Rahaf Harfoush

Thriving in today’s digital economy requires identifying the hidden forces that are shaping our habits, behaviors, and beliefs.

New York Times Bestselling Co-author of The Decoded Company

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Rahaf Harfoush | New York Times Bestselling Co-author of The Decoded Company
Lavin Exclusive Speaker

Rahaf Harfoush is a digital anthropologist, strategist, and award-winning author with a deep passion for exploring how technology is affecting the way we communicate, work, and play. Her third book—Hustle & Float: The Plight of Productive Creatives and the Future of Work—focuses on challenges of today’s knowledge workers at the front lines of new economies powered by disruptive tech. 

Named one of the top future thinkers to shape the world by the Hay Literary Festival, and selected as a Young Global Changer by the G20 Think Tank Summit, Harfoush is a highly sought-after keynote speaker who has delivered presentations across the globe. She is also an in-demand moderator and Master of Ceremonies for panels and events. The co-author of The New York Times bestseller The Decoded Company—a 2015 Gold Axiom Winner, and the first book on big data in the workplace—Harfoush connects business leaders to the latest global foresight trends and offers a unique approach to digital strategy, ideation, and innovation. She teaches organizations how data can improve decision making, but also be used to foster happy and vibrant work cultures. 

 

“The Obama 2008 campaign is the best marketing campaign I have seen globally in over 25 years. Rahaf gives a fresh and informed insider’s view of what really made it such a spectacular success.”

— Brian Fetherstonhaugh, Chairman & CEO OgilvyOne Worldwide, on Yes We Did!

Her first book, Yes We Did: An Insider’s Look at How Social Media Built the Obama Brand, chronicled her experiences as a member of Barack Obama’s digital media team during the 2008 Presidential elections. It was the first comprehensive case study on the ground-breaking campaign. She was the research co-ordinator on the best-selling Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything, by Don Tapscott. 

 

Harfoush is the co-founder of Red Thread, a Think Tank and Special Projects Agency specializing in helping organizations prepare and adapt to an ever shifting global digital market. Formerly, she was the Associate Director of the Technology Pioneers Program at the World Economic Forum. She was recognized by the Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society as a “Rising Talent” for her thought-leadership in the fields of technology and innovation. Her writing has been featured in Wired, The Globe and Mail, Fast Company, and many more. She is a frequent commentator on France24 and the CBC. 

 

Speech Topics

Innovation & Creativity
Creative-Centric Culture Mastering the Art of ‘Hustle and Float’

Our working lives are in a state of crisis. As the global economy continues to shift towards knowledge work, standardized tasks are long gone, replaced by mounting pressure to create endless ideas to stay ahead of the competition. Companies are facing tough challenges in recruiting and retaining highly-skilled creatives: an essential part of thriving in today’s business landscape. And while being connected 24/7, employees are struggling to be to be both constantly creative and constantly productive to keep up with the never-ending demands of their jobs—and it’s not working. 


With employers expecting their workforce to be endlessly innovative, the scramble to keep up with a never-ending stream of creative output has resulted in a culture that is obsessed with hustling. In the rush to boost performance, we have become over-worked, over-scheduled, and overwhelmed, armed with to-do lists, life-hacks, and inbox-zero mentalities. We’re trained to respond at a moment’s notice, manage competing priorities, and rapidly jump from task to task, trying to attain maximum efficiency while generating creative solutions with the same rigor. And when it doesn’t work as planned, we force ourselves to push through, working longer and harder to chase down the ideas that elude us. 


So what can companies do to cope? Backed with extensive research and case studies, Rahaf Harfoush pushes past common solutions to these problems to tackle the deeper cultural questions. From the dark side of the American Dream to the idolization of entrepreneurship culture in the media, audiences will uncover the hidden forces influencing our beliefs about work and learn practical tips to making impactful and long lasting changes to their culture—in essence, how to manage their own ‘Hustle and Float.’

Technology
Constantly Connected The Hidden Forces Driving Our Digital Behavior

In a world of new gadgets, apps, and digital tools released on a daily, if not hourly basis, it’s easy to get lost in the flood of new technology and overlook how quickly, and profoundly, our world is changing. In this unique talk, Rahaf Harfoush explores how technology is weaving itself into the social fabric of our lives and influencing everything we do—from how we make friends and date to how we work and parent. Welcome to the age of unprecedented technological intimacy.


Harfoush reveals how our educational system predisposes us to information overload, how the algorithms that control our social networks can impact our world views, and how the rise of the first global digital culture is creating new alliances that threaten the status quo of business, politics, and our own daily lives. Packed with fascinating case studies, Harfoush will show you how new technologies are shaping our behaviors and creating a new cultural paradigm. With this talk, audiences will go beyond trends to develop a deep, human-centric understanding of how tech is changing our relationship with the world, and will learn five key questions to ask when trying to make sense of our new constantly connected lives. 

Digital
AI, Algorithms and Automation The Role of Humans in the Digital Revolution

Should we tax robots? What if my child’s best friend is a chat bot? What does an algorithm ethicist do? Do smart machines need therapy? 


We are on the verge of one of the biggest technological disruptions our species has ever faced. As automation, algorithms, and artificial intelligence continue to advance exponentially, technology is rewriting the rules of our society. In this talk, Harfoush explores what it means to be human in a world where the features that differentiated us are now being replicated by machines. Google created AI that creates original works of art mere hours after being programmed. A Japanese AI was a finalist in a prestigious literary competition. Financial companies are investing in algorithms that can do the work of teams of analysts in mere seconds. And work is just the beginning. New technologies are redefining traditional friendships, and relationships. Research suggests that by 2050, robot sex will be more popular than its human counterpart. What do all of these changes mean for our notions of intimacy, monogamy, parenting, dating, and social interaction? 

 

In this keynote, Harfoush dives into some of the ethical, cultural, and social questions that surround these technological advancements showing both the promise and peril of living in a constantly connected society. 

Digital
Digital Culture New Ways of Sharing, Learning, Healing, Ruling, and Creating Identity

We’re now seeing the rise of the world’s first global digital culture—a place where ideas and cultures mix seamlessly, unrestricted by geography or borders. We now enjoy new ways of coming together, forming geo-agnostic communities united by an Internet connection and a common interest.

In customizable talks, Harfoush covers the full scope of digital culture. She speaks on innovative cities: how digital culture allows us to connect, report problems, and create real-life benefits for all citizens. She describes how digital culture shapes our behavior and responses during times of crisis. She explores how we might map intimacy and engagement across diverse digital communities. Moving from transparency and disruption in healthcare to digital leaks, cyber security, and social media activism in the world of politics, or from real-world risks and rewards of having an ‘e-identity’ to the potential for digital culture to revolutionize education, Harfoush is our plugged-in guide to how emerging technology is re-writing the rules of culture, and power.