Rita McGrath

Premier Expert on innovation & growth in Times of Uncertainty

Rita McGrath is a best-selling author, a sought-after speaker, and a longtime professor at Columbia Business School. She is widely recognized as a premier expert on leading innovation and growth during times of uncertainty. Rita has received the #1 achievement award for the strategy from the prestigious Thinkers50 and has been consistently named one of the world’s Top 10 management thinkers in its bi-annual ranking. As a consultant to CEOs, her work has had a lasting impact on the strategy and growth programs of Fortune 500 companies worldwide.


Rita is the author of the best-selling The End of Competitive Advantage (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013). Her new book is Seeing Around Corners: How to Spot Inflection Points in Business Before They Happen (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019). She has written three other books, including Discovery Driven Growth, cited by Clayton Christensen as creating one of the most important management ideas ever developed. She is a highly sought-after speaker at exclusive corporate events around the globe, now in virtual formats!


Rita McGrath is also the founder of Valize, an innovation platform whose mission is to help organizations build lasting innovation capability as the basis for long term shared prosperity.


Previously in her career, Rita served as an IT director, worked in the political arena, and founded two startups. She received her Ph.D. from the Wharton School (University of Pennsylvania) and has degrees with honours from Barnard College and the Columbia School of International and Public Affairs.


She is married and is proud to be the mother of two delightful grownups.

View some of Rita’s Harvard Business Review articles here.


THE MAGIC OF 70-20-10


No matter what your strategy documents say, no matter what your Board thinks, and no matter what you have told your stock market analysts, your actual strategy is reflected in the portfolio of projects and initiatives that you are investing in.  Rita McGrath’s talk, based on years of research and consulting work with companies, describes the opportunity portfolio, which visualizes how an organization is investing across different levels of uncertainty.  When uncertainty is low, investments typically support the core business.  They may be innovative indeed, but uncertainty is fairly low.  When uncertainty is in the medium range, investments are intended to provide a boost that could bring those projects into the core in the near-term future.  With high uncertainty, investments are both the most uncertain but have the highest potential for outsize returns.  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.


You have what you think is a great idea to pursue an attractive new opportunity. Before you can make progress, though, you are hit with a barrage of questions that you have no way of answering.  “What will the ROI of this venture be?”; “how long will it take to launch”; “how will it affect our existing product lines?”.  If you’re like people in many organizations, you will dutifully put together a conventional business plan, with details about the idea, spreadsheets that project what the financials could look like and GANTT or similar charts laying out the project timeline.  And even as you are doing all this, you know in your heart of hearts that this is more quantification of fantasy than it is likely to bring your idea to life.  There is a better way.

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.

Diagnosing and Motivating the Culture of your organization 

The major dilemma with changing the culture of an organization is that it refers to the invisible, often taken for granted beliefs that underlie behaviour.  One goal of the session is to make these invisible beliefs tangible, so that people can start to discuss them and act on changing them.  Building on a foundational cultural framework, in this lively and hands-on session, participants “live” a real culture contrast situation in a simulation.   They then use the experience to design a culture change workshop or other intervention.

Entrepreneurship / Leadership / Management Strategy / Motivators / Workforce/HR