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Thought Sparks

Thought Sparks

By Rita Gunther-McGrath
Insightful ideas, actionable suggestions, strategic thinking, Innovation and more with Rita Gunther McGrath, Columbia Business School Professor, Thinkers50 Top 10, #1 in Strategy. Join Rita and Listen to Thought Sparks!
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Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath & Anna Lembke
Rita McGrath is a best-selling author, sought-after speaker, and longtime professor at Columbia Business School. As one of the world’s top experts on innovation and growth, Rita’s work is regularly published in the Harvard Business Review. She is consistently ranked among the Top 10 management thinkers in the world and was ranked #1 for strategy by Thinkers50.   Get in Touch, Keep in Touch! can follow me on Twitter (@rgmcgrath), on Instagram (@ritamcgrathofficial), on LinkedIn and here on YouTube. For access to the archives, ability to make comments and to be part of the community, subscribe.     We’re also ramping up some interesting offers at Valize. For instance, we’ve revived the BareBones net present value calculator featured in my book, Discovery Driven Growth. You can download it for free from the Valize web site @
March 10, 2022
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath & Whitney Johnson
Rita McGrath is a best-selling author, sought-after speaker, and longtime professor at Columbia Business School. As one of the world’s top experts on innovation and growth, Rita’s work is regularly published in the Harvard Business Review. She is consistently ranked among the Top 10 management thinkers in the world and was ranked #1 for strategy by Thinkers50.
February 09, 2022
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath & Chris Mims
Christopher Mims is a columnist for the Wall Street Journal, and writes Keywords, a weekly column on technology. He has a fascinating new book out called "Arriving Today" that is particularly relevant to our pandemic-related supply chain disruptions. It's really eye opening! Before joining the Journal in 2014, he was the lead technology reporter for Quartz and has written on science and tech for publications ranging from Technology Review, Smithsonian, Wired, the Atlantic, Slate and other publications. Mims, who has degree in neuroscience and behavioral biology from Emory University, lives in Baltimore.
January 26, 2022
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath & Anne Marie Slaughter
Anne-Marie Slaughter burst into the public eye with her 2012 article in the Atlantic "Why Women Still Can't Have It All." Since then, she's gone on to run New America Foundation as its CEO (among many other things, including her highly acclaimed book "Unfinished Business"). She has a new book out, "Renewal: From Crisis to Transformation in Our Lives, Work, and Politics" in which she reflects on the transformation in her own life sparked by a major professional crisis. Can't wait to dive in!
January 12, 2022
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath & Marcus Eriksen
Marcus Eriksen made a huge impression on me when I first met him. He is an environmental scientist, educator and author as part of his day job. On the side, he's built rafts out of junk, floated down the Mississippi river for days on said raft, writes books about his adventures and advocates for the environment. He has been an outspoken and forthright advocate for the environment, particularly the elimination of plastics in the oceans. Most importantly, his efforts have gotten results, notably in a law prohibiting micro-beads in cosmetics.
December 15, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath & Ron Adner
Ron Adner and I have been intellectual sparring partners and friends for a very long time. He's just come out with a terrific new book, "Winning the Right Game" which tackles head on the strategic challenge executives confront when the ecosystems they compete in are disrupted. The problems start, as Adner explains, when strategists choose the wrong "game" to begin with, meaning that even if they succeed, they will ultimately lose. The book talks about defense, offense, timing, mindsets and what has to be one of my favorite chapters the dangers of an "ego-system" in which leaders let their preferences (and their hubris) undermine their judgment.
December 08, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath & Liz Wiseman
Are you a regular contributor or what Liz Wiseman calls an "impact player?" You might think you're doing just fine, doodling along doing your job, but what you might actually be doing is adding to people's burdens at work, taking up headspace with unnecessary detours and generally being a drag on everyone around you. A new book from the celebrated author of "Multipliers" sheds another gleaming light on what behaviors make work light, easier and even fun, and which don't. More importantly, she tells us what to do to create a team-ful of high impact players. I'm thrilled that Liz was able to join me by the fireside.
November 17, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath & Robert Livingston
I promised Harvard Professor and expert on equality and inclusion Robert Livingston that I would read his book "The Conversation" before he joined me for a Friday Fireside Chat. I did, and am ever so glad. He takes us through a journey centered on three questions: What is racism? Why should everyone care? What can we do to eradicate it? Professor Livingston de-mystifies many misconceptions about racism in a reasonable, non-threatening and deeply researched way. And the cliff notes are - racism is enduring and endemic. We should care because it hurts all of us. And - really good news - there is a path to solving it.
November 10, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath & Ray Wang
Everybody Wants To Rule the World. When R "Ray" Wang says it, he isn't just channeling a popular musical line, he really means it. In his view, digital giants are pulling further and further ahead of the rest of us and will eventually reshape our economic future into one of extreme capitalism. He anticipates we will have huge data-driven networks, extreme consolidation, extreme investing and extreme monetization. He's going to be my guest to talk about this phenomenon which is part of his new book, and to help us think through how the digital age doesn't end up in catastrophe. He's the Founder, Chairman and Principal Analyst of Constellation research and co-host of the DisrupTV program.
November 03, 2021
Thought Sparks Rita McGrath & Jennifer Moss
If you could pick someone to lead you through an intelligent conversation about the new world of work, you couldn't do better than to consult with Jennifer Moss. Author of the forthcoming HBR Press book "The Burnout Epidemic," Jennifer has written a best business book of the year, won awards for her success as an entrepreneur and spoken to audiences all over the world. It was exciting to get to know her and to learn about her book, which provides a guide on an incredibly timely topic.
October 20, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath & Peter Cappelli
Work - what's work anyway? Where does it get done? How are people supposed to "manage" it? These are questions of the hour and who better to think them through than my colleague, former professor and mentor Peter Cappelli. Capelli is one of the foremost thinkers on the topic of people and work I have ever met. We'll be chatting about his new book, "The Future of the Office - Work from Home, Remote Work, and the Hard Choices We All Face" out any day now by Wharton University Press. This is a conversation anyone with an interest in the future of work won't want to miss!
October 06, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath & John Hagel
My Friday Fireside chat guest, John Hagel, was looking around corners before I even stumbled across the concept.  In this short clip from our longer conversation, John explains how, in the early days of the Internet, he saw massive opportunities in creating virtual communities on-line and also to create “infomediaries” who would guarantee a fair exchange of value in return for access to people’s personal information.  Featured in his books from the 90’s “Net Gain” and “Net Worth,” these are two ideas that remain huge opportunities even today as we struggle to reckon with what the digital revolution means for our lives.  If you have five minutes, have a watch – always so interesting to learn the history of things that we take for granted today.
September 22, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath & Jonathan Brill
We think of unusual events as rare - but as my Friday Fireside Chat guest, Jonathan Brill, points out, they may be rare individually, but when they accumulate, the chance of their creating a catastrophic inflection point increases. Indeed, his research finds that most firms in the US have faced four significant calamities every year! These are what he calls "rogue waves" or events in business that are like the huge waves that can come seemingly out of nowhere to sink even large ships. While he was at HP, he had the amazing title of Global Futurist and Director long term research. He talks about how you get people to pay attention to the possibilities, how to change behavior and how to change culture so that the action needed today to be resilient in an uncertain future is taken.
September 15, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath & Zoe Chance
Zoe Chance graduated from a massively successful corporate career to doing groundbreaking research to teaching a hugely popular elective at Yale called Mastering Influence and Persuasion, aka "Doing Uncomfortable Things That Make You a Better Person.” She's a TED speaker, consults with major companies and has a new book coming out in 2022, "Influence for Nice People: The New Science of Making More Friends, Money, Impact—and Joy." We talk about the practical implications of her research and how it can be used to help people do some good in the world. As she says, "we cannot change people's minds, but we can influence their behavior when we learn how the mind works."
September 08, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath & Zachary Karabell
I first met Zachary Karabell when he was enrolled in my Columbia Executive Education program "Leading Strategic Growth and Change" and he made a big impression on me all those years ago. I'm delighted to catch up with him to talk about his rich collection of activities - he has a brand new book out about Brown Brothers Harriman and the way capitalism used to work. He is an author and columnist, the founder of the Progress Network at New America, and president of River Twice Research and River Twice Capital. He's written many other books and is a regular columnist and commentator. An all around fascinating person I'm looking forward to chatting with.
August 25, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath & Robert Siegel
All digital, all the time - that's what we hear among the chattering business classes.  My guest begs to differ.  Instead, Robert E. Siegel points out, the competitors who will triumph combine both "Brains" (digital, smarts) with "Brawn" (operations and execution). Just one or the other won't cut it. Indeed, incumbents have shown that they can win by leveraging traditional strengths even as they bring on new capabilities. This should be fascinating.  Come join us!
August 18, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath & Jayshree Seth
Jayshree Seth, Ph.D., is a corporate scientist and chief science advocate for 3M Company, where she has worked for over 27 years to advance science and develop new technologies and environmentally sustainable industrial products. She has over 70 patents to her name (with more on the way), received the incredibly prestigious Society for Women Engineers Achievement Award and is one of the few top performing scientists to be inducted into the 3M Carlton Society. We're going to be talking about her book "The Heart of Science," what its like to be among the pioneering women in STEM and whatever else she'd like to discuss!
August 11, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath & Safi Bahcall
In the inflection point that is a public health crisis, an economic crisis, a crisis of social justice and an environmental crisis, few people have more smart things to say than Physicist, biotech entrepreneur, author and consultant Safi Bahcall. His most recent book "Loonshots," was an instant Wall Street Journal bestseller. He previously co-founded a company developing drugs for cancer which went through an IPO. We'll be talking about smart ideas, innovation, science and discovery.
July 21, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath & Judy Samuelson
Judy Samuelson is the founder and executive director of the Aspen Institute Business and Society Program, a high-impact initiative to uproot some of the more damaging beliefs that have led to income inequality, the lack of consideration of all stakeholders in corporate governance and skyrocketing executive pay that has no basis in value creation. She’ll be joining me to discuss these ideas as well as those in her forthcoming book, “Six New Rules of Business: Creating Real Value in a Changing World.” What a great perspective to share as we begin a new year.
July 14, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath & Gina O'Connor
Gina O’Connor was figuring out how to help companies innovate long before it was a hot topic. In her many books and articles, she’s shown how we can get beyond what I call innovation theater by building proficiency in three distinct processes: Discovery, Incubation and Acceleration. It can be done, and she’s demystified the process. In our conversation, we’ll cover some of the biggest myths that get in the way of true innovation (for instance, that it’s all about the ideas), what she thinks the current pandemic has done to alter the innovation agenda and what she sees as the critical next steps in our collective innovation journey.
July 07, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath & Tim Harford
Tim Harford, the well known "Undercover Economist" columnist for the Financial Times was awarded an OBE in 2019 for his contribution to our economic understanding. I could not be more thrilled that he'll be joining me live and virtually to discuss, among other things, his new book. The US edition is called "The Data Detective: Ten Easy Rules to Make Sense of Statistics" and it's now available for pre-order. We'll talk about this book, his others, and whatever else he'd like to cover.
June 30, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath & Rick Goings
I’ve been an unabashed fan of Rick Goings’ since we first met at a CEO Summit where one of the most memorable moments involved a real-time display of the creativity that goes into the Tupperware new product development process! Rick has a distinguished career in the military, as an entrepreneur and more recently as the long-time CEO of Tupperware, where he oversaw its successful global expansion, figured out how to create a truly diverse and inclusive workplace (for real – his accomplishments in promoting female leaders are astonishing), and kept the brand relevant to its original customers while breaking new ground internationally. Now CEO Emeritus at Tupperware, he is co-founder and Chairman of the World Federation of Youth Clubs, an organization dedicated to providing resources and support to groups with the mission of supporting youth. In a breathtakingly short period of time, the WFYC has touched over 3,000 groups in 24 countries around the world. We’ll be talking about the lessons learned from his business career, of course, as well as what he’s excited about working on today.
June 23, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath & Noah Wilson
Did you know that in 1945, there were 4.5 million beehives in the United States, but that today there are only about 2 million? In what promises to be a fascinating new topic for a Friday Fireside Chat, I’ll be talking to Noah Wilson-Rich, a beekeeper, biologist, TED speaker and founder of the Best Bees Company, a premier beekeeping service. He’s a citizen-scientist who has created the world’s first mass sampling of data on bee behavior, enlisting thousands of people who have access to unused urban spaces and other places where bees can be raised. If you eat food, you should care about bees! Noah will share insights about climate change resilience, food system stability and other things we all too often take for granted. I’m very much looking forward to it.
June 16, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath & Martin Lindstrom
Procedures that defy logic. Requirements that no one can meet. Practices that are designed to frustrate and confuse. These are all crazy, says my Friday Fireside Chat guest Martin Lindstrom. Martin, who is a world renowned expert on branding and one of the most influential marketing experts in the world will be joining me to discuss, among other things, his brand-new book “The Ministry of Common Sense.” In it, he argues that so much of what we accept about organizational life is actually nuts, a product of bureaucracy and siloed thinking that ultimately harms our well being, our brands and our customers. I’m excited to share stories about his journey, the new book and what he’s thinking about as we look forward to whatever comes next.
June 09, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath & Jeff Abbott and Chris Yeh
Chris Yeh and his partner in the Global Scaling Academy and I get together to discuss Blitzscaling, what it means to be entrepreneurial, the company they have just started and predictions for whatever happens after we're done with the pandemic.  Have a look at the replay!
June 04, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath & Glen de Vries
One of the most exciting frontiers in medicine is the use of huge amounts of patient data to help design personalized and highly effective individual treatments which never would have been possible before. My Friday Fireside Chat guest, Glen de Vries, is the co-CEO and co-founder of Medidata, a company which provides an analytical platform that has completely transformed the way clinical trials are done, making them faster, better targeted and more effective. He is also the author of the recent book, "The Patient Equation" which promises to give us a glimpse of the data-intensive future of healthcare.
May 31, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath & Dorie Clark
My good friend Dorie Clark is a master of personal and professional reinvention. After starting out as a journalist and political operative (what careers could have brighter prospects?) she has transformed her career multiple times. She’s written three great books on how to be your own entrepreneur, is an accomplished and sought after speaker, and been at the leading edge of many career trends. While there is a lot we can talk about, I’m particularly interested in her take on how we are all going to be approaching what I call the “tour of duty” career, now and as we get to wherever we’re going to be post-pandemic. I suspect a lot of wisdom will come from her book “Entrepreneurial You.” And if we’re lucky, we’ll get a chance to check out her individualistic cats!
May 28, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath & Chester Elton and Adrian Gostick
Some of the most magical things that happen at work aren't expensive, hard or risky. Simple human connections, treating each other with dignity and kindness and leveraging the power of appreciation are things anyone at any level can do. My Friday Fireside guests this week are Chester Elton, the "Apostle of Appreciation" and his co-author and co-conspirator Adrian Gostick. Author of several best-selling books about corporate culture, teamwork, and leadership skills, they'll be joining me to leverage their perspective on what we can do to build better organizations now, and whenever we come out of whatever this is.
May 24, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath & Bjarte Bogsnes
One of the biggest barriers to growth and innovation is the overhang of the corporate budgeting process. Bjarte Bogsnes, Chairman of the Beyond Budgeting Institute and implementation head at Equinor, Scandinavia's largest company, has a better idea. Get beyond rote, mind-numbing budgeting processes and create flexible, changeable structures that allow your company to actually use the new strategy playbook.
May 21, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath & Carter Copeland
Carter Copeland is the President of Melius Research, where he is also the lead research analyst covering the global aerospace and defense sector. He is consistently ranked in Institutional Investor’s annual survey of top analysts, and was named the number one aerospace and defense analyst by Institutional Investor’s Alpha magazine. His recent co-authored book, "Lessons From the Titans" takes us on an analysts' journey to understand the inner workings of the corporate giants that are so critical to our everyday lives. With CEO's blaming the pressure of Wall Street for an excessive short-term focus and failure to appropriately balance the needs of multiple stakeholders, I'm really interested to hear t
May 17, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath & Amy Edmondson
Harvard's Amy Edmondson pioneered the breakthrough concept of psychological safety at work, in which people feel that they can speak up without fear of retribution.  It's been shown to be crucial to innovation and growth.  Psychological safety has also been essential for improvements in hospital care.  I can't think of a more important topic for where we are right now.  In this chat, we'll discuss the initial research behind the concept and how it has now been embraced.  We'll also touch on the core themes of the book "The Fearless Organization" which is a treasure.
May 14, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath & Chris Fussell
Protests in the streets, against the backdrop of a deadly pandemic with political upheaval the world over. What kind of leadership should we look to under such complex and highly uncertain conditions? I'm grateful to be speaking with Chris Fussell of the McChrystal group, who together with Stan McChrystal, transformed the culture in the Joint Special Operations Command to distributed, not hierarchical, leadership with a network form of governance. What Chris learned in highly deadly military situations are essential insights for all of us today.
May 10, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath & Charlotte Jones Burton
We are in the midst of several huge inflection points - a global pandemic, a recognition of structural inequities in American society and a looming economic crisis. How timely then to be talking to the founder of Women of Color in Pharma (WOCIP) and a senior executive at Otsuka, with a unique perspective on all three and what needs to happen next.
May 07, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath & Clive Thompson
Protests in the streets, against the backdrop of a deadly pandemic with political upheaval the world over. What kind of leadership should we look to under such complex and highly uncertain conditions? I'm grateful to be speaking with Chris Fussell of the McChrystal group, who together with Stan McChrystal, transformed the culture in the Joint Special Operations Command to distributed, not hierarchical, leadership with a network form of governance. What Chris learned in highly deadly military situations are essential insights for all of us today.
May 03, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath & Clive Thompson
Clive Thompson's recent book "Coders" takes us into the minds and hearts of the people that are actually creating the digital world we all live in.  From the first piece of code many learned to love - "hello, world" to the sophisticated interactions behind artificial intelligence, Thompson gives us a fascinating fly on the wall perspective.  In this #FridayFiresideChat​, he explains why coders hate to be interrupted, why they sometimes don't even eat and why grappling with inhuman amounts of frustration comes with the job.  Have a listen - you'll find it really interesting.
April 30, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath & Erich Joachimsthaler
It's pretty clear that we need a whole new playbook for strategy, and Erich Joachimsthaler has just published a thought-provoking new book on this very topic. While strategy used to be thought of as the property of a firm, the winners today are building what he calls "interaction fields" where value comes from the velocity of transactions partners can create between customers and suppliers and other value-system members. In this thought-provoking #FridayFiresideChat​, the two of us draw the contours of what an entirely new way of thinking about strategy looks like.
April 26, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita Mcgrath and Gisbert Rühl
Gisbert Rühl, the CEO of German metals distributor Klöckner is one of my corporate heroes.  He and his company have digitized a very old legacy business, changed their business model and created new growth in an incredibly difficult traditional business.  In this recording of our Friday Fireside chat, we discuss why he felt digital transformation was an imperative, how Yammer became a tool for breaking through the bureaucracy and how he got the right balance between the legacy core businesses and the new businesses the company is pursuing. It was an inspiring conversation and I learned a lot!
April 23, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath & Jennefer Witter Fireside
Jennefer Witter, public relations expert, CEO and one of the “10 most successful black CEOS and entrepreneurs” by Madame Noire Magazine enjoy a spirited conversation in this #FridayFiresideChat​.   She describes her professional journey - from a financially strapped upbringing to a scholarship at Fordham to the challenging world of public relations to creating her own company.  We talk about the importance of networking, diversifying  your portfolio, and lessons learned through the experience of setbacks.  We also cover resources for those wishing to learn more about racism and social injustice and some practical things you can do.  Have a listen!
April 19, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath & Joanne Wilson
The original Gotham Girl herself, Joanne Wilson, and I get into a great conversation!  You can listen in while we talk about her varied interests, how NYC will come back, the insanity that has been venture capital in this past decade, how women can re-imagine their careers and so much more.  One of my favorite quips she reported was to her husband, well known venture capitalist Fred Wilson, "How did you get to be Fred Wilson? I was supposed to be Fred Wilson!"
April 16, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath & Linda Hill
Globally recognized leadership scholar Linda Hill is the author of well regarded business books "Being the Boss" and "Collective Genius." She's been interviewing leaders about how they are navigating the COVID-19 crisis and will share her insights with us.
April 12, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath & Shellye Archambeau
Even in the midst of a pandemic, we have to be thoughtful about our next career moves, what kinds of support we'll need to take our next step and what being ambitious - especially for women - really means. Join me and Shellye Archambeau, author of the forthcoming book "Unapologetically Ambitious" in what I know will be an empowering and informative conversation.
April 08, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath & Sally Helgesen
MOSTRA MENOIn this #fridayfiresidechat​ @Sally Helgesen recounts aspects of @Francis Hesselbein's leadership style.  Showing junior people how to handle a tricky call from the @NewYorkTimes, trusting associates to resolve differences on their own, avoiding becoming an #advicemonster​, all part of the #webofinclusion​ that women leaders have historically created.
April 06, 2021
Thought Sparks with RitaMcGrath & Roger Martin
Roger Martin, one of the world’s most highly acclaimed thinkers, is an unsurpassed master at navigating intellectual polarities. His new book, “When More Is Not Better” explains how our systems designed to drive economic optimization are ultimately highly dangerous – and what we should be doing instead. We’ll be talking about the book, about Roger’s approach to developing strategies (hint: don’t spend a lot of money before spending some imagination) and whatever else he’d like to discuss.
April 01, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath & Peter Georgescu
"America," said Peter Georgescu, "is the star of my life's story."  And, worried that his grandchildren may not have that America, in which "I became the best Peter Georgescu I could be," he has written a fiery manifesto in "Capitalists Arise!"  The book takes us through the painful path of inequality and warns that if we don't heal the middle class, we'll end up with blood in the streets or a society in which we'll need bulletproof cars.  In this Fireside Chat, Peter describes his journey from essentially house arrest in Romania to become the Chairman of Young and Rubican. We discuss potential remedies and how people who live in a bubble can be oblivious to what is going on right under their noses. We should all be paying attention!
March 30, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath & Paul LeBlanc
A visionary leader from a rather surprising place, Paul LeBlanc has presided over the dramatic transformation of Southern New Hampshire University and shown many skeptics that it is possible to reinvent our institutions.  From a sleepy school with a few thousand on-campus students experiencing their "coming of age" years, to a national powerhouse of around 135,000 enrolees, LeBlanc has been a beacon for rethinking what Higher Ed is all about.  In this #FridayFiresideChat​ we chat about his vision, which is that access to high quality, affordable education is still crucial for social mobility.  For many of SNHU's adult learners, the "job" they want to get done is to get a credential as fast as possible because they are by and large stuck. And even worse, some 80% have some course credits, and even student debt, but no degree.  Our conversation covered the changes taking place in higher education and how it is likely to change to become less of an industrial age relic and more forward looking.  One inspiring idea that I took away was Pauls' observation that every time the United States has had a major catastrophe, like the one we are going through now, we have reinvented higher education for the better.  Let's hope this black swan moment has a similar next step.  Enjoy listening to one of the most thoughtful strategists in the world of higher education today.
March 24, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath and Patty McCord
TED phenomenon and author of the book "Powerful," Patty McCord, the founding talent leader at Netflix, will be joining me for a Friday fireside chat. We'll talk about why so many things we believe about HR are just plain wrong, what people should be thinking about with respect to their talent today and how to create the context that releases the power of high performing teams.
March 16, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath and Victoria Montgomery-Brown
Victoria Montgomery-Brown has a new book out - "Digital Goddess" which tells a no-holds-barred history of her abandoning her nice, safe, corporate job and hurtling into the world of entrepreneurship.  The book is full of stories that are honest, often funny and really illuminating for anyone who has ever wanted to follow their dreams and start a business.  From getting arrested just as you were about to launch (as it turns out, a politically motivated and trumped-up charge), to how picking a business partner is like getting married, to actually getting married (as it happens, at City Hall), to battling depression and axiety and even to what it's like to date as a CEO, the book is a treasure trove.  We talk about some of those stories and more in this recording of our Friday Fireside Chat.  Have a listen! Screen reader support enabled.
March 12, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath and Tom Peters
Rita Gunther McGrath is a best-selling author, a sought-after speaker, and a longtime professor at Columbia Business School. Rita is one of the world’s top experts on innovation and growth and is one of the most regularly published authors in the Harvard Business Review. She is consistently ranked among the top 10 management thinkers in the world and was ranked #1 for strategy by Thinkers50. 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).
March 08, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath and Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic
Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders? Asks the provocative title of Dr Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic's recent book. A major issue, he suggests, is that we all too often confuse confidence with competence, meaning that many - even most - people who achieve formal leadership roles are not actually very good leaders. Among the solutions we'll discuss are improving the way we evaluate and select leaders, in particular paying more attention to emotional intelligence, or EQ in our evaluations. It should be a fascinating conversation.
March 05, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath and Whitney Johnson
How do you go from a newly-minted music degree to a secretarial position to becoming one of the leading analysts on Wall Street to co-founding one of the most successful boutique investment firms of all time to running your own business and being ranked as a top thinker by #Thinkers50​? Not to mention writing best-selling books?  My #FridayFiresideChat​ guest Whitney Johnson would say that it is the happy result of moving from S curve to S curve in your own life! We had a far-ranging conversation, including her "aha" discovery that @Clayton Christensen's theory of disruption could apply at a personal level.  And we even slipped Lady Gaga and Madonna in on the conversation.  Special note for those interested in #womeninleadership​ - we touch on a few themes relevant to that topic as well.  Have a look!
March 01, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath and Alexander Osterwalder
Creator of the Business Model Canvas and CEO of Strategyzer, Alexander Osterwalder joins Rita McGrath in conversation. Rita interviewed Alex about his new co-authored book "The Invincible Company," the implications of its lessons for other firms and his guidance for how to navigate through these nerve-wracking times.
February 26, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath and Amy Webb
With everyone wondering what the future holds, especially now, it was an enormous pleasure to welcome my friend, quantitative futurist Amy Webb to a #FridayFiresideChat​.  She offered a great key to thinking about the future, namely "what would it take for X to be Y".  I brought up the Jetsons, that old 1960's era television show and Amy astonished me by recounting that the first patent for a flying car was filed in 1917!  Who knew?  And apparently the flying car has become the standard by which all progress and innovation is judged.  We spent a chunk of time talking about how organizations can become more future-ready by building distributed teams that can converse across organizational silos and share what they see happening with the 11 forces that will shape the future.  She also encourages our listeners to "stop chasing certainty" and that we should move from beginning - middle - end thinking to past - present- future thinking.  Amy also directs the Future Today Institute (​) on which she posts all kinds of free resources for people interested in improving their level of future proof-ness.  Have a listen - I know I learned a lot and suspect you will as well.
February 22, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath and Dave Ulrich
Dave Ulrich is a legend in the world of talent and organizations. In this fireside chat, he and Rita McGrath will exchange ideas on the people implications of the COVID-19 crisis, focusing on the critical leadership behaviors that are going to be essential now and as we rebuild for the future.
February 20, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath and David Kidder
I was absolutely delighted to welcome David Kidder, serial entrepreneur and founder of Bionic to our #FridayFiresideChat​!  David shares Bionic's approach to building growth engines quickly - going from $1 to $100 million, fast.  We also talk about the Startup Mindset and the five practices that gifted entrepreneurs use to build and scale their businesses, why minimizing regret is a great guide to setting priorities and how creating a growth mindset is a path to moving through this crisis.  The hour flew by, and I think you'll come away from this session feeling more positive and energized!
February 16, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath and Erin Meyer
Erin Meyer's ideas have been fundamental to our understanding of how cultures work.  Her first book, "The Culture Map" is used by organizations all over the world to help them communicate better, adapt their corporate cultures to local environments and understand seemingly inexplicable behavior on the parts of their global teammates.  I was thrilled, then, that Erin teamed up with Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, to examine and document the extraordinary culture of freedom and responsibility at Netflix.  Hastings first reached out to her to get support for the Netflix international expansion in an email with the obscure subject line "Peace Corps."  It turns out that they had both been in the Peace Corps, though at different times.  Since their initial contact, the introduction grew into a full-scale collaboration in which the Netflix ambition to increase talent density led it to abandon rules, processes and procedures and give its people extraordinary degrees of freedom.  Tune in to this #FridayFiresideChat to learn about the story, how it might apply to you and lessons learned from one of the most extraordinary companies of our time.Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath
February 01, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath and Gary Hamel
Why bureaucracy is the enemy of so much innovative, human-led creativity and what to do about it.  Gary Hamel, co-author of the new book "Humanocracy" and I touch on his body of work in general, which has had a huge influence on me, but more recently his efforts to create a framework for real organizational change.  This full #FridayFiresideChat is chock a block with insights from one of the most well known management thinkers and writers.
January 29, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath and Geoffrey Moore.
What an absolute pleasure to spend an hour with my good friend and innovation thought leader Geoffrey Moore.  In this #FridayFiresideChat, we discuss the arc of his breakthrough work.  He's influenced generations of innovators both in the world of tech startups and in large organizations trying to become more agile and innovative themselves.  His most recent book, "Zone to Win" is designed to help leaders address the paralyzing resource allocation challenges they face when they have to pull resources out of a successful operating business to fund a new growth business which might not show results for two or three years.  We didn't just talk about the past, though.  We speculated on what kind of path companies might be taking going forward, including the very interesting idea that we could be looking at a "Y" shaped recovery, where some sectors (food, healthcare, infrastructure) pick up very rapidly while others (travel, hospitality, tourism) go along an entirely different path.  Knowing your customers' trajectory could shape the most appropriate strategy for that going forward.  Have a listen!
January 26, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath and Herminia Ibarra
Herminia Ibarra just recently published a super-timely Harvard Business review article on the topic of "leader as coach", in which she explores the skills that are so sorely needed to create higher levels of organizational capability.  Most of the executives she works with, unfortunately, think they are much better coaches than they actually are!  In this far-ranging #FridayFiresideChat, she and I reflect on how the concept of leadership has evolved, what we need to know now and how her book "Act Like a Leader:  Think Like a Leader" has moved individuals forward.
January 22, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath and Jeffrey Pfeffer
Talking to Jeffrey Pfeffer is always a gift, and this #FridayFiresideChat does not disappoint!  We discuss the ideas in his recent book "Dying For a Paycheck" among which are that while physical workplace safety issues have largely been addressed, the invisible toll on workers' mental health has not. One of Jeff's interesting ideas is that a company's benefits managers could tell you - if you wanted to know - which parts of your organization are using the most sleeping pills and anti-depressants, and use that as an input to decisions about who gets to become - and stay - a leader. We also talk about the dangers of externalizing costs with employers putting the burden on society for things like health care and retirement benefits.  We also discuss some of his ideas about power, and that if you want to advance you need to build relationships with people who can help you do that. Not people you like. Not people you respect, necessarily. Quite a bit of the conversation is very relevant to women leaders and how they might get ahead. We wrap up on why we so often substitute talk for action and what you can do about that.  There's much more - have a listen!
January 14, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath and John Mackey
In his new book "Conscious Leadership" Whole Foods Market Co-Founder and CEO John Mackey takes us through his journey as the leader of a company that changed what we expect from our grocery stores.  From the opening story in the book - in which he came close to being ousted in a corporate coup - to the later discussions of fending off an activist investor before orchestrating a merger with Amazon - the story is endlessly fascinating.  Have a look, buy the book - it will prompt you to think differently about your own leadership journey.
January 10, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath and Rebecca Henderson
Capitalism, by many accounts, is committing "slow suicide."  It was a thrill, therefore to be joined by Rebecca Henderson, professor at Harvard Business School and a dear friend to talk about her new book, "Reimagining Capitalism in a World on Fire."  In this wide-ranging #Fridayfiresidechat, we discuss the urgent need for all of us to rethink assumptions in a capitalist world gone completely out of balance.  A small example - we don't price environmental and health impacts into our market-based models, so the pricing mechanism doesn't account for those.  The hour just flew by!  Do have a listen and get your hands on a copy of Rebecca's book for a deeper dive.
January 08, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath and Sylvia Acevedo
My #FridayFiresideChat guest Sylvia Acevedo has had an astonishing career. From a childhood in a neighborhood with dirt roads and few opportunities to a full-scholarship education to NASA, Stanford and beyond, this tech executive never looked back at her "Path to the Stars" as her book is called.  We chat about the challenges of overcoming setbacks, the unexpected twists lives and careers can take and about what she learned during her time as CEO of the Girl Scouts of the USA. During her time there, she created STEM badges, figured out how to get girls interested in subjects that solved problems in a technical way, and ... a big challenge - revamped the cookie program!  I learned a ton, and you will too.
January 03, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath and Zeynep Ton
We need good jobs and we can have them! My dear friend and @MIT Professor Zeynep Ton joined me in a #FridayFiresideChat, to talk about the Good Jobs Strategy.  Her pathbreaking book presented her research that showed that successful operations, combined with good jobs, can allow firms to outperform, even in historically low-margin sectors such as retail.  She shared the results of a Brookings Institute study that showed we have a horrible bad jobs problem in the United States - 53 million U.S. employees work at jobs that pay $17,950 a year.  In contrast, a firm such as Costco can offer a $23 hourly wage and still out-compete its rivals.  The steps to creating a good jobs strategy? 1) simplify and focus; 2) standardize and empower; 3) cross-training and 4) provide for more hours of labor than the expected demand to cover peaks and dips.  Zeynep has started the Good Jobs Institute to give these ideas a home - see  We both fervently hope that as we rebuild after COVID-19 that we will do so based on good jobs.
January 02, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath, Jennifer Aaker and Naomi Bagdonas
Have you fallen off a humor cliff in which every day is full of spreadsheets, powerpoints and meetings and each one seems a little less fun than the one before?  If so, I have just the antidote for you.  It's Jennifer Aaker and Naomi Bagdonas' wonderful new book, "Humor, Seriously" now available for pre-order (with goodies) prior to its February 3 US publication date.  Just in time for the holidays!  Just sayin.  In this not-#FridayFiresideChat we probably have a lot more fun than is strictly allowed talking about humor that works, how to weave it into your life at work and the -- serious -- mental health, physical health and community health benefits of embracing the funnier side of things.
January 01, 2021
Thought Sparks with Rita McGrath, Scott Anthony and Paul Cobban
Even if you want to spark innovation in your organization, the challenges can seem terribly daunting. In their delightful co-authored book "Eat, Sleep, Innovate" DBS Bank's Paul Cobban and Innosight's Scott Anthony make it much easier to engage in everyday innovation.  The book is chock-full of practical, fun examples of how you can get rid of frustrating and obsolete controls and replace them with energizing, customer-focused new behaviors. Unlike a lot of books about innovation, this one focuses on the day to day behaviors that are actually in your own control.  Have a listen and pick up the book!
December 29, 2020