Matthew E. May

Expert on Strategy & Innovation, Author.
Matthew E. May: Winning the Brain Game.

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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.

• Matthew E. May holds an MBA from The Wharton School and a BA from Johns Hopkins University, but he counts winning the New Yorker cartoon caption contest as one of his most creative achievements.

• Matthew E. May has a deep passion for ideas that solve a difficult problem in an elegant way. He defines an elegant solution as one that is both uncommonly simple and surprisingly powerful, and that achieves the maximum effect with minimum means.

• Above all, Matthew E. May is a practitioner of business strategy and innovation with powerful lessons learned and war stories to tell from years in the trenches with companies ranging from small startups to companies as large and multinational as Toyota, where he spent eight years as a full-time advisor.

• Matthew E. May blends his frontline experience with research from his books in order to deliver useful concepts with immediate application, and aims to achieve four things in every address: 1. inspire new thinking; 2. share a unique perspective; 3. tell compelling stories; and 4. deliver practical takeaways.

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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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Video & Audio
  • Matthew E. May: Ideacide - How to Kill an Idea
  • Matthew E. May: Creating Intangible Value
  • Matthew E. May: Limiting Engages the Imagination.