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Margaret Heffernan        

CEO; Entrepreneur; Columnist & Author of "A Bigger Prize: How We Can Do Better than the Competition"

Dr. Margaret Heffernan is an entrepreneur, chief executive and author. She produced programs for the BBC for 13 years then moved to the U.S. where she spearheaded multimedia productions for Intuit, The Learning Company and Standard&Poors.

She was Chief Executive of InfoMation Corporation, ZineZone Corporation and then iCast Corporation, was named one of the "Top 25" by Streaming Media magazine and one of the "Top 100 Media Executives" by The Hollywood Reporter.

As a television producer, she made documentary films for Timewatch, Arena, and Newsnight. She was one of the producers of "Out of the Doll's House," the prize-winning documentary series about the history of women in the twentieth century.

She designed and executive produced a 13-art series on the French Revolution for the BBC and A&E. The series featured, among others, Alan Rickman, Alfred Molina, Janet Suzman, Simon Callow and Jim Broadbent and introduced both historian Simon Schama and playwright Peter Barnes to British television. She also produced music videos with Virgin Records and the London Chamber Orchestra to raise attention and funds for Unicef's Lebanese fund.

Leaving the BBC, she ran the trade association IPPA, which represented the interests of independent film and television producers and was once described by the Financial Times as "the most formidable lobbying organization in England."

In 1994, she returned to the United States where she worked on public affair campaigns in Massachusetts and with software companies trying to break into multimedia. She developed interactive multimedia products with Peter Lynch, Tom Peters, Standard & Poors and The Learning Company.

She then joined CMGI where she ran, bought and sold leading Internet businesses, serving as Chief Executive Officer for InfoMation Corporation, ZineZone Corporation and iCAST Corporation. She was named one of the Internet's Top 100 by Silicon Alley Reporter in 1999, one of the Top 25 by Streaming Media magazine and one of the Top 100 Media Executives by The Hollywood Reporter. Her "Tear Down the Wall" campaign against AOL won the 2001 Silver SABRE award for public relations

She is the author of five books, including "Willful Blindness," which was shortlisted for the Financial Times/Goldman Sachs Best Business Book award, and "A Bigger Prize: How We Can Do Better than the Competition."

In 2015, she was awarded the Transmission Prize for "A Bigger Prize: Why Competition isn't Everything and How We Do Better," described as "meticulously researched…engagingly written…universally relevant and hard to fault."

Her TED talks have been seen by over nine million people and in 2015 TED published "Beyond Measure: The Big Impact of Small Changes." She is Lead Faculty for the Forward Institute's Responsible Leadership Programme and, through Merryck & Co., mentors CEOs and senior executives of major global organizations.

She holds an honorary doctorate from the University of Bath and continues to write for the Financial Times and the Huffington Post.

Speech Topics


The biggest challenge we face is knowing what is happening in our companies and in our industry. Time after time, we either miss major opportunities, market shifts or warning signs. How does that happen? The disasters are often explained as 'bad apples' but the truth is that the hardest aspect of leadership is gaining true insight into the business and the environment in which it operates. If Microsoft could miss the Internet, Pepsi could miss water and Nokia could miss smart phones, insight isn't just about hiring smart people. It's about understanding the obstacles to transparency and putting the structures, process and culture in place to surface mission-critical information.

Margaret Heffernan draws on a century of psychological and organizational research, together with her own experience running companies, to investigate how business leaders can be better sighted, alert to the external and internal threats that challenge their very existence. In a provocative and entertaining presentation, she outlines the key social and neurological reasons why we cant see what ought to be obvious, why we ignore what we most need to see and why most of those around us do likewise. With examples drawn from organizations worldwide, audiences will learn how better to manage internal intelligence and external networks to ensure that they dont get blind-sided.

TALENT, CONFORMITY, CULTURE: Getting the Best from People

To build the best, smartest workforce requires hiring a broad range of diverse, talented individuals. But if thats all it takes, why is it so hard to increase productivity? Why has productivity fallen for the last 50 years? Why is creativity and innovation something employees seem good at when theyre on vacation, but not when theyre at work? If theyre leaving to become entrepreneurs, why couldnt they be inventive where they are now?

It turns out that hiring diverse people is the easy part. Keeping them diverse, creative and engaged is the hard part. In this provocative presentation, Margaret Heffernan outlines the social, neurological and psychological reasons why we so rarely get the best out of the smart people we hire. And she proposes numerous strategies for hiring the best and keeping them that way.


Does money motivate people or not? Psychology experiments prove that it does and it doesnt. Not much help if youre trying to incentivize your workforce. So how does money work in organizations? What are the unintended consequences of over-pay and under-pay? What role does money play in getting the most from your people?

In this presentation, Margaret Heffernan examines the complex psychological and neurological attitudes we display towards money and proposes ways in which it can be used more effectively to galvanize and focus the talent in your team. She argues that money is the most powerful tool that companies regularly misuse, and proposes ways to get it to work for you instead of against you.

In this illuminating presentation you will learn

  • the unintended consequences of pay

  • the fundamental needs of your workforce

  • better, cheaper ways to motivate smart people


After years of streamlining and hunkering down to weather the crises, what companies now most need to do is pull their people together. Collaboration and innovation are vital skills in global business—but where do they come from? How do leading companies get the alignment, trust and energy they need to get their people to work well together? What are the impediments to, and habits of, creative collaborative teams?

Working across cultures, time zones and technology is logistically difficult but it’s usually the human factors that make it hard for companies to achieve their aims. Everyone talks about collaboration but few know how to do it, what it feels like or what organizational structures enable—or disable—it. What they all know is that if they can’t figure out how to do it will, others will.

In this presentation you will learn:

-The meaning and characteristics of collective intelligence -The business case for collaboration -Incentives that make people pull together -What gets in the way of teamwork -How great leadership teams function


Big data, market research, social media: we can know more than ever and yet we keep missing the most important trends, information and trends. Why? What makes companies and individuals willfully blind?

Pulling together a century of psychological, industrial and economic research, Margaret Heffernan argues that willful blindness is the biggest risk most organizations face. But the good news is that those companies that confront the issue don’t just reduce their risk; they also make themselves inherently more creative and collaborative. It’s a twofer: when you see more, you can make more and risk less.

In this provocative presentation, you will learn:

-What blinds companies to their risks -Why most employees don’t share their knowledge -How companies can kill creativity—or stoke it -The power of noticing and acting on what you see -How diversity can make companies smarter

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