rand in the 90s—sometimes, we need to sacrifice our passions for financial stability, so that we might fund those passions in the future. “If you’re a creative type,” he explains, “you’re especially taught to fear money because it’s depicted as dark and bad. Every movie, every storybook, the person with the money is usually the bad person. We never think of money as generative.” But for Maeda, the cycle makes sense. Toil, earn, then create. Your passions aren’t going anywhere. 


2. Alexandra Samuel: Eight Digital Productivity Tools to Streamline Your Screen


Harvard Business Review’s social media savant Alexandra Samuel is always apprised of the latest in digital tech. She’s a self-proclaimed “super-adopter.” But Samuel recognizes that apps are a dime a dozen, and no one wants their homescreen to be a minefield of clutter. In a new HBR article, Samuel whittles it down to eight technologies: not just the ones we need, but the ones we deserve. Some are usual suspects, like Twitter and Google Docs. Others are lesser-known, like news aggregator Feedly and instant image editor Skitch. For the complete list, head over to HBR.


3. Brian Scudamore on Embracing the Competition in The Wall Street Journal


Keep your friends close and your enemies closer—it’s an adage we’ve all heard hundreds of times, but to 1-800-GOT-JUNK? CEO Brian Scudamore, it’s a surprisingly viable business strategy. Collaborating with your competitors may seem counterintuitive, he argues in his WSJ blog, but it comes with unforeseen benefits. Scudamore takes this spirit of collaboration to its extreme: he regularly invites rival companies into his boardroom, shares numbers, and divulges long-term plans. “I’ve learned that if I’m worrying about what my competition is doing and frantically trying to out-think them, the only loser in the end will be me,” he says. And it’s hard not to believe him. As the brains behind the most successful junk removal business in North America, Scudamore turned a single truck and an idea into a 100 million dollar empire. 


To hire keynote speakers John Maeda, Alexandra Samuel, or Brian Scudamore for your next conference, workshop, or major event, contact The Lavin Agency, their exclusive speakers bureau.

Lavin Weekly #34: Levin, Ford, Kantayya, & Pinker

1. What Does the Cosmos Say? Janna Levin’s Black Hole Blues Profiled in The NYT

Yesterday’s New York Times had some high praise for Janna Levin’s new book, Black Hole Blues, saying that it “dismantles the eureka convention of science, exposing the invisible, incremental processes that produce the final spark we call genius.” Black Hole Blues goes behind the scenes of last year’s hottest scientific discovery: the landmark detection of gravitational waves. The book profiles the key players in the search—visionary inventor Rainer Weiss, Scottish mastermind Ron Drever, and Lavin’s own Kip Thorne—and documents their efforts with LIGO (the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) to hunt down the elusive phenomenon theorized by Einstein in 1915. It’s a book about scientific achievement, to be sure, but it’s also about the idiosyncratic and often eccentric personalities that sit behind the curtain. In Black Hole Blues, and in her fascinating keynote speeches, Levin “harmonizes science and life with remarkable virtuosity” (NYT). 

2. Martin Ford on Automation, Job Security, and Donald Trump

What do robots have to do with Donald Trump? More than you would think, argues Martin Ford. In a new interview with the BBC, Ford discusses the growing prevalence of automation—as he does in his acclaimed book Rise of the Robots. “Machines are now in some sense beginning to think,” says Ford, “and what that means is we’re seeing machines encroach on the kind of capabilities that set humans apart.” In the next 10 to 20 years, Ford sees machine-learning making untold advances, and even beginning to replace traditionally middle-class jobs. For those of an average skillset, he says, this appears troublesome. And this incipient erosion of the middle class is already manifesting itself in our politics: populist leaders like Trump and Democratic hopeful Bernie Sanders are gaining ground as everymen and women look to see their interests represented in congress. In talks that are realistic (but not fatalistic), Ford examines the opportunities and threats that come with an increasingly automated world.

3. Shalini Kantayya’s Catching the Sun Hits Netflix—with a Surprising Executive Producer

It’s Earth Day—and Shalini Kantayya’s documentary Catching the Sun, produced by Oscar winner Leonardo DiCaprio, is coming to Netflix! In Catching the Sun (“Must-see”—Mark Ruffalo), we’re afforded an insider’s look at America’s solar energy industry and the people pushing it forward. Through the stories of aspiring solar workers in Richmond, California, Catching the Sun examines solar’s boundless potential to both fight climate change and spur job creation. It’s a snapshot of working-class America, but just as much, it’s a fascinating study of the global race to lead a green-energy tomorrow.  With an economy still mired in fossil-fuel dependency, can the U.S. make the switch to clean energy? Watch the film and find out.

4. Is War on the Decline? And Can We Keep it That Way? Steven Pinker in The Boston Globe

From the end of World War II until 2011, says Steven Pinker—bestselling author of The Better Angels of Our Nature—war was on the decline. The global death rate, hovering around 22 per 100,000 people in 1945, had fallen to 0.3. But with a spate of new conflicts in the last five years—the Syrian civil war, tribal violence in South Sudan, Boko Haram’s terrorizing of Nigeria, and Russia’s flagrant annexation of Crimea—that number rose once again, standing at 1.4 in 2014. But 2016 has seen a promising start: several cease-fires and abatements in violence have made for a (relatively) peaceful first quarter. In fact, the physical geography of war is shrinking; nearly all war is now confined to a corridor between Nigeria and Pakistan. While “progress is shaky and incomplete,” says Pinker and co-author Joshua S. Goldstein, “recent cease-fires and peace talks are an existence proof that the violence of war can be reduced.” As one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People in the World, Pinker is a recognized thought leader. In enthralling keynotes, he weaves psychology and history together to demystify violence, war and the underpinnings of human nature.

To book a keynote from Janna Levin, Martin Ford, Shalini Kantayya, or Steven Pinker, contact The Lavin Agency, their exclusive speakers bureau.

Lavin Weekly #15: Crabapple, Cobb, Kim, & Shukla

1. Molly Crabapple for PEN DIY: “Give up Nothing. Don’t be Afraid.” 

Molly Crabapple, author of Drawing Blood, and world-renowned artist, activist, and journalist, took to the PEN DIY stage this month to deliver a talk called “How to Draw the Elephant in the Room.” Crabapple has covered some of the world’s most important points of conflict and crisis of the last 15 years. Her visionary work reveals the suffering, beauty, and hope in places as diverse as Syria and Iraq, Gaza and Guantanamo Bay, all the way to Ferguson, Missouri. For PEN, she discards the familiar credo “give voice to the voiceless” and exhorts artists instead to “draw the disappeared” in an inspiring presentation. “This is your one life,” she reminds each of us, “and life is too precious to cut off pieces of yourself … Draw the emperor naked, or the elephant, or whatever metaphor you want to use, but use your art to question all cops, all bosses, all gods and all masters, including those inside your head. As you do it, embrace all those jagged bits of yourself … Give up nothing. Don’t be afraid.”

2. Jelani Cobb on Freedom of Speech as a Diversion

According to UConn professor and award-winning journalist Jelani Cobb, protest and unrest at the University of Missouri and Yale have been “subsumed in a debate over political correctness and free speech on campus—important but largely separate subjects.” Or so he argues in “Race and the Free-Speech Diversion” in The New Yorker. Students today are unhappy with how issues related to racism and cultural appropriation are handled (or dismissed) on campus. How this manifests varies: whether it’s via subtly racist condescension from deans, a refusal to rename buildings named after paragons of white supremacy, or white students wearing blackface, there’s traces of systemic racism in each traditional institution. But critics try to sidestep such issues by appealing to free speech, or its jeopardization—or “victim-blaming with a software update,” he writes. To Cobb, critics shouldn’t fear an end to basic freedoms, but the freedom to perpetuate an imbalanced power dynamic. “The freedom to offend the powerful is not equivalent to the freedom to bully the relatively disempowered,” he argues. “The enlightenment principles that undergird free speech also prescribed that the natural limits of one’s liberty lie at the precise point at which it begins to impose upon the liberty of another.”

3. Suki Kim: A Major Player in South Korean Literature, Says Vanity Fair

Vanity Fair has compiled what they’re calling a spotlight on Korean literature, as “South Korea is becoming a major player on the world’s literary scene.” Notably, they’ve included Lavin keynote speaker Suki Kim’s 2003 novel The Interpreters as one of their Five Korean Novels You Should Read Now. While best known for her bestselling memoir Without You, There Is No Us—her harrowing and moving undercover journey inside North Korea, one of (if not the) most misunderstood and mysterious countries in the world—The Interpreters is often described as a wrenching look at the darker shards of the American Dream. “Kim nails the voice of a woman wedged between two cultures,” Vanity Fair writes, “not sure whether she really belongs in either. Many stories about first-generation Americans veer toward the nostalgic or the hardscrabble, but The Interpreters doesn’t take easy paths.”

4. #AskASpeaker #4: Twitter Q&A with Kavita Shukla 

Yesterday we spoke with Fenugreen Founder and CEO Kavita Shukla—special guest for our #AskASpeaker live Q&A series on Twitter. As one of Forbes’ “30 under 30” and Fast Company’s “7 Entrepreneurs Changing the World,” she’s inspiring young entrepreneurs, women in business, and social innovators around the globe.

Shukla’s company Fenugreen, called “the most innovative young company in the world” by the Kauffman Foundation’s Startup Open, is the manufacturer of FreshPaper—a biodegradable, affordable, and easy to use sheet that can preserve fruits and vegetables and help fight back against food waste. With millions of people going hungry each day, keeping foods fresh and edible for as long as possible is absolutely essential. In her talks, Shukla describes the humble origins of FreshPaper, how she went from curious girl experimenting at home to INDEX Award-winning designer, and how her innovative product can help effect massive global changes.

Check out the transcript below, and be sure to join us on Thursday, November 26th at 1 p.m. EST as we chat with Todd Hirsch, ATB Financial’s Chief Economist and author of The Boiling Frog Dilemma. Remember to use the #AskASpeaker hashtag to ask questions of your own, and follow both @thelavinagency and @ABeconomist, naturally!

To hire Molly Crabapple, Jelani Cobb, Suki Kim, or Kavita Shukla as the keynote speaker of your next event, contact The Lavin Agency speakers bureau.

Lavin Weekly #6: Atwood, Farsad, Ali, Aslan, Gino, & Eagleman

1. Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last Takes a Darkly Comic Look at Modern America

Margaret Atwood’s new novel, The Heart Goes Last, has received an enthusiastic early review at The Guardian. Portraying a dystopian near-future with an extra dose of madcap comedy, the new novel investigates “economic and environmental decline, the social and bio-engineering we employ in the vain hope of saving ourselves, and the speed with which the most well-intentioned experiments fall prey to greed and corruption.” Part of Atwood’s power isn’t just her reliably strong writing, brisk narrative pace, and wry sense of humour, but her prescient eye for our world’s most pressing problems. As The Guardian notes, “the world she depicts here is all too horribly plausible.”

2. Fighting Prejudice with Comedy: Negin Farsad on the TEDFellows Program

On the TEDFellows Medium page, we find a revealing discussion between Negin Farsad and Esra’a Al-Shafei about “being on the front line in the war against prejudice, using media as a weapon for social justice—and what makes it all worthwhile.” As an Iranian-American Muslim, comedian, and filmmaker, Farsad talks about her efforts to combat Islamophobia while touring her documentary The Muslims Are Coming! (2013). She reveals the particular hurdles of fighting bigotry in middle America, the ultimate impact of socially progressive comedy, and even dealing with the possible censorship of her message. As one of Paper’s “10 Feminist Comedians You Should Be Paying Attention To” and one of Huffington Post’s 50 Funniest Women, she’s definitely someone to get acquainted with.

3. Wajahat Ali and Reza Aslan on the Simple Question: How Do You Defeat ISIL?

Wajahat Ali, author and Co-Host of Al Jazeera America’s The Stream, had a lively, tasty, and bound-to-be-controversial conversation with Reza Aslan, religious scholar and author of No god but God and How to Win a Cosmic War, on how to defeat ISIL/ISIS over at Quartz. You can read a transcript or listen to the entire 30-minute discussion here. To Aslan, traditional tactics have proved ineffectual against ISIS because the group is “engaged in a different kind of war—a war of the imagination.” Other topics covered include sectarian divides between Muslims, how the US can win a war against extremist ideologies, double standards of the label ‘terrorism,’ the Israel-Palestine solution, the Iran Deal, and much more.

4. Francesca Gino Proves the Value of Asking for Advice

According to Harvard Business School professor Francesca Gino, people who seek out advice at work “are perceived as more competent than those who do not” (The New York Times). In the co-written paper “Smart People Ask for (My) Advice: Seeking Advice Boosts Perceptions of Competence,” Alison Wood Brooks and Francesca Gino analyzed “the responses of college students and working adults who were asked to give their impressions of people (a computer-simulated partner, in this case) who sought their advice on various written tests and tasks.” The results show that “unless you are feeling anxious, there is very little to lose if you seek advice”—despite the sometimes inaccurate message that asking for help is a sign of weakness. To Gino, author of Sidetracked, when you ask for help, “People do not think less of you—they actually think you’re smarter.”

5. David Eagleman and Max Richter: Helping Us Get Some Rest

Renowned neuroscientist David Eagleman worked as a consultant with composer Max Richter on Sleep—an eight-hour composition intended as “a lullaby for a frenetic world.” Airing on BBC Radio 3 from midnight to 8 a.m. on September 27, it will be performed live before a “sleeping audience,” and promises to be “the longest single continuous piece of music ever broadcast live on the BBC.” With Eagleman’s assistance, the piece will not only soothe a frazzled and sleep-starved mind, but “help neuroscientists discover how music affects the subconscious” (Telegraph). “I think of Sleep as an experiment into how music and the mind can interact in this other state of consciousness,” Richter says, “one we all spend decades of our lives completely immersed in, but which is so far rather poorly understood. I consulted with the neuroscientist David Eagleman on how music can relate to the sleep state and have incorporated our conversations in the compositional process of the work” (BBC).

To book Margaret Atwood, Negin Farsad, Wajahat Ali, Reza Aslan, Francesca Gino, or David Eagleman for your next event, contact The Lavin Agency speakers bureau.

Lavin Weekly #4: Packer, Gino, Rushkoff, Thompson

1. George Packer Asks If Suburban Paris Is an Incubator for Terrorism

Turning his razor-sharp journalistic focus to France, New Yorker staff writer and bestselling author George Packer examines life in the banlieues (or the pejorative word for slums, populated largely by immigrants) and the cités (enormous housing projects) outside Paris in “The Other France.” In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo murders, the “cités and their occupants are the subject of anxious and angry discussion in France,” with the fear that these dilapidated suburban expanses are hotbeds for Islamic-based terrorist organizations and extremist recruitment. As with all of Packer’s long-form journalism, “The Other France” is an engrossing deep-dive into a red-hot issue that touches on immigration, displacement, urban life, religion, nationalism, racism, and much more. It’s a sweeping look at life in the twenty-first century, by the author of The Unwinding and one of North America’s finest investigative journalists.

2. Training Can Help Eliminate Problematic Bias in the Workplace, Says Francesca Gino

Behavioral Scientist and Harvard professor Francesca Gino has written a piece for Harvard Business Review that takes a look at Facebook’s recent anti-bias courses for its employees. Conscious and unconscious biases (related to race, gender, income, and other factors) have costly monetary and ethical consequences in the workplace, so Gino argues that these types of training courses are a great first step. Nevertheless, they’ve got to be properly implemented and developed. To that end, Gino suggests three valuable directives for companies who want to help their employees accept the presence of biases, realize their harmful effects, and work to eliminate their own prejudices. “With the participants’ sustained effort,” Gino says, commenting on one intervention, “prejudicial attitudes decreased and stayed down for at least two months. Thus, unconscious biases, like a bad habit, can be unlearned, but it takes some conscious effort.”

3. To Douglas Rushkoff, Zombie-Mania All Comes Down to Digital Overload

In a short clip for Business Insider, media theorist Douglas Rushkoff provides an incisive explanation for the allure of smash hits like The Walking Dead and its new spin-off series, Fear the Walking Dead. According to Rushkoff—author of such pioneering works as Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now—apocalyptic fictions like The Walking Dead provide gratifying escapes from our exhausting present; they offer cathartic fantasies of a world (permanently) unplugged. If we’re always racing to stay up-to-date with trending topics, incessant messages, and continuous information—a never-ending loop of alerts—we’re locked in a constant state of anxiety. Even if zombie narratives are violent, they’re energized by take-charge scenarios where humans are the most important commodity. “We devalued the human,” says Rushkoff. “We live in a world where algorithms are better at the stock market than people, where we are trying to be more like our Twitter feed … But I think what we have to do—if we’re humans—is be on team human.”

4. Derek Thompson Gives Another Glimpse of the Automated Future on CNN

Sharing ideas expressed in his Atlantic July/August cover story “A World Without Work,” Senior Editor Derek Thompson appeared on CNN Money to discuss how new automating technologies may pose a significant threat to common occupations in the US. All of the most common jobs in America are deeply ‘automatable,’ according to Oxford research—and we should expect cab drivers, truckers, and limousine drivers (the country’s number one job among males in the States) to feel a major impact from Uber and Google-powered driverless cars. “You look at the fleet of automated technologies, the software that exists right now,” says Thompson, “and it’s rather frightening to me to think about how many jobs can be replaced by technologies that we understand to be right on the horizon.” The full conversation between CNN’s Fareed Zakaria and Derek Thompson aired on Sunday, August 23rd.

To book keynote speakers George Packer, Francesca Gino, Douglas Rushkoff, or Derek Thompson for your next event, contact The Lavin Agency speakers bureau.

The Expert Guide: Introducing New Speaker Randall Lane

If you’ve read Forbes Magazine recently, you’ve witnessed Randall Lane’s incredible editorial influence: by emphasizing the achievements of young innovators and disrupters, he’s helped the magazine reach millions of new readers. Lane is also the creator of the Forbes 400 Summit on Philanthropy and the Under 30 Summit: two landmark annual events that gather the world’s most influential and generous minds in business.

Lane was able to push Forbes to new heights based on his own impressive entrepreneurial background. He spent over a decade launching game-changing magazines and start-ups, including Trader Monthly, Dealmaker, and P.O.V. (Adweek’s “Start-up of the Year”). This taught him the often overlooked value of the millennial generation and this century’s most innovative entrepreneurs: the people reimagining the rules of business and solving the world’s most intractable problems. The ascent of the young and the ambitious is incomparably captured in his latest book, You Only Have to Be Right Once: The Unprecedented Rise of the Instant Tech Billionaires.

In his informative talks, Lane goes beyond buzzwords to break down how new technologies and disruptions are redefining creativity, management, leadership, and innovation as we know them. If you want to get ahead of the trends, and know exactly what these changes mean for your industry, there’s no one more insightful than Randall Lane. He offers the most inspiring stories of the digital generation, rolling out a customized blueprint for professional reinvention for any sector. And he provides a uniquely informed perspective on how to focus on mission and purpose to take your business to new levels.

As a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the global board of directors for The Global Poverty Project/Global Citizen, the board for Last Mile Health, and multiple boards affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania, Lane is a tireless member of—and commentator on—the worlds of business and philanthropy. He is the insider’s guide: an essential voice to help guide us navigate the newest frontiers of business.

To book Randall Lane as the keynote speaker for your next event, contact The Lavin Agency speakers bureau

Envy as Powerful Motivator: Maria Konnikova in The New Yorker

In her recent New Yorker column, psychologist Maria Konnikova asks the pointed question: “Can Envy Be Good for You?” Her answer? Yes, it can. “The right kind of envy can serve an important personal and social function,” she writes. “It spurs competition and improvement.”

She’s not suggesting that we foster ruthless competitiveness. She also admits that “feeling envy is unpleasant,” and is “frequently corrosive and destructive.” But not all forms of envy are the same. According to research by psychologist Niels van de Ven, there’s a crucial difference between malicious and benign versions—and the two “spur us to act in very different ways.” His test subjects reported that “malicious envy felt much more frustrating, the experience led to a motivation to hurt the other, and one hoped that the other would fail in something.” In other words, nastiness, hostility, resentfulness, or what we typically attribute to the emotion.

On the other hand, feelings of benign envy had much more positive effects. To Konnikova, it may even “inspire us to reach new heights of achievement.” In van de Ven’s study, test subjects experiencing the benign form claimed “the other was liked more, the situation was more inspiring, and one tried harder to attain more for oneself.” Benign envy thus operates like a somewhat painful admiration; those experiencing it “worked harder” to “change for the better.” Separate studies show that benign envy correlates with “an increase in [a subject’s] ability to pay attention to, and commit details to memory about, the target.” Still other research shows benign envy can have a positive impact on creativity tests and remote associates tasks.

In columns like this—and in her illuminating talks—Konnikova makes cutting-edge psychology meaningful and relevant. Combining fascinating neuroscience and surprising discoveries, Konnikova’s keynotes can help individuals and organizations improve their creative powers and sharpen their perceptions.

To hire Maria Konnikova for your event, contact the Lavin Agency speakers bureau

Shaping Discourse: Five Lavin Speakers Named to “100 Global Thought Leaders”

In a comprehensive new study, the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute set out to answer these questions: Who are the thought leaders shaping today's discourse on the future of society and the economy? Whose ideas are defining and changing our lives? The 2013 Global Thought Leaders list emerged, featuring several influential Lavin speakers. The study used a number of factors to measure influence, including Wikipedia, the blogosphere, Google Scholar hits, and YouTube and TED Talks, all measured by high-tech software and analyzed by GDI.

Lavin speakers featured on the list are:

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jared Diamond and his idea “evolution geography.”
Celebrated writer Salman Rushdie and his book The Satanic Verses.
Leading cognitive scientist Steven Pinker and his idea “language instinct.”
Distinguished biologist Edward O. Wilson and his idea “sociobiology.”
Innovation expert Tom Wujec and his idea “return of imagination.”

The list also includes luminaries Al Gore, Slavoj Žižek, Joseph Stiglitz, Jane Goodall, Niall Ferguson, Jonathan Haidt, and Naomi Klein. Key themes that emerged from the list—alerting us to what's happening in popular discourse—are philosophy, thinkers who are also doers, those who can bridge the gap between disciplines, and the importance of video talks such as TED. These discoveries give us a fascinating glimpse into what's important to our society right now, and where popular thought is heading in the coming years.

To book one of the 2013 Global Thought Leaders as a speaker for your next conference or event, contact The Lavin Agency.

Why Does Time Seem To Slow Down In Dangerous Situations? David Eagleman

Have you ever wondered why time seems to pass by at a snail's pace sometimes? So did science speaker David Eagleman. That's why he dove into the idea—literally—by testing out why we perceive time as moving slower than usual while in a life-threatening situation. As he recalls in his newest Big Think segment (embedded above), he did so by experimenting with people's reactions to jumping from a 150-foot tower.

While the participants thought they were seeing time pass by slower than usual during their jump, Eagleman says that time is actually a retrospective assessment. “In other words, when you're in a life-threatening situation, your brain writes down memory much more densely,” he says, “and then, retrospectively, when you look at that you have some many details that you don't normally have, that it seems as though it must have lasted a long time.” Your perception of how long something took is based mostly on two things: How much energy your brain expelled during the event and how much “footage” you have of the event. That means we don't actually see time as moving slower in the moment, it's just that our brains have perceived the event to have lasted a long time. So the next time you're in a precarious situation, remember that time isn't actually moving as slowly as you think.

David Eagleman is a highly respected neuroscientist and international bestselling author. His research is intriguing and he dynamically presents his eye-opening findings in sought-after keynotes. Applicable to business experts and scientists alike, if you book a speaker like David Eagleman—expect to be kept on the edge of your seat and have your mind expanded.