New Leaf Speakers New Leaf Speakers

Whitney Johnson

Recognized as one of the top 50 business thinkers in the world, Author and Co-Founder, with Clayton Christensen, Rose Park Advisors’ Disruptive Innovation Fund


Recognized as one of the 50 leading business thinkers in the world since 2015 (Thinkers50), Whitney Johnson is an expert on disruptive innovation and personal disruption; specifically, a framework which she codifies in the critically acclaimed book Disrupt Yourself: Putting the Power of Disruptive Innovation to Work. She is also the author of Dare, Dream, Do: Remarkable Things  Happen When You Dare to Dream.  Her latest title, Build An “A” Team: Become a Boss People Love, will be released in May 2018 by Harvard Business Publishing.

She developed her proprietary framework and diagnostics after co-founding The Disruptive Innovation Fund with Harvard Business School’s Clayton Christensen. This framework is complemented by a deep understanding of how executives create and destroy value, having spent nearly a decade as an Institutional Investor ranked equity analyst on Wall Street.

In addition to her work as a speaker and advisor, Whitney is one of Marshall Goldsmith’s original cohort of 25 for the #100 Coaches Project, is a coach for Harvard Business School’s Executive Education program, frequent contributor to the Harvard Business Review, is a Linkedin influencer, and hosts the twice-monthly Disrupt Yourself Podcast. You can follow her on Twitter at @johnsonwhitney.


  • Speaker Reel 2016

  • Disrupt Yourself: TEDxEmbarcadero

  • Disrupt Yourself: Harvard Business Review

  • Dare, Dream, Do.

  • Good Life Project: How A Pianist Took Wall Street by Storm

  • Unleash 2012


“You’ve inspired me, and you had the audience totally engaged. Thanks so much for working with us!”

— Kellye Whitney, Associate Editorial, Human Capital Media ®

“Last week, we (Microsoft) just brought Whitney in to speak to a group of senior women engineers, on her current book, “Disrupt Yourself”. While we bring in speakers, we hadn’t done something quite like this before. An experiment. She was phenomenal. The audience (which was was oversubscribed) was totally engaged, across the spectrum. So, too, were the handful of men who joined in (including some very senior ones). Everyone wanted more.  This should not be surprising, since her content isn’t really gendered at all. But of course since our ‘in’ was this women’s group, the realization on the back end was: “Wow, this isn’t for women at all. It’s for ….PEOPLE!”

— Tereza Nemessanyi, Microsoft, Entrepreneur In Residence

Johnson surpassed all of our expectations because she was smart, entertaining and gave thoughtful points to consider.  “Whitney’s book not only gives you lessons for your business life, she also provided information about how this can be useful in your personal life.  It’s sort of an extra bonus.”

— Jane Kulow, Virginia Festival of Books

“My friend Whitney Johnson has just released a new book, Disrupt Yourself, that I recommend for anyone interested or engaged in the challenging process of change. We are living in an era of accelerating disruption; no one is immune. Managing the S-curve waves of learning and mastery is a requisite skill for the future.  . . I encourage you to buy her book today, if you are ready to let go of fear and jump off into the possibilities of change.”

— John Mattone, President and CEO of John Mattone-Global, Speaker & Author

 “EXCELLENT response to Whitney’s presentation and her joint appearance with Chris Skinner.  She rated a 4.33 out of 5, which is a huge success!  Whitney had great energy, always important at the end of a long day, and people found her relatable and approachable.  She really tied together all the elements of the program very well. Guests  also enjoyed talking with Whitney during the book signing and felt it was a good thing to have a female keynote.  The rest of the program faculty was heavily weighted on the male side, which is typical for the banking industry, so it was great to demonstrate some diversity by hosting Whitney.   Very pleased!”

— Goodwin Procter LLP

“Rethink the fundamentals of your life. Figure out what you were meant to do. Disrupt your status quo. That’s Whitney Johnson’s invitation (and challenge) to each of us in Dare, Dream, Do. I urge you to accept her invitation.”

— Clayton M. Christensen, professor, Harvard Business School and best-selling author, The Innovator’s Dilemma

“I read Dare, Dream, Do with a highlighter clenched between my teeth and a pad of sticky notes in my hand. Whitney Johnson has written a book that is hopeful, honest, and beautifully written….the amazing stories make dreaming accessible without diminishing its power or magic.”

— Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW, author of The Gifts of Imperfection

“As an accomplished business leader, Whitney Johnson acutely understands how to translate ambitions into action. Dare, Dream, Do not only ignites the courage to pursue your aspirations, but also serves as a powerful guide to achieve what once may have seemed out of reach.”

— Moira Forbes, publisher ForbesWoman

“We all have dreams; dreams that seize us, consume us, and inspire us to reach for greatness. Yet the clamor of the world conspires to distance us from our dreams, draining them of their potency. In Dare, Dream, Do, Whitney Johnson shows us, through story and practice, how to reclaim our dreams and become as daring as we always imagined we could be. It is a book at once poignant and powerful.”

— Marcus Buckingham, best-selling author of StandOut, Now, Discover Your Strengths and First, Break All the Rules

“Dare, Dream, Do is filled with great advice and energizing true stories from real women who are bootstrapping their way toward a dream. Pick up this book and you just might find yourself living a life you’ve only imagined! This should be required reading for anyone with a forgotten wish, a pie-in-the-sky fantasy or a quiet dream hidden in their heart. In other words – everyone”

— Barbara Corcoran, NYC real estate mogul and investor on ABC’s reality show “Shark Tank”



Whitney’s presentations are 45 minutes in length, followed by 15 minutes of open Q&A with the audience.  She is open to other formats, so hosts should feel free to share their ideas with us.


Whitney’s core topic is Disrupt Yourself as described below.  Her newest topic, based on her forthcoming book, Build An “A” Team: Become a Boss People Love (Harvard Business Publishing, May 2018), appears below her Disrupt Yourself description.  It will be available for keynote delivery beginning in February 2018.

Disrupt Yourself®: Putting the Power of Disruptive Innovation to Work

The idea is simple, but powerful: disruptive companies and ideas upend markets by doing something truly different – they see a need, an empty space waiting to be filled, and they dare to create something for which a market may not yet exist. An expert in driving innovation via personal disruption, Whitney Johnson will demonstrate how you can put the power of disruptive innovation to work. To help your company in unexpected ways, dare to innovate. Dream big dreams. Do something astonishing. Disrupt yourself.  In this session, Whitney Johnson will share stories of disruption and will teach you how powerful disruption can be in your organization’s evolving reinvention.  Johnson builds on her investment background as co-founder of two early stage venture firms, and an award –winning equity analyst to provide a fresh perspective on innovation and change.

Audience members will leave with practical tips and concrete action steps for how to:

  1. drive innovation throughout their organization,
  2. move into the sweet spot of their personal S-curve,
  3. use the S-curve as a tool for understanding the psychology of disruption, and
  4. accelerate or decelerate innovation and change with a variety of variables.

Pursuing a disruptive course isn’t just a nice thing to do, there’s a compelling business case: the odds of success are 6x higher and the revenue opportunity is 20x greater.

These ideas are for YOU if you are:
1. a high potential individual charting your career trajectory
2. a leader trying to jumpstart innovative thinking in your company
3. a self-starter ready to make a disruptive pivot in your business

These ideas are for your COMPANY if:
1. revenue growth is peaking and you need to reinvent
2. innovative thinking among your management team has stalled
3. industry changes are making the future uncertain

The fundamental unit of disruption is the individual.
The best way to drive corporate innovation is through personal disruption.
Disrupt yourself.
Allow others to do the same.
And disruptive products, services, companies and countries will happen on their own.
Companies don’t disrupt, people do.

Build An “A” Team: Become a Boss People Love
(Book being released by Harvard Business Publishing, May 2018; Keynote available February 2018)

Worried about irrelevance? Are you or your company about to be disrupted? If you are looking for a surefire sign, look at where your workforce is on the S-curve. Based on Whitney Johnson’s proprietary research around disruption, every organization is a collection of individual S or learning curves. You build an A team by optimizing these individual curves. In this speech, you will learn how to manage people all along the S-curve and what to do when they reach the top of that curve. As employees are allowed, even required, to surf their individual S-curve waves, disrupting themselves, you will be less vulnerable to disruption and become a boss people love to work for.




Since 2015 when inducted into the Thinkers50, the Oscars of Business Management, Whitney Johnson has been recognized as one of the world’s most influential thought leaders. She is best known for her work on driving corporate innovation through personal disruption. She was an Institutional Investor-ranked analyst for eight consecutive years, including at Merrill Lynch, and is the former president and co-founder of a boutique investment firm with Harvard Business School’s Clayton Christensen. Johnson’s latest book, Build An “A” Team: Become a Boss People Love will be released by Harvard Business Publishing in May 2018.

Johnson is the author of the critically-acclaimed Disrupt Yourself™: Putting the Power of Disruptive Innovation to Work, one of Inc. Magazines Top 100 Business Books in 2015. She is a frequent contributor to the Harvard Business Review, a LinkedInfluencer, co-founder of Forty Women over 40 to Watch, and was named one of Fortune’s 55 Women to Follow on Twitter. You can follow her at @johnsonwhitney.



Throw Your Life a Curve

How to Make Your Innovative Idea Less Terrifying

Why Innovators Love Constraints

Put Failure In Its Place

It's Time to Dream for a Living

Where There's a Why, There's a Way



IMG_0423 low res

The symbolism behind the elements in this collage:

  • See’s candy is a childhood favorite
  • Pom-poms represent throwing down your pom-poms and getting into the game
  • Whitney’s colleague and the co-Founder of their investment fund, Clayton Christensen, wrote the Innovator’s Dilemma
  • Map of Uruguay where Whitney served her mission
  • Dare, Dream, Do is Whitney’s first book
  • Disrupt Yourself is Whitney’s book planned for 2015
  • Whitney adores her family and has included a photo of her two kids
  • Map of Spain which is where Whitney was born
  • The Red Iguana restaurant has Whitney’s favorite Mexican food

Photo collage by Amy Gray.
Feel free to use, with attribution, after obtaining advance written permission from New Leaf Speakers.