Heather McGowan speaking

Heather E. McGowan Keynote Speaker

  • Future-of-work strategist, named "One of 50 Leading Female Futurists" (Forbes)
  • 2017 Global Linkedin Top Voice for Education
  • Author of 'The Adaptation Advantage: Let Go, Learn Fast, and Thrive in the Future of Work'

Heather E. McGowan's Biography

Future-of-work strategist Heather E. McGowan helps leaders prepare their people and organizations for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The Third Industrial Revolution was marked by computerization and automation of physical labor, laying the foundation for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which will be notable for the rapid advancement of technology tools into the domain of human knowledge work. In this world, humans must continuously learn and adapt, and with this transition comes information overload. Heather gives lucidity to this topic through her illuminating graphic frameworks and powerful metaphors, all backed by deep research.

In 2017, LinkedIn ranked her as its number one global voice for education. Pulitzer Prize–winning NYT columnist Thomas Friedman frequently quotes Heather in his books and columns and describes her as “the oasis” when it comes to insights into the future of work. Heather’s sessions help employees and leaders alike prepare for and adapt to jobs that do not yet exist.

 McGowan’s clients range from start-ups to publicly traded Fortune 500 companies, including AMP Financial, Autodesk, Biogen, Citi, Accor Hotels, AARP, The World Bank, and BD Medical. Often quoted in the media, notably in the New York Tim es, 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, Becker College, and Jefferson University, where she was the strategic architect of the first undergraduate college focused exclusively on innovation.

Heather advises and gives keynote addresses for organizations all over the world and, with her colleagues, provides bespoke consulting to help organizations adapt to the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Her think tank is called Work to Learn because McGowan believes that in the Third Industrial Revolution, we learned (once) in order to work and now, in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we will work in order to learn (continuously).

McGowan’s book, The Adaptation Advantage (2020) explores the complex and ambiguous future of work and has been recognised as a must-read by many critics. It held top spots on Amazon and was named by Soundview as one of the best business books for 2021. She is also the co-editor and author of the book Disrupt Together: How Teams Consistently Innovate and a Forbes contributor.  In 2019, Heather was appointed to the faculty of the Centre for the New Workforce at Swinburne University.

Heather is openly gay and often discusses rapid societal and cultural changes in how it impacts work and general adaptation. She is not exclusively a diversity or LGBTQIA speaker but she does touch on elements in her talks when requested. Each talk is bespoke to the audience.

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Heather E. McGowan's Speaking Topics

The Human Capital Era

In this keynote, Heather shares her predictions that we have entered the human capital era, a profound shift in thinking about work and learning in which we view humans as assets to develop, rather than costs to contain.

Adaptation Advantage

Leading In a Post Pandemic World: The virus has accelerated our future of work, expedited our human transformation to digital creating, and placed an even greater burden on leaders to inspire and motivate human potential. Many of our new ways of working will remain and we will be the better for this forced transformation. 

Future of Work is Learning

We live in times of accelerated change driven by exponentially growing technologies and an increasingly hyperconnected and interdependent global market economy. Work is becoming atomized, automated and augmented. The re-shaping of tasks requires us to rethink systems of education, workforce development, organisation of workers, talent attraction and retention.

Leadership, Diversity and the Identity Crisis

The only thing developing faster than technology is culture. Demographics and social norms are rapidly shifting worldwide, and our once reliable occupational identities, must now endure a much longer career arc due to increased human longevity - a shift creating friction and, for some, identity crisis. Leaders must guide others to build the required resilience to thrive in the future of work.

The Robot Proof Myth

The Future of Work is Human: Advancing technological capabilities will soon be able to achieve anything mentally routine or predictable—perhaps over half of all current human work tasks. The solution is learning and adapting with a focus on uniquely human, nontechnical skills that enable more meaningful work through augmentation of computerized technologies and leveraging technological capabilities to unleash the potential of humanity.

The Future Company

Culture and Capacity:The organization of work has long been measured on the outputs: brands, products, services, etc. McGowan argues, in accelerated change with uncertainty as a norm, we must instead focus on the inputs: culture, the expression of the brand, and capacity, the ability to respond to challenges. Digital and technological growth demands continuous expansion of capacity. Post Pandemic, up to fifty percent of employees report considering changing careers because of misalignment with their values. As a result, in the war for talent, purpose, as expressed by culture, becomes the strategic imperative of the organization.

The future of Identity is Purpose

We ask children and young people “What do you want to be when you grow up?”; we ask university students “What is your major or area of study?”; and we ask each other “What do you do for a living?”. These questions refer to an application of knowledge and skills at a moment in time. That moment in time is rapidly decreasing. According to research, as change rates accelerate--driven by technology and globalization--it is possible for us to work numerous jobs from many different industries in our lifetime. Despite this, we continue to limit our definition to one occupational self. Studies have shown that the loss of a job can take twice as long to recover from than the loss of a primary relationship. Further, if we must learn and adapt our longer and more volatile career arcs, we must be comfortable with being vulnerable in order to learn—a profound challenge if one’s identity is under threat. In order to create a society and workforce that can learn and adapt to leverage rising technological capabilities, we must free ourselves from a definition derived from one occupational self and instead define ourselves through purpose. Purpose, passion, and curiosity are the necessary internal motivational drivers we need to fuel the essential lifelong learning and adaption the future of work requires.

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Videos of Heather E. McGowan

Heather E McGowan 2021 Showreel
Heather E McGowan 2021 Showreel
World.Bank.Keynote.McGowan.Future.of.Work
World.Bank.Keynote.McGowan.Future.of.Work
Detroit: Future of Work Keynote: Schoolcraft 2019
Detroit: Future of Work Keynote: Schoolcraft 2019
Speaker Reel
Speaker Reel

Articles, Media & Podcasts

Books by Heather E. McGowan

The Adaptation Advantage: Let Go, Learn Fast, and Thrive in the Future of Work
Disrupt Together book cover
Disrupt Together: How Teams Consistently Innovate (Co-Authors, Stephen Spinelli, Jr. and Heather McGowan)

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