Rita is recognized as one of a small group of experts who have built today’s best-in-class innovation practices, and her tools for making innovation a managed proficiency was integral to the foundation of the “lean startup” movement. In 2009, she was elected as a Fellow of the Strategic Management Society in recognition of her impact on the field. She has also been elected as a Fellow of the International Academy of Management and has received the “Theory to Practice” award at the Vienna Strategy Forum.
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.
Rita is a highly sought-after speaker at exclusive events around the globe, including the Global Peter Drucker Forum and various CEO summits. She regularly contributes articles and perspectives in business-oriented publications such as Fast Company, the Wall Street Journal and Fortune. One of the most published authors in the Harvard Business Review, Rita’s writing includes the breakthrough article “Discovery Driven Planning” (1995).
Her work is often cited in the press, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Financial Times, CNN Business and NPR’s Marketplace. She has been rated one of the 25 smartest women to follow on Twitter by Fast Company and was voted HR Magazine’s “Most Influential International Thinker.”
Rita is the founder of Techtonic, a company focused on helping organizations go beyond innovation theater by developing tools to implement the Discovery Driven Growth approach.
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 honors 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.
- Customers Should Not Be a Mystery
Peter Drucker once famously said that customers rarely buy what companies think they are selling. He also said that the only true purpose for a business was to create a customer. Ironically, many businesses appear to be failing at that one true purpose. This talk, based on research into hundreds of strategic moves that led to significant growth, describes how organizations can improve. Three core concepts are covered: insightful segmentation of customers into behavioral sets; understanding the complete customer consumption chain; and seeing the trade-offs customers make between different attributes or features in an offering. It also touches on how to do a customer interview (hint: don’t lead with a solution!) and how to use insights from social media and on-line customer interactions.
What you will learn:
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 features
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
- Catch a Wave: The New Strategy Playbook
We’ve all seen the story play out. A company experiences phenomenal success, their CEO makes the cover of notable business publications, and business writers use them as examples for the rest of us. Then, somehow, the firm gets into trouble. Competitors capture their customers, margins shrink, investors grumble, activists turn up, the CEO, or a succession of CEOs, 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 advantages.
You will learn:
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
How it’s a trap to believe your most important competitors are others in your industry
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
- Beware the Mal-Adjusted Organization
Have you ever been part of a big, bold, strategic change intended to shift the trajectory of the organization, but that eventually just petered out? A common culprit in this scenario is a lack of alignment between elements of an organization’s operating model. This can happen for several reasons. One is sheer exhaustion – it was so much effort to get buy in for the big, new idea, that there is little appetite for changing the incentive/comp system. The result: a new strategy offering rewards for executing against the old strategy. Or, executives fall in love with one particular change lever – you know, it’s all about the boxes and lines in the organization chart, but deal with resource allocation processes? Not of interest. In this talk, McGrath presents a simple, but surprisingly powerful framework for implementing change, the “kite” model, in which she describes how to bring the key elements that determine organizational behavior into alignment.
What you will learn:
Why taking charge of your own agenda as a leader is the most powerful way to influence the behavior of others
How to identify and promote a high-performing culture
What criteria you should use when deciding how to physically locate individuals and teams
How to make critical decisions about your organization’s history and legacy
What three questions you can use to measure the effectiveness of a communication
Why symbols are the most potent mechanism for galvanizing human action that most of us will ever have access to