Rita McGrath Profile

  • She is a two-time Thinkers50 honoree and the Thinkers50 recipient of outstanding achievement in Strategy.

  • One of the Harvard Business Review's most frequent authors, she is renowned for her talent to apply theory to real business problems.

  • The creator of “discovery driven planning," she helps companies update their business model and practices so that they can keep their competitive edge in an accelerated market.
  • Two-time Thinkers50 recipient, Rita McGrath guides CEOs and senior executives to success in the “Transient Advantage Economy.” The long-time Columbia Business School professor is globally recognized for connecting the dots between management theory and practical solutions, particularly in today’s rapidly changing market.

    Regarded as one of the world’s most brilliant business strategists, Rita is the creator of “discovery driven planning,” which treats strategy like research with an emphasis on learning as you go. Her ideas are frequently published in The Harvard Review, The Wall Street Journal, and her column “The Entrepreneurial Strategist,” a regular feature of Inc. Her best-selling book The End of Competitive Advantage serves as a strategic guide to running a prosperous business in “the new normal.”

    Rita has been internationally recognized for her thought leadership. Thinkers50 named her to their Top 10 Most Influential Business Thinkers in both 2013 and 2015. In 2016 she received the “Theory to Practice” award at the Vienna Strategy Forum, and is ranked as one of the top business school professors to follow on Twitter by LDRLB as well as one of the “25 smartest women” to follow on Twitter by Fast Company Magazine. Her clients include world-class organizations such as L’oreal, Pearson, Nestle, Nike, the World Economic Forum, Lufthansa, and 3M.

    • View Extended/Alternate Bio

      Rita Gunther McGrath, a Professor at Columbia Business School, is a globally recognized expert on strategy in uncertain and volatile environments. Her thinking is highly regarded by readers and clients who include Pearson, Covidien, Coca-Cola Enterprises, General Electric, Alliance Boots, and the World Economic Forum. She is a popular instructor, a sought-after speaker, and a consultant to senior leadership teams. She was recognized as one of the top 10 management thinkers by global management award Thinkers50, and won the award for outstanding achievement in the strategy category.

      She’s also been recognized as one of the top ten business school professors to follow on Twitter, and was named one of the 25 smartest women to follow on Twitter by Fast Company magazine. In 2009, she was inducted as a Fellow of the Strategic Management Society, an honor accorded those who have had a significant impact on the field. She serves as Dean of the Fellows. McGrath is the co-author of three books in addition to her brand new book The End of Competitive Advantage: How to Keep Your Strategy Moving as Fast As Your Business (Harvard Business Review Press).

      Rita McGrath appears regularly on television and radio and is often cited in the press, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Financial Times, and Businessweek. She maintains an active blog, and is featured as a discussion leader at Harvard Business Online. She has authored or co-authored 14 articles in the Harvard Business Review, including the best-selling Discovery Driven Planning. Her most recent Harvard Business Review article is Transient Advantage and was featured on the magazine’s cover.

      Rita McGrath joined the faculty of Columbia Business School in 1993. Prior to life in academia, she was an IT director, worked in the political arena, and founded two startups. Her Ph.D. is from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. She teaches in Columbia’s top-ranked Executive Education programs, and is the Faculty Director for the Columbia Executive Education program Leading Strategic Growth and Change.

      Rita’s academic publications have appeared in leading journals such as the Strategic Management Journal, Academy of Management Review, Academy of Management Journal, and Management Science. She has won numerous awards for excellence in scholarship. Among these are the Strategic Management Society ‘best paper’ and ‘runner up’ awards; the Maurice Holland award from the Industrial Research Institute; the Academy of Management Review “best paper” award, the Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice Award for the Best Conceptual Paper, and the European Foundation for Entrepreneurship Research (EFER) best paper award. She is a member of several editorial boards of prestigious journals.

    Rita McGrath Speaking Videos

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    Rita McGrath's Speech Descriptions

    From IT to financial institutions, Rita McGrath has helped audiences from a wide range of sectors reshape the way they do business. Rita outlines effective methodologies for dealing with uncertainty, better allocating resources, and managing the failures that are a natural part of the process of innovation. The trusted thought leader will deliver a fresh perspective on the challenges your organization or industry faces along with the tools to develop a plan of action for discovering and leveraging opportunities in a volatile economy.

    Rita is an acclaimed and much in-demand public speaker. Recent engagements have included keynote presentations for the Leading Hotels of the World at their Annual Conference at the Pierre Hotel in New York City; Land O’Lakes Strategic Marketing Retreat in Minneapolis, and the Credit Union Executives’ Society in San Diego.

    The End of Competitive Advantage and the New Strategy Playbook
    In this popular talk, Rita McGrath outlines the essence of a new strategy playbook which recognizes that competitive advantages are often fleeting and that companies need to adopt an entirely different set of practices than those they used when advantages were more easily protected. Among the key elements of the new playbook are continuous reconfiguration rather than change management; healthy disengagement rather than desperate reshuffling; deft resource allocation rather than resources being held hostage; continuous rather than episodic innovation; leaders prepared to face brutal truths with candor; and individuals who will increasingly be running their careers as tours of duty rather than being cogs in a hierarchical system. This talk can be accompanied by diagnostic exercises which can measure how ready you and your organization are for the transient advantage economy. This talk can also be customized to reflect the particular circumstances of your company or sector.

    Discovery Driven Planning
    Discovery Driven Planning is a Harvard Business Review best-seller and has been adopted by companies all over the world as a key innovation tool. It has received heavy endorsements from Clayton Christensen, who proclaimed it an antidote to “innovation killers” and also used it in his recent best-seller What Are You Going To Do With Your Life?

    Rita McGrath’s main argument is that most established companies have everything they need to take advantage of high-growth opportunities, with one exception: the right disciplines. Her entertaining and provocative sessions will help you and your people understand the disciplines that work to drive innovation and growth.

    Other topics:

    You too can identify huge growth opportunities by using five key lenses with discipline.

    Entrepreneurial Leadership
    Understand the five key practices that create an entrepreneurial mindset and culture in your company.

    Real Options Reasoning
    Contain risk while accessing opportunities to maximize the benefit to your organization.

    Designing a Portfolio for Growth
    How you can balance the long-term and short-term investment horizons while simultaneously integrating strategy, projects, budgeting, and people development.

    The Middle Managers’ Role in Growth Programs
    The much-maligned middle manager is often the secret weapon in a drive to create growth.

    Learning to Live with Complexity
    Complex systems require an entirely different thought process than merely complicated ones. How you can master techniques for coping.

    Failing By Design
    In uncertain environments, failure is inevitable. It can also be extraordinarily useful. Learn about intelligent failure and how to make the most of it.

    What People are Saying about Seeing Rita Speak

    Rating Entries

    Rita McGrath is a dynamic woman who thinks as fast and as powerfully as the brightest managers in any company, and can confidently challenge any executive on raising the bar of ambition and improving the odds of success. She creates lasting change in the way executivesview their strategies and the possibilities that sound thinking can create for customers and companies.

    Steve Newman, Program Director for Executive development, Ericsson

    I was priviliged to be in attendance to hear your comments on Intelligent Failures. Your style is engaging and the material waspresented in a way that resonated with me, and with some of the issues we are having in our company today. You caused me to re-think some of our efforts here.

    John Sung, Sr. VP, CIO, Alfa Group

    Your presentation and real life examples provided practical information and a useful checklist for our participants. The breakout sessions provided us with an opportunity to brain-storm as a team with helpful oversight from you.

    Nancy McKinstry, CEO, Walters Kluwers

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    Books by Rita McGrath:

    Competitive Advantage

    The End of Competitive Advantage: How to Keep Your Strategy Moving as Fast as Your Business
    Chances are the strategies that worked well for you even a few years ago no longer deliver the results you need. Dramatic changes in business have unearthed a major gap between traditional approaches to strategy and the way the real world works now.

    In short, strategy is stuck. Most leaders are using frameworks that were designed for a different era of business and based on a single dominant idea—that the purpose of strategy is to achieve a sustainable competitive advantage. Once the premise on which all strategies were built, this idea is increasingly irrelevant.

    Now, Columbia Business School professor and globally recognized strategy expert Rita Gunther McGrath argues that it’s time to go beyond the very concept of sustainable competitive advantage. Instead, organizations need to forge a new path to winning: capturing opportunities fast, exploiting them decisively, and moving on even before they are exhausted. She shows how to do this with a new set of practices based on the notion of transient competitive advantage.

    This book serves as a new playbook for strategy, one based on updated assumptions about how the world works, and shows how some of the world’s most successful companies use this method to compete and win today.

    Filled with compelling examples from “growth outlier” firms such as Fujifilm, Cognizant Technology Solutions, Infosys, Yahoo! Japan, and Atmos Energy, The End of Competitive Advantage is your guide to renewed success and profitable growth in an economy increasingly defined by transient advantage.

    Discovery-Driven Growth

    Discovery-Driven Growth
    You’ve been charged with growing your business. Incremental growth can no longer deliver the results you need. You need truly dynamic growth—and you need to achieve it without risking a hugely expensive gamble. How can you encourage innovative new ventures and pursue ambitious growth while minimizing risk?

    In Discovery-Driven Growth, authors McGrath and MacMillan show how companies can plan and pursue an aggressive growth agenda with confidence. By carefully framing their strategic growth opportunities, testing each project assumption against a series of checkpoints, and creating a culture that acts on evidence and learning instead of blind stumbling, companies can better control their costs, minimize surprises, and know when to disengage from questionable projects—before it’s too late.

    Providing tools that will help you select and better assess the potential of any strategic venture, from new product lines to entirely new businesses, the authors outline a comprehensive process that lets you identify, manage, and leverage your company’s full portfolio of opportunities. By reducing up-front costs and eliminating unnecessary risks, you’ll be able to avoid missteps and explore more options to create the breakthrough growth that your business requires.

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