Meet our Speakers.

 
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Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Nassim Nicholas Taleb spent 21 years as a risk taker (quantitative  trader) before becoming a researcher in philosophical, mathematical and (mostly) practical problems with probability. 


Taleb is the author of a multivolume essay, the Incerto (The Black Swan, Fooled by Randomness, Antifragile, and Skin in the Game) covering broad facets of uncertainty. It has been translated into 36 languages.

In addition to his trader life, Taleb has also written, as a backup of the Incerto, more than 50 scholarly papers in statistical physics, statistics, philosophy, ethics, economics, international affairs, and quantitative finance, all around the notion of risk and probability. 

Taleb is currently Distinguished Professor of Risk Engineering at NYU's Tandon School of Engineering (only a quarter time position) [and, finance related bio only: scientific advisor for Universa Investments]. His current focus is on the properties of systems that can handle disorder ("antifragile").

Taleb refuses all honors and anything that "turns knowledge into a spectator sport".

Taleb traveled the conventional route of education to real-life and  theory to practice in inverse sequence from the common one, moving from the practical to the philosophical to the mathematical. He started as a trader, then got a doctorate in mid-trading career; he wrote literary books before writing technical papers, and his work became progressively more technical and formal with time.

 

Brett Hennig

Brett Hennig co-founded and directs the Sortition Foundation, which campaigns to institute the use of stratified, random selection (also called sortition) in government. Before co-founding the Sortition FoundationBrett Hennig wore a variety of hats: as a taxi driver, a software engineer, a social justice activist, a mathematics tutor and the primary carer of four boys. He finished his PhD in astrophysics just before his first son arrived.

After spending several disheartening years in civil society organisations and politics, Hennig began investigating and researching network forms of democracy. The resulting book, The End of Politicians: Time for a Real Democracy, has been called "a book for visionaries" by New Internationalist contributing editor James Kelsey Fry and described as "a powerful critique and provocative alternative" by Professor Erik Olin Wright of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Hennig has given many talks promoting sortition and has contributed a chapter, "Who needs elections? Accountability, Equality, and Legitimacy under Sortition," to the forthcoming book Legislature by Lot: Transformative Designs for Deliberative Governance (Verso, 2019).

TALK TITLE: Politics, lotteries and populism

Lotteries are being used in politics all across Europe, and could be one answer to the ongoing rise of populism and general political disaffection.

Looking at the results of the May EU elections, Hennig will analyse the state of European populism and electoral politics, and show how and where lotteries (or sortition) have been used in politics to engage "everyday people" in deliberative citizens' assemblies. Such forums might be used to diffuse the nationalist shift in politics by integrating the language of populism into new forms of democracy at local, national and EU level. 

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Caty Asscher

We live in a fast changing world where we have to deal with complexity, diversity and greater interdependency worldwide. This challenges organizations to use diversity to its full potential to be able to adapt, innovate and enhance sustainable change. Without conscious efforts the recruitment and development of careers of diverse people won’t take place, caused by the unconscious nature of bias that guide our assumptions and choices. Understanding how the brain operates is essential to start the change. But it is not enough. The growing diversity in workforce, colleagues, clients and customers sets high demands to guide yourself and others to deal with this diversity in behavior and communication. In the last 20 years, Asscher Consultancy has supported numerous organizations (both commercial, professional and not for profit) to realize their ambitions in this (gender) diversity field, both on the organizational, team and individual level. We have contributed with creative awareness programs (“kans op balans”: chance for balance), management development consultancy, leadership programs and executive coaching; and lately Conversational Intelligence (originally developed by the late Judith Glaser) a brain based program to bridge reality gaps in the communication of diverse people. We hold a special focus on gender diversity by in-company female leadership programs, development of creative female networks and mentoring programs as we are convinced that sustainable change is most successful when strong women operate next to strong men. November 2017, Caty Asscher was awarded the first Caty Asscher Award, created “to keep her work alive and realize a community that will create a continuing movement within organizations where men and women, each within their own power, together will make the difference. For organizations and the world. Now and in the future.”

 

Marc Herremans

Marc was born on the 19th of December 1973. He spent his youth playing football, and playing outside; he didn't like school at all.

Marc started training and participating in triathlons – and not without success. He became the Belgian champion twice and came 8th in a world championship. At the age of 27 he could finally compete in the mythical triathlon of Hawaii, the official world championship of the IRONMAN. As the youngest competitor in the professional athletes group Marc achieved 6th place.

In 2002 Marc was attending a training camp on Lanzarote to prepare himself for the world championship IRONMAN 2002 competition. On the 8th day he fell heavily during a descent. The most promising professional triathlete would not become a world champion IRONMAN, but was sentenced to spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair.

Marc started training harder than ever before, reassessing his progress every day, and founded the “To Walk Again Foundation”. After 3rd, 3rd, and 2nd places, Marc’s biggest dream that he had been working very hard for since he was 16 came true. Marc succeeded, despite his complete paralysis from the chest downwards, to be the 2006 World champion IRONMAN.

Presently Marc is one of the most requested international motivational speakers in the world, team-leader of a professional cyclocross team, the man behind To Walk Again, event planner, team manager of an omnium team, athlete trainer, and CEO of 185 Coaching Centre. Due to the help and support of friends and family Marc turned the impossible into the possible. Marc saw that every setback in life is a chance to fight back and not a reason to give up, and that teamwork in an individual sport is crucial to success.

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Alessio Emanuele Biondo

Alessio Emanuele Biondo is a macroeconomist working as Associate Professor of Economic Policy at the Department of Economics and Business of the University of Catania (Italy). His education in Economics and Statistics has been developed by studying in Italy, UK, and Germany. He is author of several publications and his research interests are related to macroeconomic theory and policy, financial markets and monetary economics, agent-based models and complexity, networks and environmental economics. His most known contributions deal with complexity in order book dynamics of financial markets, the effectiveness of random investments, and the role of randomness in socio economic systems. His most recent research work, coauthored with Alessandro Pluchino and Andrea Rapisarda, questions the balancing between talent and luck in reaching success and has attracted relevant interest from all over the world by other scientists and media. Several aspects of Alessio’s life manifest his curiosity and his passionate interaction with other people. Enthusiast amateur of international rock music, his hobby is to play drums.

 

Alessandro Pluchino

Alessandro Pluchino is Professor of theoretical physics, mathematical methods and models at the University of Catania (Italy). His research interests cover a broad range of topics, among which complex systems and complex networks, statistical mechanics, agent-based models of social, biological and economic systems, optimization algorithms and ether-drift experiments. Speaker in many international conferences, he is also author of several books about complex systems and fundamental physics (see the personal website: http://www2.dfa.unict.it/home/pluchino/).

In the last years, his scientific interests focused on the exploration of the beneficial role of randomness in socio-economic systems. For his study about the effectiveness of random promotions in hierarchical organizations, he was awarded, with Andrea Rapisarda and Cesare Garofalo, the 2010 Ig Nobel Prize for Management at the Harvard University. Further investigations concerned the introduction of randomly selected legislators in a Parliament in order to improve its efficiency and the study of advantages of random strategies in financial markets. More recently, a new work about the relationships among success, talent and luck, performed with Alessio Emanuele Biondo and Andrea Rapisarda, has gained the attention of social media all around the world and a popular book on this topic is in preparation.

 

Andrea Rapisarda

Andrea Rapisarda is Professor of theoretical physics, mathematical methods and models at the University of Catania (Italy) and external Faculty member of the Complexity Science Hub in Vienna (Austria). He is also co-director of the School on Complexity of the Ettore Majorana Foundation in Erice (Italy) together with A. Zichichi, M. Gell-mann, G.Benedek and C. Tsallis. His research interests range from theoretical physics, to statistical mechanics and complex systems with applications to geological, social, economic and financial systems. In 2010 he was awarded, with Alessandro Pluchino and Cesare Garofalo, the Ig Nobel Prize for Management at the University of Harvard for a study on how to overcome the problem of the Peter Principle with random promotions. Soon after, together with Alessandro Pluchino and other colleagues of the University of Catania, he proposed a model to improve the efficiency of a Parliament by choosing part of parliamentary members by lot. More recently, he has studied together with Alessandro Pluchino and Alessio Emanuele Biondo, the role of luck in financial markets and in getting success. For the popularity of these publications, he has been interviewed several times in radio and television broadcasts both in Italy and abroad.

 

Robert H. Frank

How important is luck? No question more reliably divides conservatives from liberals. As conservatives correctly observe, people who amass great fortunes are almost always talented and hardworking. Yet liberals are also correct to note that countless others have those same qualities yet never earn much. In recent years, social scientists have discovered that chance events play a much larger role in important life outcomes than most people once imagined. Robert Frank will explore the interesting and sometimes unexpected implications of those findings for how best to think about the role of luck in life.

Most of the chance events that shape important life outcomes are of course beyond any individual’s control. But collectively we have considerable say over what is perhaps the biggest stroke of good fortune that anyone can experience—to have been born in an environment that enables talented, hardworking people to succeed. Such environments don’t arise by chance. They require high levels of continuing investment. Frank argues that our failure to recognize the external underpinnings of our own success has made us reluctant to support the necessary investment. But the good news is that supportive environments can be maintained without demanding painful sacrifices from anyone. 

Robert H. Frank, the HJ Louis Professor of Economics at Cornell's Johnson School of Management, is also an “Economic View” columnist for The New York Times. His books, which include Choosing the Right PondPassions Within ReasonPrinciples of Economics (with Ben Bernanke), Luxury FeverFalling BehindThe Economic Naturalist, and The Darwin Economy, have been translated into 23 languages. The Winner-Take-All Society, co-authored with Philip Cook, received a Critic's Choice Award, was named a Notable Book of the Year by The New York Times, and was included in Business Week's list of the ten best books of 1995. His next book, Under the Influence: Shaping the Social Forces that Guide Our Choices, will be published by Princeton University Press in the fall of 2019.

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Malene Rydahl

Malene Rydahl is a writer, keynote speaker and executive coach. She is specialised in well-being and happiness inspired by the Danish leadership model. Rydahl was born in Denmark and has lived in Paris for more than 20 years.

Author of the best-selling “ Happy as a Dane” (Heureux comme un danois, Grasset), published worldwide in more than 12 languages, her book was awarded the prize of the most optimistic book of 2014. She explores why the Danish people are some of the happiest in the world ,and how the leadership style in business directly impacts performance positively as well as fostering trust, creativity and engagement. She works with major French and multinationals, and is a frequent keynote speaker for business as well as international institutions & elite schools such as the OECD, ENA, HEC and INSEAD in Singapore as a TEDx speaker.

Certified as an executive coach from the renowned school of coaching Manning Inspire in Copenhagen, Rydahl offers individual and collective programs of executive coaching for CEOs and executive leaders who wish to improve the engagement, well-being and the performance of their employees. She is also a lecturer at the prestigious French business school HEC Executive Education on the Danish leadership model.

Malene Rydahl has 18 years of experience in the corporate world, most recently as Director of Corporate Communication for Hyatt Hotels & Resorts in EMEA overlooking 42 hotels, which led to her being elected one of the “24 women of the year” by the French magazine L’Express in 2012. She also held responsibilities at Bang & Olufsen and at the agency “Les Ouvriers du paradis” (WPP group) heading the key account “Le Bon Marché” (LVMH).

During our conference she will talk about the challenge to overcome our inhibitions and she will help us see through them. She will reveal what lies behind people’s “perfect lives”. She will explore the latest studies and international academic references but will also bring in her personal observations, to guide us through the five traps to happiness, i.e. beauty, money, power, fame and sex. This big splash into the biggest delusions of our time will set us free from the need to constantly compare ourselves to others, and help us find out how to be happy in our own way.

 
 
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