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If Tolstoy Ran Google: How to Innovate Like a Great Artist

Nobody knows more about innovation than the great artists from the past who created products so powerful that they’ve transformed countless lives, changed the course of civilization, and stood the test of time. What were their secrets, and how can today’s business leaders apply them to their own organizations? Internationally recognized author, University of Virginia literature professor, and founder of one of the country’s most original and celebrated college courses, Andrew Kaufman, will share four key lessons about innovation gleaned from the creative giants of world literature as well as his lifelong journey with them: the importance of embracing failure as the key to success; creating boldly amid uncertainty; harnessing the power of your authentic voice; and leading with compassion. The audience will come away inspired and enlightened, and will not look at either innovation or art in the same way again.


Be the Change You Wish to See

“Be the change you wish to see in the world,” Gandhi famously said. In 2009 author, educator, and UVa scholar Andrew Kaufman took this advice to heart when, after years of frustration with traditional academic teaching of literature, he created Books Behind Bars, a program in which university students would meet with incarcerated youth to explore questions of value, meaning, and social justice through discussions of Russian literature classics. Nine years later, this program that many initially thought too unorthodox to succeed, has become one of the country’s most celebrated college courses, featured on The Today Show, Katie Couric, NPR, in the Washington Post and the Moscow Times, and the subject of a forthcoming feature documentary film, Seats at the Table. In this keynote, Kaufman will share the story of how he created this pioneering program, as well as the timely lessons he and his students have learned about compassion, community, and commitment to a cause greater than yourself. The audience will leave inspired by the knowledge that they, too, have the power to be the change they want to see in the world, right here, right now, no matter what their circumstances, profession, or interests.



“We invited Dr. Andy Kaufman to speak at our annual company party where our theme was Make Love not War. A gifted speaker, Andy was able to bring Tolstoy’s fascinating life story alive with real and relevant applications to our everyday personal and business interactions. Using equal parts wit and wisdom, Andy was both entertaining and edifying. We wholeheartedly recommend him for your organization’s next gathering.”
–Co-Founder and President, Eenhoorn, LLC

“Andrew Kaufman is, quite simply, the most entertaining, inspiring, and powerful speaker we’ve ever had. Although there were almost 300 in the audience, he had a knack for putting his audience at ease and communicating intimately with everyone, from senior executives to assembly line workers. And he left us with significant takeaways that were directly applicable to our business and personal lives. People left completely energized and mentioned they’d love to him back, that it was the fastest hour and they could’ve listened to him a lot longer. I highly recommend this uniquely talented speaker and performer for your next corporate event. You won’t regret it.”
–Tammy Guiles, Vice President and CFO, Amstore Corporation

“Andrew Kaufman is one of those rare speakers whose erudition challenges the mind and enlarges the heart, inviting listeners into a conversation with the ages and with themselves. Articulate, illuminating, eloquent. Cicero says that speech should inform and delight—Kaufman does both with consummate skill.”
–Todd Breyfogle, PhD, Director of Seminars, The Aspen Institute


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