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Heather McGowan      

Author of "The Adaptation Advantage" & Workplace Futurist

Future-of-work strategist Heather E. McGowan helps leaders prepare their people and organizations for the post-pandemic world of work. The last few years have forever changed where we work, who works, how we work and measure work, what we do for work and, most importantly, why we work.

McGowan is a sense maker, a dot connector, a deep thinker, and a pattern matcher who sees things that others miss. McGowan gives people the courage and insight that illuminates their path forward. She’s transforming mindsets and entire organizations around the globe with her message about how the next phase of work will focus on continuous learning, rather than simply learning once in order to work. Pulitzer Prize Winning NYT columnist Thomas Friedman frequently quotes McGowan in his books and columns and describes her as “the oasis” when it comes to insights into the future of work. In 2020 McGowan was recognized as one of the top 50 female futurists in the world by Forbes. McGowan's sessions help employees and leaders alike prepare for and adapt to jobs that do not yet exist.

McGowan has provided keynote addresses for audiences from start-ups to government organizations to universities to publicly traded Fortune 100 companies, including AMP Financial, SAP, Abbvie, Biogen, Fidelity, FIS, Mastercard, AT&T, Financial Times, Siemens, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Kaiser Permanente, JPMorgan Chase, Lockheed Martin, MassMutual, MetLife, Best Buy, Raytheon, The US Army, Accor Hotels, Paramount, Chevron, AARP, Zendesk, Tableau, Fidelity, de Beers, Professional Beauty Association, and The World Bank among hundreds of others. McGowan addresses audiences in person from small summits for C suite executives to large events in the tens of thousands. Her virtual talks have reached hundreds of thousands. Often quoted in the media, notably in the New York Times, McGowan serves on the advisory board for Sparks & Honey, a New York–based culture-focused agency looking to the future for brands.

McGowan’s academic work has included roles at Rhode Island School of Design, and Jefferson University, where she was the strategic architect of the first undergraduate college focused exclusively on innovation. In 2019 McGowan was appointed as a faculty member of the Swinburne University Centre For the New Workforce in Melbourne, Australia. In 2022, McGowan was awarded an honorary doctorate from Pennsylvania College of Art and Design in addition to earning her MBA from Babson College and her BFA in Industrial Design from Rhode Island School of Design.

McGowan is the co-editor and author of the book "Disrupt Together: How Teams Consistently Innovate" and a Forbes contributor. McGowan’s first book on the future of work, published in 2020: "The Adaptation Advantage: Let Go, Learn Fast, and Thrive in the Future of Work," reached number three in business management books on Amazon and was named one of the best business books of 2021 by Soundview. McGowan’s most recent book "The Empathy Advantage: Leading the Empowered Workforce" published in March 2023 and is a finalist for the Next Big Idea Book Club and identified as a top ten business book to read in 2023 by Business Chief.

Speech Topics


THE EMPATHY ADVANTAGE: LEADING AN EMPOWERED WORKFORCE

The global pandemic did not only change where work takes place, it is altering where work fits in our lives. The combination of a shift in leadership from Boomer and GenX to GenX and Millennial and the entrance of Generation Z into the workforce is altering the fundamental values around work. Labor shortages show no signs of abating and are shifting the power from employers to employees. In this RUPT (Rapid, Unpredictable, Paradoxical, and Tangled) world, leaders can no longer be unquestioned experts driving productivity with fear. The leadership profile shifts to a humble and curious learner who can inspire potential, help talent connect with their own internal drive and motivate with culture, love, and belonging. The factory default settings have all been removed from who works (diversity as a norm), where work takes place (home, office, anywhere, hybrid), what we do for work (exploration over routine tasks), how we lead (inspiration over fear), and why work in the first place. In this talk, buckle up for a fast paced and inspirational overview of the post pandemic world comprising an empowered and engaged workforce.

THE HUMAN VALUE ERA

For much of the history of work, talent was defined by the things you could make. In this new era, talent will be defined by what you can make out of your people.

Research shows that human capital comprises 90% of all enterprise value in the S&P 500. As we hand off more and more mentally routine and predictable tasks to technology, human talent and ingenuity will be the true competitive advantage.

We’ve entered the era of human value, an era in which humans are seen as assets to develop rather than costs to contain. In this talk, discover how to navigate and master this challenging yet thrilling new world.

ADAPTATION ADVANTAGE: LEADING IN A POST-PANDEMIC WORLD

When Heather E McGowan and Chris Shipley wrote The Adaptation Advantage (April 2020, Wiley) even they didn’t realize just how quickly their predictions would come to pass. Then the coronavirus global pandemic required an immediate and dramatic shift in work, learning, and leading, and predictions they made for the next three to five years, occurred over the following three to five weeks.

Overnight, companies remapped supply chains, pivoted product lines, and transformed to distributed work-from-home organizations. Entire university and school systems adopted virtual delivery exclusively, something many said they would never do. This new normal requires a laser focus on culture, purpose, trust, and psychological safety as we embark on the largest social experiment in human history. The virus has accelerated our future of work, expedited our human transformation to digital creation, and placed an even greater burden on leaders to inspire and motivate human potential. Even as the pandemic subsides, our new ways of working will remain. With Heather’s strategies in place, those transformations can be for the better.

THE REAL FUTURE OF WORK

We live in times of accelerated change driven by exponentially growing technologies paired with a hyperconnected global market economy. As a result, work tasks as we knew them in the past have become fragmented, automated, and augmented by technology. This reshaping of tasks requires that we rethink our systems of education and workforce development, our organization of work and workers, our process of talent attraction and retention (including learning and development), and even ourselves.

In the past, we learned to work. Tomorrow, we’ll work to learn. Discover how with Heather in this stunning and actionable keynote message.

CREATING HIGH PERFORMANCE TEAMS WITHOUT BURNOUT

Organizational leaders have far more influence over those they lead and manage than previously understood, recent research shows. The results-oriented management approach that drives productivity at the expense of workers’ mental health and safety reaches far beyond the workplace. In fact, leadership styles can affect the lives and futures of workers’ children.

A series of recent studies show that leader behavior is impacting society not just in business performance outcomes, but through the daily lives of workers and their children. It is fair to conclude that how one leads today will fundamentally affect the workforce of future generations. Given the magnitude of this impact, we must think differently about leadership. A more empathetic leadership style best serves companies, communities, societies and the formation of the next generation workforce.

In this talk Heather will share highlights from various studies on the impact of leadership on both mental health, thriving, and performance to help organizations attract, nurture, and retain leaders that create high performing teams without burn out.

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