Original Solutions to Important Problems

Helping the public, private, and social sectors for 20+ years

Jeff Leitner is a fellow at New America in Washington, D.C., and the author of See Think Solve: A Simple Way to Tackle Tough Problems.

A former Innovator in Residence at the University of Southern California, founder of Insight Labs, and co-founder of the award-winning UX for Good, Jeff’s work has helped create change for governments, like the U.S. Department of State and NASA; corporations, like Starbucks and Panera; institutions, like Harvard Medical School and TED; and NGOs, like Ashoka and the Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education.


Make Change Stick:
The Hidden Power of Unwritten Rules

2018 Luminary Award for Excellence

Jeff Leitner explains why change - in organizations, markets, and societies - rarely sticks. Drawing on cutting-edge scientific research and 20 years of experience improving organizations, he tells you what you can do about it.

With Jeff, you will learn how to identify invisible obstacles to change, recognize change efforts that are doomed to fail, and design change that sticks.

Keynote: Jeff gives a compelling overview on what social science can now teach us about making change stick. We’ll dig into examples from our own lives, case studies, and the research. You’ll get tips you can use immediately to identify obstacles to change and to design better, more effective change for organizations, markets, and communities. This talk is ideal for audiences looking for insights into disruption, innovation, and impact.

Workshop: Jeff elaborates on his presentation with exercises participants will use to design more effective change at work. Together, Jeff and participants will practice identifying obstacles and opportunities for change in their organizations, others’ organizations, markets, and communities. This workshop is ideal for professionals with responsibility for designing and managing internal or external change.

Excerpt from “Unwritten Rules” Keynote

You’re on the fourth floor of an office building and want to go down to the lobby. You push the button for the elevator, the doors open, and there’s a handful of folks inside. You step in, push the button for the lobby, then you turn around and face the doors.

Except today, you don’t. You just stand there, face everybody else on the elevator and smile. You smile your biggest smile, your friendliest smile. And you ride down from 4…to 3…to 2…to the lobby.

Uncomfortable, right? You hated it and I assure you everybody else on the elevator wanted to kill you.

That’s because you broke an unwritten rule about riding with other people on an elevator. It’s a rule everywhere and it’s not written down anywhere.


Jeff is that rare combination of wonky-knowledgeable and hugely engaging, personable, and witty – making the content credible, understandable and demonstrably relevant and useful. His work on unwritten rules decodes the single biggest factor in our rare, rousing successes and our all-too-common abject failures.

Jan Johnson, Allsteel

It is impossible to look at our world, relationships, triumphs and challenges the same way once Jeff provides his lens that makes the invisible rules that influence everything we do visible. Jeff gives us what we need to steer our actions, decisions, and feelings related to the choices we make. Now, everything looks different - the small things and the big opportunities.

Patricia Thomas, Lake Forest College

See Think Solve

A Simple Way to Tackle Tough Problems

The main reason problems are hard to solve is that they involve people. People are funny. They don’t always believe the things they say they believe or do the things they say they are going to do. They can act one way in one situation and act completely differently in another situation. No one has ever completely figured this out. We call this the ‘mystery of human behavior.’

The mystery of human behavior shapes almost every problem worth solving. That’s the bad news. But there’s good news too. The mystery of human behavior also helps us see problems in new ways. By paying attention to people, we can discover new aspects of problems that help us solve them more effectively.

The nine steps in See Think Solve are designed to do just that. They will help you make sense of the mystery of human behavior that surrounds all tough problems.

  • The first six steps are about seeing — each of them shows you a new thing to look for in human behavior.

  • The next two steps are about thinking — each one is a tool you can use to better understand the human behaviors you have observed.

  • The last step is about solving — it describes what you can accomplish with your newfound knowledge.”


Jeff Leitner solves problems others run away from. His book, See Think Solve, is an ode to deviation – an existing or new behavior so powerful that it can subvert the informal, unspoken social norm keeping problems unsolved. Teams functioning without deviation can’t overcome their social norms to solve new problems.

George Bradt, Forbes

The first time I saw this approach in action, back in 2014, I was blown away. I immediately put it use in my classes in order to push students past the conceptual and theoretical and into how they can create impact and build innovation in the world. Students were more engaged, more enthusiastic and clearer about what they were trying to do. They understood their work within larger contexts. This is the best approach I have ever come across for understanding and design complex change.

Dr. Annalisa Enrile, University of Southern California


Jeff's Logos.002.jpeg

Helping to Create Change

For Governments, Corporations, and Institutions

  • Sequenced solutions to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals; New America and OECD

  • Designed first doctorate in social innovation; University of Southern California

  • Reconceptualizing U.S. investment in emerging democracies; U.S. Department of State and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

  • Expanding the reach and impact of mobile care; Harvard Medical School and Family Van

  • Restoring Congressional support; NASA

  • Leveraging genocide memorials to prevent atrocities; Aegis Trust and The Kigali Genocide Memorial

  • Isolating the key to creative collaboration; TED

  • Safeguarding design in the corporate environment; Starbucks

  • Integrating mindfulness into public education; Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education

  • Improving the standard of living for professional musicians; The GRAMMY Foundation and New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation

  • Bretton Woods II Fellow, New America

  • Expanding the number and diversity of venture capital investors; Skin in the Game

  • Strengthening workplace strategy; Allsteel

  • Institutionalizing art therapy in military hospitals; Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and National Endowment for the Arts

  • Developed first methodology for altering social norms to effect social change; Innovation Dynamics

  • Integrating empathy training into public education; Ashoka

  • Inaugural innovator in residence; University of Southern California, Suzanne Dworak Peck School of Social Work

  • Boosting global juice consumption; Coca-Cola and Play Big

  • Developed first philanthropic think tank; Insight Labs

  • Reconceptualizing the public’s relationship to contemporary art; West Collection

  • Designing a new model for international organizations; U.S. Department of State and Community of Democracies

  • Boosting economic development in Detroit; One D

  • Co-founded first global effort to leverage user experience design to solve social challenges; UX for Good

  • Structuring group ideation; Exelon

  • Designing a global philanthropic network; The Global Friends

  • Designing the future practice of law; Law 2023

  • Expanding workplace flexibility; Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

  • Isolating the highest use of philanthropic foundations; Boeing

  • Extending the mission of genocide memorialization; United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

  • Providing meaningful first employment for disadvantaged youth; Job 1

  • Expanding the reach and impact of the humanities; Illinois Humanities Council and Indiana Humanities Council

  • Isolating the key to entrepreneurial success; University of Illinois Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership

  • Reducing demand for electricity; Illinois Commerce Commission

  • Integrating venture capital and college funding; Illinois Student Assistance Commission

  • Synthesizing interests of millennials and needs of public institutions; Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce Foundation

  • Isolating the humanity in design; Cannon Design

  • Designing a more equitable model for taxi advertising; Clear Channel

  • Boosting employment options for art school graduates; School of Visual Arts

  • Inaugural academic roundtable on innovation in social work; University of Southern California

  • Uncovering the essential brand personality; Panera

  • Reconceptualizing live experience in a digital marketplace; Professional Convention Management Association

  • Engaging millennial women; YWCA of Metropolitan Chicago

  • Bringing audience online; Chicago Public Media

  • Integrating entrepreneurial experience and social impact; 10.10.10

  • Isolating the obstacle to meaningful school reform; Academy for Global Citizenship

  • People’s Choice Award; Interaction Design Association

  • Restoring play as critical element in child development; Union League Boys & Girls Clubs

  • Reconceptualizing the relationship to donors; Jewish Child & Family Services

  • Conceptualizing impact beyond lobbying; Illinois Chamber of Commerce

  • Expanding impact in and for the arts community; League of Chicago Theatres

  • Designing a public forum for business ethics; Executives Breakfast Club

  • Preparing the next generation of civic leaders; Foundations of East Chicago, Indiana

  • Reconceptualizing civic participation; Our Time

  • Re-establishing civic significance; Rotary Club of Chicago

  • Developing the first social work graduate fellowship in innovation; University of Southern California


Contact Jeff

Name *