alt

Jason Illian

Managing Director of Koch Disruptive Technologies (KDT), published author and nationally renowned speaker.

International Finance BBA, Texas Christian University

Read Full Bio

Subject matter expertise

Disruptive technology  |  Future of technology  |  VC funding model  |  Entrepreneurship  |  Artificial intelligence  |  Blockchain and crypto  |  Bio IT and genomics  |  Industrial robotics

Select previous speaking engagements

Koch Industries About Polymers Fibers
Koch Industries About fertilizers icon
Koch Industries About electronics software data analytics icon
Koch Industries About automotive icon
Koch Industries About forest consumer products icon

Featured topics and delivery style

Disrupting Ourselves – Being a Catalyst or Casualty of Change

Imagine renting out your couch to a stranger, climbing into the car of a driver you don’t know, or buying luggage with digital money not controlled by any government. These ideas were once considered crazy. Now they are the basis of some of the most powerful technology companies and trends. These ideas were not obvious.  They were not intuitive.  Now they are commonplace.

Blockbuster, Kodak, Nokia, Barnes & Noble — all massive companies that controlled their industries, but they laughed in the face of disruption. They all saw the future and none of them took the leap. In every company across the country, meetings are happening every day that will guide a firm to be a catalyst or a casualty of change. Aggressive, principled entrepreneurs who surround themselves with others who have aligned vision and complementary capabilities will have an opportunity. Others will not.

The difference is simple. Those who are willing to disrupt themselves before being disrupted by others have the greatest chance for success. But they have to embrace transformative change and people with seemingly outlandish ideas and direction.

Intentional Misfits – How Principled Leaders Embrace Disruption and Innovation

Principled leaders are often intentional misfits, always limping, embracing the disruption and innovation that causes uncomfortable change both internally and externally. They have a strong market-based framework in which to stand, but they also understand that they have to continuously adapt and pivot. The strength of Silicon Valley, and the companies that are often birthed there, is a willingness to hold two seemingly incompatible elements — rapid change AND rapid growth — at the same time. And it often takes an intentional misfit to lead others through this uncertainly, discomfort, and lack of clarity.

Good But Not Safe – Painful, Positive Change

In the book, “The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe,” a young child named Susan inquires about the mighty lion-king named Aslan. “Is he safe?” she asks. Mr. Beaver responds, “Who said anything about safe? ’Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.”

Technology is changing everything. And that’s good, but it is not necessarily safe to current business models, traditional companies, or change-resistant organizations. The wave of genetic-changing, mind-reading, autonomous-driving, augmented-reality capabilities is upon us, and it has the potential to make all human lives better and happier. But disruption can be messy and unequally distributed. People and companies slow to change could have the wave come crashing down on their heads. Traditional, slow-moving bureaucracies won’t make it.

Leaders have to adapt quickly and make sure their teams do the same. Those who care deeply about developing people, implementing positive social change, transforming culture, and driving innovation can help their tribes adapt to painful, positive change.

These leaders will be good, but not safe.

The Last 2% – Hard but Transformative Conversations

At the end of every meeting — right when everyone was ready to bounce up off their chairs and scurry back to their offices — one of my mentors would state, “Ok, let’s get the last 2% on the table. If anyone disagrees, has concerns, thinks there is a better way, or just wants to express feelings on the matter, do it now.” And then the REAL meeting would start.

Everyone who has been part of a team knows that the most important conversations rarely get discussed at meetings. They are gossiped about at lunch, whispered about in the hallways, and argued about behind closed doors.  But the truly transformative leaders figure out a way to get the good stuff — the hard stuff — on the table, driven by transparency and authenticity. The 80/20 rule is not applicable when trying to spur transformative change. We have to squeeze out the last 2%, stretching ourselves to dig into truth and issues that really matter.

We have electric, autonomous cars on the horizon. We have the genetic and computational tools to alter DNA and eradicate diseases. We have artificial intelligence that can already beat humans at chess, cards, and Alpha Go, and will soon make certain decisions better and faster than we can. To position ourselves and our companies for such massive change, we have to talk about the last 2% openly and honestly. It is hard. But the best leaders create an environment that embraces challenge, expects open disagreements, aligns incentives, and makes critical decisions. And these innovators will be the leaders of tomorrow.

Hero Image
Jason shares his expertise with audiences across the industry.

What they’re saying about Jason

“Who said anything about safe?  ‘Course he isn’t safe.  But he’s good.”
Jason IllianAuthor of Everything

“Who said anything about safe?  ‘Course he isn’t safe.  But he’s good.”
Jason IllianAuthor of Everything

“Who said anything about safe?  ‘Course he isn’t safe.  But he’s good.”
Jason IllianAuthor of Everything

Jason’s Bio

Prior to KDT, Jason was the founder and CEO of BookShout, the world's leading B2B e-book company. He has presented at the Goldman Sachs Technology & Internet Conference, the Credit Suisse Global Media and Communications Convergence Conference, and hundreds of other organizations. He has been featured on ABC, in The New York Times, and numerous radio interviews.

As the mid-to-late stage venture arm of Koch Industries, KDT invests in technology companies that disrupt and transform Koch’s core businesses and expand into new platforms and capabilities. Segments being explored include artificial intelligence, blockchain and crypto, bio IT and genomics, and industrial robotics.