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Heather McGowan

Keynote Speaker

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

Heather E. McGowan is a champion for humans in the learning-centric future of work. McGowan is the coauthor of both The Adaptation Advantage (2020) and The Empathy Advantage (2023). 

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Heather McGowan'S SPEAKING FEE $25K - $40K

Heather McGowan Profile Photo

Future-of-work strategist Heather E. McGowan helps leaders prepare their people and organizations for the post-pandemic world. As a keynote speaker, Heather gives lucidity to complex topics through her research rich, graphic frameworks, and powerful metaphors. In 2017, LinkedIn ranked her as its #1 global voice for education, and in 2020 McGowan was listed as one of the Top 50 Female Futurists in Forbes. NYT columnist Thomas Friedman describes her as “the oasis” when it comes to insights into the future of work. McGowan is the coauthor of The Adaptation Advantage (April 2020) and The Empathy Advantage (March 2023).

Featured Videos

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Heather McGowan

Heather McGowan Speaking Reel

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Heather McGowan

Heather McGowan on Resilience

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Heather McGowan

Heather McGowan on The Importance of Curiosity

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Heather McGowan

Heather McGowan on Skills Gaps and Behaviors: The Power of Not Knowing

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Heather McGowan

Heather McGowan on The Confidence Gap

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Heather McGowan

Heather McGowan on The Augmented Era

Heather McGowan’s Speech Topics

  • Leadership Focus: Future of Work? Get to Work!

    Amidst the turbulence of today’s rapidly changing societal, cultural, and technological landscapes, leaders face a compelling imperative to adopt a radically different approach to leadership. The question arises: should leaders prioritize the engagement of their employees or solely pursue tangible results? It’s a nuanced issue with a seemingly paradoxical answer: both are essential, as they are mutually reinforcing elements required for superior performance.

    Whether focusing on the future of work or simply on the task at hand, today’s leaders must adeptly undertake three key responsibilities to foster high-performing teams: establishing conditions for thriving (craft culture), navigating imperfect and evolving information (decision making), and nurturing talent (build organizational resilience).

    • Crafting Culture involves creating an environment conducive to growth, which necessitates fostering trust, transparency, and psychological safety. In a world plagued by various distractions, from the loneliness epidemic to political polarization, recognizing shared values can alleviate tensions without delving into divisive discussions. Trust serves as the foundation for achieving optimal performance.
    • Leadership Decision-making, once a straightforward process for those deemed unquestioned experts relying solely on individual intelligence, now requires the adeptness to harness collective intelligence. Many leaders find themselves guiding teams composed of individuals possessing skills and knowledge they themselves lack.
    • Building Organizational Capacity: Previously, leaders were primarily assessed based on immediate results. However, in the current landscape characterized by a tight labor market and the departure of baby boomers, prioritizing talent development is imperative for navigating uncertainty and ensuring sustained business continuity.

    Today’s leaders must concurrently drive exceptional performance while fortifying organizational resilience. Through sharing insights, research, analogies, and case studies, McGowan’s discourse elucidates why embracing this three-pronged approach is both the future of work and the pathway to superior performance today. 

  • Leading the Distracted and Divided

    The success of any organization hinges entirely on the performance of its people and, more specifically, their ability to collaborate. We are uncivil and increasingly dysfunctional. Our increasing polarization is robbing performance. Loneliness, spanning across all demographic groups, has been intensifying for decades, culminating in what the surgeon general deems an epidemic. As social beings, our collaborative nature has propelled us to the top of the food chain. It is now believed Homo Sapiens emerged ahead of other human ancestors not because we were stronger or faster or had larger brains, we did not, but because of our ability to both communicate and collaborate. However, our growing isolation is reshaping our brain function. When individuals feel lonely, their amygdala triggers a “fight or flight” response and activates our sympathetic nervous system, fostering an “us” vs. “them” hostile response. Moreover, a rapid amalgamation of social, cultural, and technological shifts, though inherently apolitical, has been politicized, exacerbated by social media echo chambers that reinforce our biases, reducing our ability to trust and collaborate. In the end civility is lost and with it trust, engagement, performance, growth, and profitability. 

    To navigate your organization through inevitable change cycles—whether adapting to AI, restructuring, launching new products, or simply sustaining success—it’s imperative to keep your team focused and cohesive, through minimizing interruption and internal conflicts. Heather’s presentation delves into the origins of our current state of distraction and division, drawing on research to pinpoint key factors contributing to distraction, while offering strategies to foster cohesion and concentration within your organization.

    Note: This discussion does not revolve around politics or personal views, but rather explores the biological and cultural factors that have divided us, alongside practical leadership tools for managing an increasingly fractured and distracted workforce with techniques to lead profitable growth and performance through focus on shared vision and purpose. 

  • The Augmented Era: Maximizing Human Potential

    Throughout much of the history of work, talent has traditionally been gauged by physical outputs. Despite the advent of transformative technologies such as generative artificial intelligence, one undeniable truth remains: the defining characteristic of this era is the ability to harness the potential of your workforce to drive profitable growth.

    Research consistently highlights the pivotal role of human capital, which contributes a staggering 90% of enterprise value in the S&P 500. While technology, particularly generative artificial intelligence, increasingly handles routine tasks, the real competitive advantage lies in the performance of augmented human talent and creativity.

    We’ve now entered the era of human value, where humans are recognized as assets to cultivate rather than expenses to minimize. No matter how impressive technology may be, its effectiveness is ultimately determined by the humans who utilize it.

    In this presentation, explore strategies for navigating and mastering this challenging yet exhilarating new landscape, where we not only learn from technology but also collaborate and innovate alongside it. This paradigm shift encourages us to view technology as a partner in our journey, rather than a mere tool to be wielded.

  • Building Resilient Teams Without Burnout

    In today’s dynamic and rapidly evolving work environment, maintaining peak performance while preventing burnout is paramount. Ignoring societal polarization does little to mitigate distractions. To help our teams stay focused and excel, it’s crucial to realign them with shared values, their desired impact on the world, and a sense of belonging to something greater than themselves—offering profound opportunities for growth.

    This enlightening discussion explores the art of cultivating resilient teams capable of thriving amidst adversity while prioritizing well-being. Drawing on cutting-edge research and practical approaches, this presentation delves into the transformative potential of authentic leadership, effective communication, empathy as a performance driver, and fostering a highly performance workplace culture. Discover actionable strategies to nurture resilience through emphasizing the importance of trust-building and psychological safety, both crucial for organizational health and sustainable, profitable growth.

  • The Future of Work Is Learning and Adaptation

    In an age characterized by rapid technological progress within a globally interconnected economy, traditional work functions have undergone fragmentation, automation, and technological enhancement—particularly with the emergence of generative artificial intelligence. This shift necessitates a reassessment of education systems, workforce development strategies, organizational frameworks, talent management approaches, and even individual perspectives. Whereas previously we learned to work, we now must work continually to learn.

    While the pursuit of closing a perpetual skills gap has been ongoing, Heather advocates for prioritizing hiring based on behaviors that facilitate heightened performance, irrespective of given skills and talents. McGowan suggests prioritizing candidates who demonstrate an intrinsic connection to purpose, an agile learning mindset adaptable to market fluctuations, and, significantly, behaviors indicative of a continual desire for improvement and growth.

    During this presentation, Heather will distill recent research findings and provide actionable insights for organizations seeking to attract, cultivate, and retain talent characterized by a propensity for continuous learning and adaptability.

What other organizations say about Heather McGowan

Heather McGowan is outstanding at her craft, tailoring her presentation for maximum impact. She will leave your audience with clear imperatives and fired up to race into action!


What other organizations say about Heather McGowan

Heather – Your event was INCREDIBLE. It absolutely nailed the messaging we wanted to get out there, and the feedback was tremendous. It did exactly what we aimed to do – get people thinking more broadly – and DIFFERENTLY – about how they lead, market/industry context, and what they need to prepare for in the future. I sincerely hope we get to have you back again – I know there were some leaders internally that were interested in having you speak with their teams.

Financial Services

What other organizations say about Heather McGowan

Heather nailed it. She inspired my people. It was more than I had hoped for.

Consumer Products

What other organizations say about Heather McGowan

Heather was the highlight of the conference. She gave my team a lot to think about in both the near and far term.

Oil & Gas

What other organizations say about Heather McGowan

Heather’s presentation style connects to the audience regardless of how your brain is wired. A broad coalition of colleagues found immediate, actionable application of her message.


What other organizations say about Heather McGowan

The way Heather combined concrete research data with common sense insights educated people and provided them with a clear blueprint for what actions to take.


What other organizations say about Heather McGowan

Really excellent talk. The best one I have attended in quite some time. It was incredibly dense, packing in studies, data, trends, concepts, and frameworks that were relevant as an individual and a manager. Essential viewing.


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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