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Rita McGrath

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Expert on strategy and innovation, Professor at Colombia Business School and consultant to senior leadership teams

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About Rita

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Keynote speaker Rita McGrath is a renowned Professor at Columbia Business School with great expertise in the field of strategy and innovation. Rita is a very sought-after professor, speaker, and consultant to senior leadership team all over the world. Her specialty is her knowledge about strategy in uncertain and volatile environments.

Rita McGrath is a best-selling author, a sought-after advisor and speaker, and a longtime professor at
Columbia Business School. Rita is one of the world’s top experts on strategy and innovation and is
consistently ranked among the top 10 management thinkers in the world, including the #1 award for
strategy by Thinkers50. McGrath’s recent book on strategic inflection points is Seeing Around Corners: How to Spot Inflection Points in Business Before They Happen (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019). Rita is the author of four other books, including the best-selling The End of Competitive Advantage (HarvardBusiness Review Press, 2013).

Since the onset of the pandemic, Rita has created workshops, strategy sessions and keynotes, applying
her tools and frameworks to strategy under high levels of uncertainty to specific issues organizations are facing.

Rita’s work is focused on creating unique insights. She has also founded Valize a companion company,
dedicated to turning those insights into actionable capability.  McGrath received her Ph.D. from the Wharton School (University of Pennsylvania) and has degrees with honors from Barnard College and the Columbia School of International and Public Affairs.

See keynotes with Rita McGrath
Keynote by speaker Rita McGrath

Snow Melts from the Edges

Companies that are blindsided by changes in their environment or disruptions in their competitive space have one thing in common: Their executives and decision-makers somehow got disconnected from the “edges” of the organization—where small changes start brewing before their implications are obvious to
everybody. So too, when a big opportunity is missed or  dismissed.

Why, for instance, did Microsoft initially miss something like five major shifts in underlying technology as it tried to defend its Windows franchise, and why is it regaining relevance now?

Audience takeaways:

  • Eight simple practices that you can put into place immediately to improve your ability to create
    insight (and why they work)
  • How to reorient your time to accommodate these practices with a simple exercise of
    reallocating one hour per week
  • How to support each other in using the practices and sharing what you are learning
Keynote by speaker Rita McGrath

Catch a Wave: The New Strategy Playbook

Competitors capture their customers, margins shrink,
investors grumble, activists turn up, the CEO, or a succession of CEO’s, are shown the door, and, eventually the company disappears or becomes irrelevant.

A root cause, McGrath argues, is the pervasive belief that a competitive advantage, once established, is enduring. This belief leads to complacency, inward focus, loss of customer engagement and a stifling of innovation.

Instead, smart strategists leave old assumptions at the door and pursue opportunities to establish and exploit transient

Audience takeaways:

  • Why too much stability can be your enemy – and how to embrace continuous reconfiguration
  • Why existing metrics will lead you astray – and what you should be measuring instead;
  • Why healthy disengagement from a fading business is one of the most important practices to
    get right
  • Why believing your most important competitors are others in your industry is a trap
  • Why innovation is not optional
  • How to lead when command-and-control doesn’t work
  • How to manage talent in a ‘tour of duty’ context
Keynote by speaker Rita McGrath

Discovery Driven Planning: Conquering Death By Spreadsheet

In the seminal work that formed the basis for the Lean Startup movement, McGrath describes how to create a plan for a new venture that gets you to early answers fast, by focusing on the most critical assumptions that you need to convert to facts. It’s disciplined, but it’s a discipline that comes straight out of the entrepreneurial mindset.

Audience takeaways:

  • Why people make so many costly mistakes in high-uncertainty situations
  • How to define success so that you can specify what must be true to achieve it
  • How to avoid being unrealistic about what your venture might be able to achieve
  • How to break a large, complex, project down into manageable checkpoints
  • How to compare different potential business models
  • How to think in terms of cost to learn rather than total project budgeting
Keynote by speaker Rita McGrath

Beyond Innovation Theater

In this eye-opening and entertaining talk, McGrath, author of Discovery Driven Growth and The Entrepreneurial Mindset explains the most common ways in which organizations sabotage their growth efforts and how they can move
toward the creation of a genuine innovation proficiency. The processes of ideation (getting great ideas),
incubation (finding product/market fit) and acceleration (ramping up to join the corporate parent) are
all essential, yet most organizations focus only on the first.

Audience takeaways:

  • What are the five practices guaranteed to ensure that your innovation process is dysfunctional and how to fix them;
  • Why three distinct leadership roles are essential for driving innovation;
  • How to stop letting conventional business metrics interfere with the innovation process;
  • How to create the right incentives to promote innovation;
  • How to structure the innovation governance process;
  • How to create a common language for talking about innovation
Keynote by speaker Rita McGrath

Failing By Design

Some experiments don’t work out, but that doesn’t mean they failed. It simply means that particular path forward isn’t going to work. Failure is essential if your organization is to take the
controlled risks to engage in the innovations crucial to effective competition

Audience takeaways:

  • How being tolerant of failure can expand the range of possibilities an organization is willing to try
  • How failure can help you attract resources and attention
  • Why failure and intuition are inextricably linked
  • How failure helps you learn what doesn’t work so that you can focus on learning what does
  • How to make the distinction between bad management and bad luck
  • How to write a contract for intelligent failure
  • How failure can accelerate organizational learning
Keynote by speaker Rita McGrath

70-20-10 or Bust

The dilemma most firms face is that they don’t manage their
portfolios in a strategically coherent way. This talk describes the most common reasons that portfolios
are poorly managed, and offers a simple, practical way to begin to tackle the mess. And the 70-20-10
rule is only an example – the encouragement is to have some kind of proactive allocation.

Audience takeaways:

  • How to set different performance expectations for projects with low uncertainty vs. high
  • How to align strategy with budgets, project approval processes and people
  • How to use options-style investments to learn about critical new capabilities
  • How to use options-style investments to learn about potential new markets
  • How to approach very high uncertainty investments by taking a stepping-stone approach
  • How to set target budget allocations to different parts of the portfolio
Keynote by speaker Rita McGrath

Customers Should Not Be A Mystery

This talk, based on research into hundreds of strategic
moves that led to significant growth, describes how organizations can improve.

Audience takeaways:

  • Why traditional demographic segmentation is almost always pretty useless;
  • How to do a customer interview;
  • Why attributes that were once highly exciting to customers become commoditized
  • How to map your customer’s complete consumption chain
  • How to identify possible sources of differentiation, even if they have nothing to do with product
  • Why customer’s needs (or jobs to be done) are remarkably stable over time and how that can
    give you an advantage
  • How to use the strategic segmentation, consumption chain and attribute mapping tools
Rita McGrath - video

Constantly Reconfiguring and Adapting Your Business by speaker Rita McGrath

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