Heather E. McGowan

Heather McGowan is an internationally known speaker, writer and thought leader. McGowan prepares leaders to most-effectively react to rapid and disruptive changes in education, work, and society.

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Leadership & Development
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About

Heather E. McGowan

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Past speaking engagemens
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Recognizing that business innovation begins with education, specifically learning faster than your competition, she has worked with university presidents and corporate human resources managers to prepare both graduates and workers for jobs that do not yet exist.

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Heather E. McGowan

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The Adaptation Advantage

Her latest book The Adaptation Advantage, co-authored with Chris Chipley, is a guide for navigating the highly complex and ambiguous Future of Work

Overnight companies remapped supply chains, pivoted product lines, and transformed to distributed work-from-home organization. Entire university and school systems adopted virtual delivery exclusively, something many said they would never do. This new normal, or normal of now, requires a focus on culture, purpose, trust, psychological safety as we embark on the largest social experiment in human history.

The future of identity is purpose and play

We ask children and young people “What do you want to be when you grow up?”; we ask university students “What is your major or area of study?”; and we ask each other “What do you do for a living?”. These questions refer to an application of knowledge and skills at a moment in time. That moment in time is rapidly decreasing. According to research, as change rates accelerate--driven by technology and globalization--it is possible for us to work numerous jobs from many different industries in our lifetime. Despite this, we continue to limit our definition to one occupational self. Studies have shown that the loss of a job can take longer to recover from than the loss of a primary relationship.

The human capital era

Throughout much of our history human talent was primarily a function of the production of tangible, physical assets. Recent research has revealed that over the past fifty years the source of value creation shifted from tangible, physical assets to intangible assets, notably human capital. In 2020 intangible assets, primarily human capital, comprises 90% of all enterprise value in the S&P 500. Additionally, as we hand off more and more mentally routine or predictable tasks to technology, human talent and ingenuity become increasingly important.

The Future Company: Culture and Capacity

The organization of work and focused goals have long been measured by the outputs—i.e. brands, products, services, and business models. Accelerated change driven by exponential growth in technology, as well as a hyper connected and interdependent global economy has dramatically reduced the lifespan of a product, service, or business model. In this reality, we can no longer focus on the outputs, or the exhaust, and but should instead focus on the inputs: culture and capacity.

Culture is the external expression of the brand and the internal operating systems of how the organization creates value. Capacity is the organization’s ability to respond to challenges.

The Robot Proof Myth: the Future of Work is Human

A technical, single disciplinary skills list for creating a future proof workforce does not exist. Using our factory pipeline to work where we merely substitute STEM, or any other skills, to create a robot-proof workforce is faulty logic.

We can see that our old model of codifying and transferring existing skills and predetermined knowledge used to create a deployable workforce once worked in industrial revolutions but falls apart with this speed of change.


In this reality, the solution is both learning and adapting with a focus on uniquely human, nontechnical skills that enable more meaningful work through augmentation of computerized technologies. The future of work is human. Once we stop lunging at single disciplinary skill sets while and in fear of being replaced by technology, we can focus on developing our uniquely human skills and leverage rising technological capabilities to unleash the potential of humanity.

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For me, the real power of a nexxworks tour is the unique group of people you meet and travel with

Lieve Pattyn
Sales & Marketing Director EG Stada Group

The tour founded relationships with interesting people I otherwise would've never met, and that's what nexxworks is great at.

Ann Viaene
Founder Sparkz

The mix of speakers and content was perfect

Wouter Blomme
Chief Development Officer at Upgrade Estate

It was truly an eye-opening experience that both enriched my network with amazing people and helped me shape the further direction of my career.

Peter Vindevogel
CEO The Park

A spontaneous smile on our face! That is what happens when we look back at our experience tour. The things you hear, see and learn are a source of inspiration and motivation for the future. We have already implemented some of these in our current strategy and operations.

Emile Maes
Head of Retail Filou & Friends

Nexxworks helps to facilitate innovative out of the box thinking. They will expose you and your teams to a different level of thought leadership, which in turn will help you and your people develop a different thinking ethos for the future.

Paul Roberts
CEO Digital Ventures Cartamundi

The nexxworks inspiration series helps us to imagine the future together with all the teams worldwide, and make the bridge to our day-to-day challenges as well.

Veerle Lauwers
Director Digital Strategy & Transformation at Coca-Cola Europacific Partners

The nexxworks inspiration sessions were that mindblowing, that I invited my global team to taste, smell and learn via a similar experience.  

Mona Nair
Vice President, Skin Health & Head NA R&D at Johnson & Johnson

Meeting today’s companies and speakers brought us refreshing energy and perspectives to our challenges today.

Margaret Mitchell
Global VP People & Organization at Mars.inc

This experience showed how short-term planning and long term planning are both needed. The China visits were truly inspiring in how they execute on that. 

Tom Ward
Chief E-Commerce Walmart US

It’s so important to step outside the day-to-day business. We are the only ones who can moderate this back to our teams and translate what we’ve learned to accomplish our daily goals. 

Kathryn McClay
CEO at Sam's Club

To new travelers, I hope you feel some of the same excitement, anxiety, and concentration. May you learn the way we did. 

Kosta Peric
Deputy Director Financial Services for the Poor at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

We’ve seen great concepts and initiatives from other companies, that made us think outside the box.

Hannelore Raes
Co CEO at AGRISTO NV

We want to make sure that the wonderful company that our family started, remains relevant in a fast-pace changing world.

Filip Wallays
Co-CEO at AGRISTO NV

I view the nexxworks membership as a combination of inspiration, practical insights, and networking with peers.

Ivy Vanderheyden
VP Marketing L&R at Wolters Kluwer

You can find

Heather E. McGowan

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Heather E. McGowan

thoughts in words

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10 Customer Experience for 2023 (and beyond)
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December 8, 2022
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AI for climate: towards environmentally responsible research and innovation
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December 5, 2022
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What's behind the rise and return of the middle manager?
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December 1, 2022
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