Matthew Syed

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Author, Bounce & Black Box Thinking

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Matthew was England’s top table tennis player for more than a decade. He’s now best known as author of Rebel Ideas, Bounce and Black Box Thinking. In presentations Matthew challenges organisations to avoid institutionalism and open themselves up to change and diverse thinking. Feedback should be shared with everybody. Just as the entire aviation industry learns from each aircraft’s black box after an incident, failure should become an opportunity to adapt and grow whilst that sense of openness can also see innovation and improvements arise from anywhere.


Matthew Syed is a world-leading author, thinker and expert on high performance, talent and mindsets. His work has influenced sport, business, education and public institutions with explorations into everything from creativity to marginal gains to learning from mistakes.

Based on his own experience in international sport, Matthew has developed innovative, accessible ideas around how to create a culture of high performance in high pressure environments. For ten years Matthew was England’s number one table tennis player, a competitor at two Olympic Games and a three-time Commonwealth Champion. Now he is better known as a writer, sports journalist, and author of the best-sellers, Bounce - The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice and Black Box Thinking: Why Most People Never Learn from Their Mistakes-But Some Do. In 2021, he released the Sideways podcast on BBC Radio 4. 

Matthew applies his theory of peak performance to business and any aspect of life and achievement. He explains that success is less to do with natural talent than with perseverance; and if you see success as a product of effort and purpose, then failure becomes an opportunity to adapt, innovate and grow.

These ideas, along with analyses of coaching, goals and risk-taking, form the basis of the hugely successful Bounce. In the follow-up Black Box Thinking Matthew expands some of these themes whilst further examining the psychological barriers to achievement. He considers the role of failure and error in development and improvement and how focusing on blame rather than learning from mistakes severely limits success. This learning needs to form the basis of a culture of openness, adaptability, innovation and marginal gains.

Both titles have become international best-sellers and award winners, resonating as they do with businesses, teachers, public bodies, individuals and sportspeople. Matthew’s follow-up titles The Greatest and You Are Awesome look at further lessons from sporting success and growth mindsets, the latter being his first book written for children. Whilst in Rebel Ideas: The Power of Diverse Thinking he explores how the most effective teams are those taking in diverse views and breaking free of ‘echo chambers’.

Matthew’s work has had a direct impact in many organisations, not least in the creation of the NHS’s Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch. He is a columnist for The Times and appears regularly on Sky, CNN and the BBC (in sporting and non-sporting capacities), including on Radio 5Live’s weekly analysis of sport, Flintoff, Savage and the Ping Pong Guy. He is a member of the FA’s High Performance Committee and also co-founder of a charity supporting more than 10,000 young people on 31 full-time school sport programmes.

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