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Rebecca D. Costa          

Sociobiologist & Author of The Watchman's Rattle

In today's world - one in which we generate as much data every two minutes as we generated from the dawn of man to the year 2003 - every institution is collapsing under complexity. With more information, data, and devices than they can manage, organizations spanning every industry are dealing with high rates of failure but are failing to adapt their problem-solving skills to this complex climate.

An evolutionary biologist and provocative new voice in the mold of Thomas Friedman, Malcolm Gladwell, and Jared Diamond, Rebecca Costa understands that failure to adapt results in extinction. She applies this scientific tenet - adapt or die - to organizations to help them find ways to quickly adapt to this high-failure environment in order to not only avoid extinction, but to thrive.

Instrumental in introducing new technologies to General Electric, Apple, 3M, and other pioneering companies, Costa is the first thought leader to confront the ways in which the rapid pace of change in every aspect of our lives has outstripped our brain's ability to cope. In her acclaimed book The Watchman's Rattle: A Radical New Theory of Collapse, she explains how each individual has the ability to solve complex problems through a spontaneous intuitive flash of insight - a skill that we can harness to solve seemingly intractable problems.

In her book as well as her keynote speeches, Rebecca Costa shows her audiences how our brains can be trained to develop and sharpen "insight on demand" to solve the dangerous and complex problems now facing us at home, in our businesses, and around the world. A riveting and entertaining speaker as well as a sought-after panelist on topics ranging from corporate and government gridlock, global economic trends, and pop culture to education and environmental policy, she offers powerful takeaways on how to make corporations and organizations - whether medical, technical, financial, or educational - better fast adapters able to thrive in high-failure environments.

Speech Topics


Why Fast Adapters Win

An award-winning American sociobiologist, author of the international bestseller The Watchman’s Rattle, and host of the syndicated radio program, The Costa Report, Rebecca Costa is one of the most sought-after speakers in the country for industry conferences, corporate events, and university lectures. This informative presentation reveals how complexity produces a “High Failure-Rate Environment” – one where decision-makers must confront “more wrong choices than right ones, as the number of wrong ones grow.” According to Costa, the increasing complexity of processes, information, technology, and policies cause errors to become more prevalent and oversight to become more difficult, making unanticipated collapse more dangerous. Costa shows how leaders can prevail over complexity by mastering techniques and technologies aimed at “Fast Adaptation.” Charismatic, conversational, and often humorous, Costa weaves cutting-edge science with memorable, anecdotal stories.

1-hour presentation with 20-minute Q & A. Optional 1-hour workshop on computer-assisted-decision making technology (Big Data, mobile technology, and everything between).

Hope for Healthcare

Costa describes the detrimental effects complexity has had on the healthcare industry: from the indiscernible Affordable Healthcare Act, to the conversion, access and security of electronic patient records, from a deluge of government and insurance compliances, to the volume, velocity, variety and veracity of information healthcare professionals must now assimilate to remain current in their field. Costa offers prescriptive tools for navigating this new “High Failure-Rate Environment.” She demonstrates how the Venture Capital Model can be applied to diversifying solutions, as well as how computer-assisted decision making is being used in healthcare to overcome “irrational human resistance.” A frequent keynote speaker at health conferences around the world, Costa draws upon the time-honored principles of “Fast Adaptation” to facilitate a nimble, efficient transition to a new era of patient-centric care.

Complexity & Global Finance

Costa delves into the effects complexity has had on global financial markets: from the volume, velocity, variety and veracity of data which must be understood and acted on within pico seconds, to a plethora of indiscernible new financial instruments, and the ramifications of highly interdependent currencies, commodities, and economies. Using Bak’s “Sand Pile” as metaphor, Costa reveals the telltale warning signs which occur prior to sudden failure. She offers strategies and tools aimed at navigating today’s “High Failure-Rate Environment” - where the number of wrong options exceed the number of correct ones. A popular speaker at global financial summits and conferences, Costa has a reputation for exciting, out-of-the-box insights and tools aimed at investors and managers alike.

Energy & Environment

Costa explains why - despite a historical abundance of investment capital, technologies, and favorable government regulations - the growth of alternative energies continues to fall behind expectations. From Space-Based Solar and the latest in biofuels technology, to geothermal, wind, nuclear, hydroelectric, wave energy, and recovered energy generation (REG), Costa shows how energy diversification has produced extremely complex, fast-changing markets where decisions are frequently based on unproven beliefs rather than empirical fact. Costa shows how investors and innovators can prevail in today’s new “High Failure-Rate Environment” by leveraging the time-honored principles of “Fast Adaptation.” Costa is an in-demand speaker at energy and environmental conferences around the world – known for her passion and knowledge of fast-moving energy technologies and markets.

Excellence in Education: Students

Are today’s students equipped to succeed in the same “High Failure-Rate Environment” that university administrators, IT directors, faculty, and alumni are presently struggling with? Costa answers this question by addressing the hazards of exponentiating complexity in every aspect of life: from the velocity, volume, variety, and veracity of new information and difficulty of tackling fast-moving “systemic” problems, to the increasing dangers of sudden collapse. Drawing upon the time-honored principles of “Fast Adaptation,” Costa offers prescriptive strategies and tools for prevailing in a world where the number of wrong choices outweigh the number of correct ones. A popular speaker on college campuses, Costa weaves humorous anecdotal stories with top news stories and leading-edge science.

Retail & Manufacturing

From new PCI compliances, social media, and fast moving global economies, to the volume, velocity, and variety of consumer data which must be analyzed and quickly responded to – today’s retail and manufacturing companies are overwhelmed by unprecedented layers of complexity. Costa reveals how this complexity leads to a “High Failure-Rate Environment,” where leaders must face more wrong choices than correct ones. She demonstrates how new tactics, technologies (computer-assisted decision making/Big Data), and discoveries in neuroscience – aimed at “Fast Adaptation” - are essential for effective leadership and growth in a “High Failure Rate Environment.” Costa is a popular speaker at corporate and industry events, including The National Retail Association, Dole Foods, General Electric, Vistage International, Nutracon, Comdex, The Offshore technology Conference, G20 Summit, and others.

Government, Legal & Social Services

As tax codes, new legislation, financial markets, healthcare, foreign relations, and every other area of governance grows more complex, leaders require new strategies and tools designed specifically for “High Failure-Rate Environments” - where the number of wrong solutions are greater than the number of correct ones. Costa demonstrates how exploding complexity produces gridlock and belief-based policy, rather than decisions based on empirical data. She offers a historical perspective of the relationship between complexity and governance and, using the time-honored principles of “Fast Adaptation,” demonstrates how a new breed of leaders are poised master complexity and govern more efficiently than ever before. Costa is a frequent speaker to government and government subcontractor, and social service agency events, including keynote presentations at the G20 Summit, Brookings Institution, United Nations, American Red Cross, Community Services of West Virginia, International Association of Emergency Managers, etc.

The Tempo of Technology

Most technology professionals are familiar with the challenges associated with the velocity, volume, variety, and veracity of data, but Costa takes this deluge a step further. What are the ramifications to business, governance, and individuals of the unprecedented explosion of complexity? Using examples from history, Costa reveals how complexity produces gridlock as well as a “High Failure-Rate Environment,” which makes systems and organizations vulnerable to sudden collapse. Costa offers prescriptive strategies, tools, and technologies - based on the principles of “Fast Adaptation” - which are a must for tomorrow’s technology leaders.

Agriculture Today

From second-by-second changes in meteorological data, Just-in-Time inventory and distribution systems, and fluctuations in global currency markets, to complex new compliances and regulations, wild swings in energy prices, water issues and new issues with contamination and disease, growing techniques, and genetic engineering – agriculture is presently overwhelmed by a historically unprecedented velocity, variety, and volume of data. Costa describes how this traditional industry is making the transition to “Smart-Ag” through the use of Big Data combined with mobile applications, and offers new strategies and tools extracted directly from hospital emergency rooms to help agriculture leaders successfully navigate today’s “High Failure-Rate Environment.”

The Cautionary Side of Big Data

Big Data analytics, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, nanobots, facial recognition, wearable technology, self-driving cars, suborbital space flight and more - all coming to a town near you, in a matter of months. What ramifications will the fastest exponentiation of technology in history have on the human organism? According to Dr. E.O. Wilson, “We have Paleolithic emotions, Medieval Institutions and God-like technology and this is a dangerous situation.” But futurist, Ray Kurzweil sees it differently: these breaking technologies inch us closer to “the singularity” – a time when man and machine are indistinguishable and we will live forever. Who is right? What are the human limitations of technology adoption and adaptation? Are there any?

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