Lee Vinsel is co-author, with Andrew L. Russell, of THE INNOVATION DELUSION: HOW OUR OBSESSION WITH THE NEW DISRUPTS THE WORK THAT MATTERS MOST (Currency, 2020). Vinsel is an assistant professor of Science, Technology, and Society at Virginia Tech. He has written broadly about the role of technology in business and everyday life, including his previous book, MOVING VIOLATIONS: AUTOMOBILES, EXPERTS, AND REGULATIONS IN THE UNITED STATES (Hopkins, 2019). His work has appeared in The New York Times, Aeon, The Washington Post, The American Historical Review, and many other scholarly and popular publications.

Speech topics

The Costs of Innovation-Speak

There is a difference between true innovation - the introduction of profit-generating technologies or products - and innovation-speak, which is a breathless dialect of word salad that trumpets the importance of innovation while turning that term into an overused buzzword. In this talk we’ll describe why innovation-speak can be harmful: it’s dishonest, it’s distracting, and it actively devalues the work of most humans who keep our society running. And we’ll describe how leaders can adopt other ways of talking and thinking that balances innovation with other essential values.  

The Maintenance Mindset

Conventional wisdom holds that innovation is the best way for companies to succeed. But to be truly impactful, innovations must be sustained--and that requires leaders to embrace a maintenance mindset. Using examples from successful companies, we’ll explain how maintenance sustains success, why long-term perspectives depend on culture and management, and how creativity and constant improvement can support the goals of durability, sustainability, and reliability. 

Recovering from COVID through Long-Term Thinking

Americans have had enough “disruption” in their lives, including a pandemic that has upended everything. It’s time to reassess priorities in business politics, education, and even in our personal lives. As we recover from the terrible effects of COVID-19, and recognize the contributions of essential workers, we have an opportunity to build a more sustainable and equitable society. The first steps are to take stock of the elements of our society that are broken and embrace the value of long-term thinking. 

The Infrastructure Imperative 

The American Society of Civil Engineers gave the United States a D+ overall in its 2017 Infrastructure Report Card. The health of businesses and economic growth depend on the vitality of our public and private infrastructure. Moving ahead will require us to greatly improve our current systems. But too often, “infrastructure policy” simply means building new roads and bridges. In this talk, we’ll describe why we need to focus on maintaining what we have by adopting a “fix it first” mentality, while also keeping an eye on how new infrastructure can strengthen our already existing system. 


The Innovation Delusion: How Our Obsession with the New Has Disrupted the Work That Matters Most

Innovation is the hottest buzzword in business. But what if our obsession with finding the next big thing has distracted us from the work that matters most

Moving Violations: Automobiles, Experts, and Regulations in the United States

Regulation has shaped the evolution of the automobile from the beginning. In Moving Violations, Lee Vinsel shows that, contrary to popular opinion, these restrictions have not hindered technological change.

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