Rita McGrath, Management Speaker

Rita McGrath

Author, speaker, thought leader and consultant helping business leaders create an entrepreneurial mindset.

One of the most highly sought-after speakers, Rita McGrath leaves her audiences knowing exactly what it takes to ensure that their their businesses avoid obsolescence. Professor at Columbia Business School, McGrath is considered to be one of the world's leading experts on strategy and innovation.

Videos of Rita McGrath

The End of Competitive Advantage
The New Strategic Paradigm
The End of Competitive Advantage

Speaker Profile

About Rita McGrath

Background / History

Born in 1959 in New Haven, Connecticut, it was her father who first gave Rita McGrath a feeling for the importance of business strategy. She says he taught her to realise that the victims of bad decision making are always the people at the bottom of an organisation.

She started her professional life as an entrepreneur, setting up two small businesses before moving into a position running purchasing systems for government agencies. After 8 years she went back to school at the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School where she did her PhD before joining Columbia Business School in New York in 1993 as Professor.


She has coached and worked with a diverse range of businesses including government departments, the Air Force and the Red Cross, arguing that her methods can offer solutions to the problems of any type of organization. Some current clients include Pearson, Coca-Cola Enterprises, General Electric, Alliance Boots F-Secure, Nokia, Microsoft, AXA Equitable, General Electric, Novartis, PPG Industries, and the Stena Group.

She has had thirteen articles published in the Harvard Business Review and many other leading academic journals. She is currently working on a new book about how organisations can thrive when their strategies are short-lived.

She is on the editorial boards of the Strategic Management Journal and The Academy of Management Review.

She is a regular speaker at corporate events including the Microsoft CEO Summit and the World Economic Forum and is regularly quoted in the press - The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Financial Times, Business week. She makes frequent TV and radio appearances, maintains a blog - www.ritamcgrath.com - and is a discussion leader at Harvard Business Online.

Current / Past Roles & Positions

  • Associate Professor at Columbia University Business School

Awards, Accolades, Achievements & Honours

  • The End of Competitive Advantage listed as the #1 Business Book of the Year by Strategy & Business magazine
  • Ranked #6 in the Top Ten Management Thinkers in the World by Thinkers50
  • Rated one of the Top 100 People to Follow on Twitter by Huffington Post
  • Rated one of the 25 Smartest Women to Follow on Twitter by Fast Company Magazine
  • Received the 2013 Distinguished Achievement Award for Strategy by Thinkers50
  • Market Busters named one of the best business books of 2005 by strategy+business. It was featured by Bill Gates at the 2005 Microsoft CEO Summit, whose theme "New Pathways to Growth" was derived from the book's main topic.
  • Discovery Driven Growth named one of Business Weeks best design & innovation books of 2009.
  • Inducted as a Fellow of the Strategic Management Society 2009 having won their best paper and runner up awards in 2001 and 2004
  • Academy of Management Review "best paper" award.
  • Maurice Holland award from the Industrial Research Institute
  • The Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice Award for the Best Conceptual Paper (both 1992 and 1996)
  • The European Foundation for Entrepreneurship Research (EFER) best paper award
  • Completed her PhD at the University of Pennsylvania in 1993
  • Earned her MPA from Columbia University in 1982
  • Graduated Magna Cum Laude from Barnard College in 1981

Speaking Style

Rita McGrath gives people the tools they need to plan for growth with confidence. She speaks with enthusiasm and teaches people how to use her academic insights to connect with real problems - a skill for which she is highly valued.

McGrath's ideas on developing sound strategy in uncertain and volatile environments are employed by some of the world's leading organizations including Yale School of Management, Du Pont, Lufthansa, 3M and the World Economic Forum. Without exception, the people she engages with describe her thinking as provocative, unfailingly stimulating and a fresh approach to strategy.

Her achievements, activities and professional output are prolific: in both 2013 and 2015, McGrath was recognized by Thinkers50 as one of the Top 10 Most Influential Business Thinkers. The Global Management Award also presented her with the the Distinguished Achievement Award for Strategy in 2013. 

Rated one of the 25 Smartest Women To Follow On Twitter by Fast Company Magazine, McGrath consistently appears in rankings of the top professors to follow on Twitter. Voted HR Magazine’s Most Influential International Thinker, she also writes regularly for Fortune Magazine, authors a regular column for Inc magazine and blogs regularly at HBR.org where she is one of the most widely published authors.

Her best-selling book “Discovery Driven Planning” has been recognized as one of the early articulation of today’s “lean” startup philosophy: Clayton Christensen called it one of the most important ideas in management - ever. 

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

Speaking Topics

On Strategy

  • The End Of Competitive Advantage And The New Strategy Playbook
  • The End Of Competitive Advantage And Entrepreneurial Opportunity
  • How The Growth Outliers Do It
  • How To Win In Business Model Competition: A New Dynamic For Strategy
  • How To Disengage From A Business Whose Position Is Eroding
  • How To Mount A Guerrilla Strategy: Speed, Stealth And Selective Attack
  • Designing Multi-Market Competitive Strategies: Arena Vs. Arena

On Innovation

  • Discovery Driven Planning
  • Five Ways To Tell If Your Innovation Process Is Dysfunctional
  • Project Disengagement: When It's Time To Constructively Exit
  • Creating An Opportunity Portfolio
  • Creating An Entrepreneurial Mindset: Leadership Roles Essential For Innovation And Growth
  • How To Anticipate Disruptive Innovation And Its Effects On Category Evolution
  • How To Choose Between Competing Projects: Screening And Scoring
  • Managing The Internal Politics Of Innovation

On Complexity And Uncertainty

  • Learning To Live With Complexity
  • The Financial Discipline Of High Uncertainty: Real Options Reasoning
  • Failing By Design: Making The Most Of Intelligent Failures

On Opportunity Identification

  • Marketbusting: Overview
  • Insightful Customer Segmentation
  • Using The Consumption Chain To Create Customer Insight
  • Redesign Your Offer To Unlock Opportunities Using Attribute Mapping
  • Identifying & Capitalizing On New Business Models
  • Anticipating Industry Shifts
  • Finding Entirely New Opportunity Categories

On Organisational Leadership And Change

  • Leading Change And Dealing With Resistance
  • Assessing Organisational Alignment: The Kite Framework
  • Diagnosing And Motivating The Culture Of Your Organisation


"You know a presentation was good when you can't wait to get back to work and make some changes" - DigitalNow Conference

"Rita did a great job of getting her message across in 45 minutes. She speakers from her heart and does not use notes. It was no surprise that Rita's presentation ranked highest of all external speakers." - Leading Hotels of the World

"Rita's keen insights into strategy building - and avoiding creative destruction - were a perfect fit with our conference focus." - Coca-Cola Enterprises

"An exceptional instructor, Rita has the ability to take complex topics and make them understandable and applicable." - Pearson

"The fact that we ran over and had to forcibly eject our guests is reflective of how engaging the conversation was at the event. I can't thank you enough." - Columbia Media Lab

Books By Rita McGrath

  • The End of Competitive Advantage: How to Keep Your Strategy Moving as Fast as Your Business (2013)
  • Discovery-Driven Growth: A Breakthrough Process to Reduce Risk and Seize Opportunity (2009)
  • Market Busters: 40 Strategic Moves that Drive Exceptional Business Growth (2005)
  • The Entrepreneurial Mindset: Strategies for Continuously Creating Opportunity in an Age of Uncertainty with Ian MacMillan (2000

Fee Details

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