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Heather McGowan

Keynote Speaker

Future of Work Strategist, 2017 Global LinkedIn Top Voice for Education

Heather E. McGowan is an internationally known speaker, writer, and Future of Work Strategist. She prepares leaders to most-effectively react to rapid and disruptive changes in education, work, and society.

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Heather McGowan'S SPEAKING FEE Under $25,000

Heather McGowan Profile Photo

Heather McGowan'S SPEAKING FEE Under $25,000

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 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, Becker College, and Jefferson University, where she was the strategic architect of the first undergraduate college focused exclusively on innovation. In 2019 Heather was appointed as a faculty member of the Swinburne University Centre For the New Workforce in Melbourne, Australia. 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 is the co-editor and author of the book Disrupt Together: How Teams Consistently Innovate and a Forbes contributor. Her latest book on the future of work, was released by Wiley in Spring 2020: The Adaptation Advantage: Let Go, Learn Fast, and Thrive in the Future of Work.

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Heather McGowan’s Speech Topics

  • Generation Resignation: 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 VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous) 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 inspiration overview of the post pandemic world comprising an empowered and engaged workforce.

  • The Robot Proof Myth: The Future of Work is Human

    Today and in the future of work, the most in-demand skill will never be the one you have now— it’s the one you can develop tomorrow.

    Upwork, a leading online platform for freelance work with 12 million registered freelancers and 5 million registered clients, recently released its list of the twenty fastest growing skills. 75% of those skills were new to the index in the 4th quarter of the previous year.

    That’s right— 3 out of 4 of the fastest growing skills didn’t exist in the registry just one year before.

    What does all this mean? That the future of work is human. Once we escape our outdated seeking of single-disciplinary skill sets in fear of being replaced by technology, we can focus on developing our uniquely human skills to unleash the potential of humanity.

  • The Future Company: Culture and Capacity

    Brands, products, & services. Time and productivity. These are the benchmarks of the past.

    But in this hyperconnected and constantly evolving world, we can no longer focus on the outputs. It’s time for us to focus on the inputs: culture and capacity. Culture is the internal operating systems of how the organization creates value. Brand is the external expression of the culture. Brand is how your customers experience your culture. Capacity is the organization’s ability to respond to challenges.

    Discover why the companies that endure and thrive will be those that can clearly articulate and nurture their culture, while continuously expanding their capacity and being mindful of the wellbeing of their people.

  • 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 Human Capital 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 capital, 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.

  • Learning: 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.

  • Purpose and Play: The Future of Identity

    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 our work or aspirations at a moment in time. But that moment is becoming shorter than ever. According to research, as change rates accelerate— driven by technology and globalization— many of us will work numerous jobs from many different industries in our lifetime.

    So why do we keep limiting our definition of career to one “occupational self?”

    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 and a desire to learn and create through play.

    In this keynote, discover how to make purpose, passion, and curiosity the drivers for lifelong learning and adaptation that will make us all more prepared for the future of work— and the world.

  • Leadership, Diversity, and the Identity Crisis

    The only thing evolving more quickly than technology is societal and cultural change. Demographics and social and cultural norms are rapidly shifting, while social unrest has moved long-overdue efforts on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to the forefront.

    Leadership through this accelerated evolution requires acknowledging and empathizing with individuals navigating these shifts in order to help them build the resilient and adaptive skills necessary to learn and thrive.

What other organizations say about Heather McGowan

Heather has a unique ability to communicate complex information that is accessible to the public AND credible to the expert. She gave a superb online talk at the record breaking ‘Brainfood Marathon 2020’, which was not only the most watched of the 80+ sessions across the 24 hours, but ‘most requested’ by those missed it. If you are looking for an expert analyst on the future of work who can speak to the widest possible audience, look no further than Heather McGowan

Human Resources

What other organizations say about Heather McGowan

In the war for talent, organizations must be able to offer employees a path that goes beyond typical career progression. Heather presents a compelling and thought provoking vision that focuses on lifelong learning and adaptability for employees, which the pace of technological change essentially requires. Her analysis is comprehensive, yet easily understood. She distills it into actionable steps to help organizations move towards creating an environment in which employees and organizations mutually benefit and are well positioned for an uncertain future.

Business Consulting

What other organizations say about Heather McGowan

Not only was working with Heather an absolute pleasure, but her virtual keynote address was beyond compare. Her speech secured our largest audience to date and attendees unanimously praised her inspiring and engaging message. We cannot recommend her highly enough!

Education Programs


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