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Dr. Eric Haseltine

  • Futurist, Innovative Neuroscientist & Co-Author of Riding the Monster: Five Ways to Innovate Inside Bureaucracies


As a senior executive who served in both the private and public sectors from Walt Disney Imagineering to the National Security Agency, Dr. Haseltine explores the inherent value of these informal relationships as the bedrock of change with his partner with Chris Gilbert, M.D., Ph.D. They show how to innovate and change behaviors with inspiring stories of successful game changers in their groundbreaking new book, Riding the Monster: Five Ways to Innovate Inside Bureaucracies.

There is power in the invisible. Invisible relationships, that is. They become a secret weapon for igniting innovation, tackling problems, and achieving success. Apple knows it, the brilliant minds behind the mRNA coronavirus vaccine know it, and futurist, neuroscientist, and innovative leader Eric Haseltine, Ph.D. knows it. He's uncovered that the life-changing innovations that start as a napkin sketch in restaurants, at the copier, or in a chance encounter tare the ones that change the world.

Dr. Haseltine and Dr. Gilbert share that the informal links of respect, trust, and friendship develop across organizational boundaries, spurring change and opening up people to unbridled innovation and are more adaptable than straight-line hierarchies. They open ways that are not taught in any business school or book on innovation to prove that networks in organizations are vital to their success. They emphasize that innovators need to grow these informal, invisible relationships in their enterprise before developing an innovative product, so that when the product is ready, it has a safe path to market along the network of these relationships.

Dr. Haseltine combines his unique experience as a widely-acclaimed popular science writer for Discover Magazine and with his technology savvy as CTO for at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and his current work as Chairman of the Board at US Technology Leadership Council. He now focuses on developing completely new forms of digital media, entertainment, and advertising, in addition to cutting-edge cyber and industrial security solutions. He is the author of Brain Safari, Long-Fuse, Big Bang, and has co-authored The Listening Cure with Dr. Gilbert.



  • Using Nature's Strategies to Win the Competition. Over billions of years, evolution has produced ingenious strategies to help plants & animals survive and thrive in harsh, hyper-competitive environments. There is a vast array of ways in which the natural world manifests the will to survive. Camouflage, mimicry, threat displays, and evasive behaviors are just a few of the dozens of strategies that are enlisted to outwit would-be predators. These qualities can be readily adapted to the business world and suggest surprising new ways to best your adversaries. They may range from cyber criminals to business competitors, or even internal rivals in your enterprise. Dr. Eric Haseltine Ph.D. and Dr. Chris Gilbert MD Ph.D. will draw on their experience in the military, technology, and the natural worlds to draw on the ways to be both the survivor and the fittest in your professional setting. Their talk will vividly draw a picture of how clever organisms can be and illustrate how animals and plants create confusion, avoidance, inattention, uncertainty, exhaustion, and misdirection in their adversaries. They will show the parallels between this world and the way in which businesses and other organizations can use these concepts to come out on top in a fast-changing, highly competitive world.
  • What we can all learn from Ukrainians. Interviewing refugees and aid workers across eastern Europe and in Ukraine we gained surprising insights relevant to everyone. War, like all major traumas, strips away the noise and distractions of every-day life, exposing deep truths about the human condition, among them: Living in our homes, surrounded by family & friends—even when bombs are falling around us—can feel “safer” than leaving home for the “safety” of strangers. Normalcy bias blinds us to looming disasters, such as wars. This bias could blind Americans to the very real dangers of the war spreading to our shores. We want to believe that we live in “civilized” modern times, but barbarity persists. Ordinary citizens properly trained, can provide effective psychological first aid in emergencies such as natural disasters, active shooting incidents and accidents. We can surprise ourselves with untapped reservoirs of compassion and rise above ourselves to help others, making our own lives richer in a virtuous pay-it-forward, pay-it-back cycle. The dark mirror image of this virtuous circle is that we can all get pulled into a vicious cycle of hate (which occurred in the last 10 years between Ukraine, Russia and the West) that spirals down into war. Now we must resist the temptation to react to Russian atrocities with growing hatred that could fuel the vicious circle. War offers unique opportunities to learn how to solve previously intractable problems, as shown by the inspiring story of an MSF psychologist and woman of color who found a courageous, innovative way to connect with and help Ukrainians living under constant bombardment in the Kharkiv metro.
  • Riding the Monster: Five Ways to Innovate Inside Bureaucracies. Why do so many game-changing innovations start on a napkin sketch in restaurants instead of drafting tables or boardrooms of monster bureaucracies that famously stifle and thwart innovation? It's the alchemy of invisible relationships, those forged at informal junctures. They become a secret weapon for igniting life-changing innovation, tackling problems, and achieving success. In this illuminating presentation Dr. Haseltine reveals that informal links of respect, trust, and friendship developed across organizational boundaries are what spur change and open people to unbridled innovation, not straight-line hierarchies. In sharing the inspiring stories of successful game changers within large organizations, he provides management and employees the proven methods to foster organizational networks and informal relationships within the constraints of big bureaucracies.
  • cyber. Eric shows why effective cyber security requires a radically different approach than current “best practices,” which focus exclusively on preventing and detecting incursions. He shows how IT is now far too complex and fast-changing to prevent skilled actors from compromising networks and data without being detected. We describe strategies for coping with ever-present “bad guys” living in your networks 24/7, strategies based on lessons learned from careful study of prey/predator and microbe/immune system interactions in nature. One speech, What the Octopus teaches us about Cyber Security, shows how the Octopus has evolved many different tactics for living right next to sharks without getting eaten. Bottom line: Billions of years of evolution have all the answers, if we only know where to look
  • AI/ML. This focus on the lessons learned in the AI trenches separates hype from reality in AI, illustrating how to capitalize on AI's unique strengths while avoiding its serious weaknesses. The talk grows out of our work over the past 4 years using AI to do a better, faster job than current scanners of detecting weapons at screening points. Eric describes the pitfalls of human cognitive biases creeping into training data and algorithms and show how to apply recent advances in sensory neuroscience to make AI far less “brittle” (easily broken) than most systems are today.


Keywords: innovation, technology, trust, organizational change, AI, artificial intelligence, machine learning, cyber security, leadership, collaboration business strategy, communication

Book Dr. Eric Haseltine