Bill Burnett is the Executive Director of the Design Program at Stanford. He directs the undergraduate and graduate program in design at Stanford, both interdepartmental programs between the Mechanical Engineering department and the Art department.
Bill Burnett got his BS and MS in Product Design at Stanford and has worked professionally on a wide variety of projects ranging from award-winning Apple PowerBooks to the original Hasbro Star Wars action figures.
He holds a number of mechanical and design patents, and design awards for a variety of products including the first “slate” computer. In addition to his duties at Stanford, he is a on the Board of VOZ (pronounced “VAWS – it means voice in Spanish) a social responsible high fashion startup and advises several Internet start-up companies.
Bill Burnett is the author, along with Dave Evans, of Designing Your Life and Designing Your New Work Life.
The question “What do I want to be when I grow up?” is one that never truly goes away. Whether you are a college grad entering the workforce, a forty year-old shifting careers, or a sixty-eight year-old trying to define an encore career, the search for a fulfilling life never stops. In this riveting keynote that can be adapted to a hands-on workshop, award-winning product designer Bill Burnett teaches audiences how to look at career and life planning through the lens of design. Participants are given the tools to build their way forward and to develop various life scenarios just like a designer tests multiple prototypes. This approach fosters creativity and adaptability and allows audiences to accept that there is never just one right path.
In today’s fast-paced markets, every organization needs to master the Art of Innovation. Stanford’s Design Group has been teaching and researching this topic for over 50 years and Bill Burnett, a graduate and the former Executive Director of this program, can help your team understand how to organize for innovation and teach you how to create a Culture of Creativity. His talks include some neuroscience, some theory, and some very practical ideas for how to shift your thinking to make innovation a regular part of your portfolio.
The pandemic of 2020 created massive disruption—a change of such scale that things will never be the same again. Life-altering disruptions can be personal, regional or global and are increasingly part of modern life. We all need to know how to design our way through them. When a disruption arrives, it ends the way things were and throws life into a confusing latent zone before the new world begins. It’s tempting to “just wait” for things to go back to “normal”—but they never will. The only way out of the waiting room is through generative acceptance. In this presentation, Bill Burnett shows how to turn the ambiguity of disruption into design freedom by generatively engaging the new reality and staying ahead of the unpredictable. Learning how to set the bar low and clear it with frequent and small redesigns for all aspects of life and work can help us not only learn to survive disruption, but to find new opportunities within the uncertainty. Disruption Design is a new core competency for modern life.
The pandemic forced our humanity out into the open, especially on the job. When you Zoom into work from the bedroom, your colleagues see you as a real person, not just a role. Disruption hits us all so hard that it makes our shared humanity—our hurts, our fears, our vulnerability—immediately more visible, and increases the levels of trust between employer and employee. Bill Burnett demonstrates how this change in relationships offers the potential to make work a more human experience for all of us. He also warns against the danger for business leaders who ignore this shift in the culture. If organizations try to simply return to “normal” and take away that increased level of trust and recognition from their employees, they will soon find their talent looking elsewhere.
Talent management professionals know that traditional, hierarchical relationships between employers and employees are shifting rapidly, and the future of talent retention, particularly among millennials, lies in keeping employees engaged. In this lecture, Bill Burnett helps talent management professionals become early adopters of design thinking, integrating managers’ personal development conversations with employees’ life design goals so that each employee can actively co-create his or her experience within the company.
The notion that a student’s college major will determine what they do for the rest of their life and that everyone must find their “passion” if they are to succeed are myths, or what psychologists call dysfunctional beliefs. In this thoughtful and inspiring lecture, Burnett helps college students and grads debunk these myths and understand that there is no single right path. Following the framework of design, Burnett walks audiences through the process of trying out lots of ideas, taking action and learning by doing. This is a lecture that can change a student’s life.
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"Bill was engaging, humorous, and fearless in taking our questions and scenarios, and also in sharing his views of other processes for attaining creativity and innovation. We put ourselves in his hands for 4 hours, and emerged more thoughtful and energized than I could have hoped for. I highly recommend engaging with Bill to get a different way of thinking about life’s important questions and a different pathway to solving them."
"Dave and Bill perfectly hit the balance for the audience and spoke to the crowd in a targeted way. I couldn’t have hoped for anything more. The room was packed and in spite of being early in the morning, about 1000 people attended. Smashing success."
Clio Cloud Conference
"Bill was great!! His content was right on target with what we requested and received very well by the audience. It really helped deepen our understanding of design thinking."
Center for Creative Arts
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