Matthew E. May Headshot
Report a problem with this profile
[email protected]

Matthew E. May      

Author, Winning the Brain Game

Matthew E. May is an internationally recognized leader on strategy, innovation, and lean. Working as a solo advisor and coach, he specializes in helping senior executives and teams craft winning strategies and innovative approaches that result in sustainable, competitive advantages. He has a deep passion for ideas that solve a difficult problem in an elegant way, incorporating powerful lessons from years working with companies ranging from small startups to those as large as Toyota, where he spent eight years as a full-time advisor.

May has written five books on innovative thinking, his latest being Winning the Brain Game: Fixing the 7 Fatal Flaws of Thinking. His previous include The Laws of Subtraction, In Pursuit of Elegance, The Shibumi Strategy, and The Elegant Solution. May writes the bimonthly “Brain Game” column for Inc. magazine, and his work has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Strategy+Business, The Rotman Magazine, Fast Company, and Harvard Business Review. He holds an MBA from The Wharton School and a BA from Johns Hopkins University.

Speech Topics


4. Toyota + Innovation: Forging New Inroads to Invention

Smart leaders know the necessity of thinking differently at every level: creating compelling customer value, flowing that value through streamlined processes, and embedding a cultural discipline around constant creativity and continuous innovation. And no better example of the post-industrial innovative organization exists than 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 is a focused and structured approach to everyday innovation, resulting in over 3,000 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, May offers a vital prescription of ten key cultural practices that are a must-have for organizations seeking new inroads to innovation.

3. Elegant Solutions: Why the Best Ideas in Business Have One Thing Missing

What 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?

The answer? Elegance.

In this thought-provoking exploration of why certain events, products, and people capture our attention and imaginations, May 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. 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.

2. Subtraction: Removing Excess for Better, Smarter Business

How do you stand out and stay relevant in a world that is massively distracting and mostly disruptive? It’s a daunting challenge for everyone, no matter their walk in life. In an age of excess everything, success looks different, and now demands a new skill: Subtraction.

Matthew E. May defines subtraction as 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. In this keynote, May outlines six simple rules for winning (in business, as well as life) 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.

1. The Brain Game: Fixing the Seven Fatal Flaws of Business Thinking

Science confirms the distinction between the biological brain and the conscious mind. Each day, a game of mind versus matter plays out on a field defined by the problems we need to solve. Most are routine, and don’t demand a more mindful approach. It’s when we’re faced with more difficult challenges that our thinking becomes vulnerable to brain patterns that lead us astray: We leap to solutions that simply don’t work; we fixate on old mindsets that keep us stuck in neutral; we overthink problems and make them worse; and we kill the ideas of others, as well as our own. Worse, we keep doing these things, over and over again, naturally and instinctively.

In this provocative and highly interactive keynote, Matthew E. May engages audiences in the same simple thought challenges given to over 100,000 people during a 10-year period. Calling on modern neuroscience and psychology to help explain the “seven fatal flaws,” May draws insight from some of the world’s most innovative thinkers. He then combines a super-curated, field-tested set of “fixes,” proven through hundreds of creative sessions, to raise our thinking game to a more mindful level.

5. Mind of the Innovator

How Game-Changers “Think Different” The pressure to stand out and stay relevant in a fiercely competitive marketplace demands innovative thinking to jump the curve and move to the next level. That pressure falls squarely on the shoulders of the individual, because companies don’t innovate, people do. The tension between business objectives and creative thinking isn’t easily resolved…unless you can tame the traps of traditional thinking. In this compelling keynote, Matthew takes the audience inside the minds of the world’s most creative executives and entrepreneurs to reveal how they crush the status quo, write their own rules, change the game, and move the world.

6. Elegant Leadership

Secrets to Achieving the Maximum Effect With Minimum Means Amidst an arguably expanding world economy, one fact stands clear: business leaders are facing a scarcity of resources. Materials cost increases and other financial burdens combined with an ever-shrinking pool of top talent leaves leaders facing a critical capability challenge. Enter the concept of elegance: achieving the maximum effect with minimum means. In this compelling keynote, Matthew reveals how the best leaders spur creativity and innovation among their ranks by imposing intelligent constraints.

7. Competing for the Future

The Art of Playing to Win Leaders at every level face the same daunting challenge: how to win consistently in a massively disruptive business environment. Enter the need for a forward-looking strategy that enables a player to create a sustainable advantage and superior value relative to the competition. In this talk, Matthew show leaders how to begin with a future-back winning aspiration, then answer two deceptively simple questions: Where will you play? and How will you win? Blending compelling examples with stories from years of front-line experience facilitating strategy sessions, this keynote delivers a master class on competing for the future.

Related Speakers View all


More like Matthew