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Kao was born in 1950 to Chinese immigrant parents. An accomplished jazz pianist, he spent the summer of 1969 playing keyboards for Frank Zappa. Kao studied philosophy at Yale College, received an MD from Yale Medical School, and an MBA from Harvard Business School. He taught at Harvard Business School from 1982–96, where he specialized in innovation and entrepreneurship. He has also held faculty appointments at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab, Yale College, and the Naval Postgraduate School.
Key publications include:
- Kao, John (1996). Jamming: The Art and Discipline of Business Creativity. HarperCollins. ISBN 0-88730-864-3.
- Kao, John (2007). Innovation Nation: How America Is Losing Its Innovation Edge, Why It Matters, and What We Can Do to Get It Back. Free Press. ISBN 1-4165-3268-4.
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