John Wood is the founder of Room to Read, an organisation that believes world change starts with educated children. Room to Read seeks to transform the lives of millions of children in developing countries by focusing on literacy and gender equality in education.
At age 35, John left his position as Director of Business Development for Microsoft, Greater China region, to form Room to Read. The business acumen honed at Microsoft, combined with his passion and an unparalleled track record at changing the world, makes John a unique and inspiring speaker with universal appeal.
John's award-winning memoir, Leaving Microsoft to Change the World: An Entrepreneur's Odyssey to Educate the World's Children (Harper Collins, 2006), tells how he raised over $350 million from a 'standing start' to develop one of the fastest-growing not-for-profit organisations in history. The book was described by Publishers' Weekly in a starred review as 'an infectiously inspiring read'. Translated into 20 languages, it is popular with entrepreneurs, philanthropists, and educators alike, and was selected by Amazon.com as one of the Top Ten Business Narratives of 2006 and voted a Top Ten Nonfiction title of 2006 by Hudson Booksellers. The book was also featured during John's appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show and the resulting 'Oprah's Book Drive' with Room to Read raised over $3 million from viewers.
John's follow up book, Creating Room to Read: A Story of Hope in the Battle for Global Literacy (Viking Penguin, 2013), tells the story of how the organization successfully tackled the next steps of scaling beyond his wildest dreams while maintaining integrity and raising money in a collapsing economy.
John has been named by Goldman Sachs as one of the world's 100 Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs, has been a three-time speaker at the Clinton Global Initiative and is a five-time winner of Fast Company Magazine's Social Capitalist Award. He has been honored by Time Magazine's 'Asian Heroes' Award, selected as a 'Young Global Leader' by the World Economic Forum and is a Henry Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute. He was selected by Barron's as one of the '25 Best Givers' in 2009 and 2010, ranking 11th and 9th on the list, respectively. In 2014, John won the World's Children's Honorary Award Laureate through the World's Children's Prize, the annual educational program for the rights of the child and democracy—often called the Children's Nobel Prize. In recognition of his passion to open libraries for the most under-served populations, he was described by the San Francisco Chronicle as 'the Andrew Carnegie of the developing world'.
John holds a master's degree in business administration from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University, a bachelor's degree in finance from the University of Colorado, and honorary doctorates from McGill University and the University of San Francisco. He also serves on the advisory board of the Clinton Global Initiative and is a frequent lecturer at Harvard Business School and at NYU's Wagner School of Public Policy.
John Wood travels from Hong Kong
- Ten Lessons Learned on the Way to Helping Ten Million Children
- PURPOSE: The New Competitive Advantage
Topic SynopsesTen Lessons Learned On the Way to Helping Ten Million Children
It takes a bold leader to publicly declare his intention to reach 10 million children with the lifelong gift of education, especially when he is a newly unemployed, former Microsoft executive without an organization behind him, or a single day of fundraising experience.
But based on his belief that bold goals attract bold people, John Wood set out to build a global movement. His rallying cry was that no child should be told 'You were born in the wrong place at the wrong time, and you will therefore not gain an education'. The initial deadline for his ambitious goal was 2020. But Room to Read has scaled beyond his wildest dreams, and in 2015 the organization will reach their 10 millionth student.
John is often asked what he has learned about leadership while building a global team and movement. In celebration of this year's milestone, John has looked back and compiled a list of lessons. Audiences will be inspired
and motivated as they learn insights John learned on his journey.
PURPOSE: The New Competitive Advantage
In the presentation, I posit that it’s no longer smart or strategic for companies to think that building in a sense of purpose to their work is either optional or a “nice to have”. Companies that have a sense of purpose are blowing away their competitors when it comes to four critical areas:
—employee recruitment: Young people don’t want to work for coal companies or for Exxon. They want to work for Tesla or Solar City.
—employee motivation and retention: When people work for companies that have a deep sense of purpose, their employees are much more likely to be motivated and at peak performance, and much less likely to defect. A recent example is how Netflix has gotten tens of millions of dollars of free publicity for a change to their maternity/paternity policy.
—customers: The best companies find ways to delight their customers. They win and retain that loyalty when the customer feels they’re doing business with a purpose-driven company’
—governments/regulators: Companies with a built-in purpose can prove they are socially-minded and this wins them points with govt’s and regulators. See the banking crisis for an example of what happens when this is flagrantly ignored.
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