When the stakes are high, the unknowns are threatening, and the problems seem insurmountable, you need a superhero — which means you need Ozan Varol.
—DANIEL H. PINK, New York Times bestselling author of WHEN, DRIVE, and A WHOLE NEW MIND
Ozan has worked with thousands of business leaders and employees to boost their performance at work.
A renowned professor, author, and speaker, Ozan is one of the world’s foremost experts in creativity and critical thinking. Audiences love Ozan’s blend of big ideas, witty stories, and down-to-earth humor. He’s a master at simplifying complex topics and delivering numerous “a ha!” moments. Attendees walk away with practical insights they can implement right away to level up in work and life.
Ozan’s wide-ranging background (as a former rocket scientist turned lawyer turned university professor and popular author) allows him to connect with audiences from wide-ranging backgrounds. He’s delivered keynote speeches to small and large crowds at conferences, start-ups, and Fortune 500 companies across numerous industries.
Ozan’s keynotes typically last for 1 hour, which includes a Q&A period. Ozan also conducts workshops (ranging from 2-4 hours) for businesses interested in applying his strategies to real-life problems and getting more in-depth, personalized advice from him.
You can read testimonials about his keynote speeches below and watch a segment from a previous presentation.
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See a sample from a keynote
How to Think Like a Rocket Scientist
Rocket science is often hailed as the triumph of technology. But it’s not. Rather, it’s the triumph of the people behind the technology and the thought process they use to solve the seemingly unsolvable and turn the impossible into the possible. This thought process has allowed rocket scientists to score dozens of interplanetary holes-in-one with supersonic spacecraft, sending them millions of miles through outer space and landing them exactly where they want. It’s the same thought process that brings humanity closer and closer to colonizing other planets.
In the modern era, rocket-science thinking is a necessity. The world is evolving at dizzying speed, and we must continuously evolve with it to keep pace. Although not everyone aspires to calculate burn rate coefficients or orbital trajectories, we all encounter complex and unfamiliar problems in our daily lives. Those who can tackle these problems—without clear guidelines and with the clock ticking—enjoy an extraordinary advantage.
This keynote will provide actionable strategies for putting rocket-science thinking to use, whether you’re on the launch pad or in the boardroom. You’ll learn the secret ingredient behind every revolutionary innovation in rocket science; what sets apart top performers when it comes to solving complex problems; how to reframe questions to generate better answers; why we should switch our default from convincing others that we’re right to convincing ourselves that we’re wrong; how to nail your next product launch using an unstoppable astronaut training strategy; why success produced some of the biggest disasters in rocket-science history and how you can safeguard against the same pitfalls.
To illustrate how broadly these principles apply, I’ll weave gripping anecdotes from rocket science with comparable illustrations from business, politics, and law that exemplify the rocket-science mindset.
You won’t be a rocket scientist by the end of this keynote. But you’ll learn how to think like one.
Facts Don’t Change Minds. Here’s What Does.
This keynote is partially based on one of my articles that went viral, garnering nearly 500,000 views. In the keynote, I’ll explain how, as a former rocket scientist, I was trained to use objective facts and data to change someone’s mind. I later discovered a problem with this approach: It doesn’t work. The mind doesn’t follow the facts, even for the most enlightened among us, however credible and convincing those facts might be. Over time, our opinions solidify, and it becomes harder to disrupt established patterns of thinking.
The keynote explains how we can change someone’s mind—whether it’s our own or our neighbor’s. I’ll explore how alternative facts proliferate; why disagreements in the modern world often turn into existential death matches; and how we can cultivate the ability to entertain thoughts without accepting them. The participants will walk away with practical strategies they can use to build empathy and connect with people operating on different frequencies.
Why Nothing Succeeds Like Failure
We’re wired to fear failure. Centuries ago, if we didn’t fear failure, we became prey to a ravenous grizzly bear. Growing up, failure got us into the principal’s office. Failure meant dropping out of college or not getting our dream job. To ward off the bogeyman of failure, we keep a safe distance from it. We stay off the edges, avoid healthy risks, and play it safe.
This natural tendency to avoid failure is a recipe for failing. Behind every canvas unpainted, every goal unattempted, every business unlaunched, every book unwritten, is the looming fear of failure.
On my podcast Famous Failures, I’ve interviewed titans from all walks of life about the failures they’ve had in life and in business. In this talk, I’ll share this wealth of knowledge and inspiration with the audience. You’ll learn why most of us think about failure the wrong way and how we can redefine our relationship with it. I’ll explain why companies pay lip service to learning from failure, but don’t follow through in practice. I’ll reveal the strategies that elite institutions use to build failure into their business model and create an environment where employees willingly reveal their mistakes, instead of concealing them. You’ll walk away from the keynote with science-backed strategies for failing gracefully and creating the right conditions for learning from failure.
[Note: This keynote has been particularly popular in industries with higher-than-average failure rates (e.g., pharmaceutical).].
The Power of Contrarian Thinking
We’re genetically programmed to follow the herd. Thousands of years ago, conformity to our tribe was essential to our survival. Not anymore. The ability to disrupt established methods and find new ways of looking at old ideas is one of the most sought-after qualifications in all fields. It’s a superpower that allows you to see things that others miss.
Yet this super power is becoming increasingly rare. Businesses plant their lightning rod where lightning struck last and wait for it to strike again. This worked once, so let’s do it again. And again. And again. This strategy can work in the short term, but it’s a recipe for long-term disaster. The winds of fashion are fickle, and trends are transitory. Over time, imitation makes the original obsolete.
This keynote focuses on the power of contrarian thinking—the ability to question and redefine conventional wisdom. I’ll share strategies on how to grow comfortable with the uncertainty of redefining the status quo; what you can do to identify the invisible rules that hold you back; how reasoning from first principles can allow you to not only think outside the box, but escape the box entirely; and how to use a technique called combinatory play to redefine the rules of the game.
When you learn how to challenge the status quo, you won’t just change the way you view the world. You’ll be empowered to change the world itself.