Heather McGowan | Championing Humans in the Learning-Centric Future of Work

Heather McGowan

Championing Humans in the Learning-Centric Future of Work

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Heather McGowan
Featured Videos

Current: The Importance of Curiosity in Building Organizational Capacity

Time 03:27

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The Importance of Curiosity in Building Organizational Capacity
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Amidst the turbulence of today's rapidly changing societal, cultural, and technological landscapes, leaders face a compelling imperative to adopt a radically different approach to leadership. The question arises: should leaders prioritize the engagement of their employees or solely pursue tangible results? It's a nuanced issue with a seemingly paradoxical answer: both are essential, as they are mutually reinforcing elements required for superior performance.

Whether focusing on the future of work or simply on the task at hand, today's leaders must adeptly undertake three key responsibilities to foster high-performing teams: establishing conditions for thriving (craft culture), navigating imperfect and evolving information (decision making), and nurturing talent (build organizational resilience).

Crafting Culture involves creating an environment conducive to growth, which necessitates fostering trust, transparency, and psychological safety. In a world plagued by various distractions, from the loneliness epidemic to political polarization, recognizing shared values can alleviate tensions without delving into divisive discussions. Trust serves as the foundation for achieving optimal performance.

Leadership Decision-making, once a straightforward process for those deemed unquestioned experts relying solely on individual intelligence, now requires the adeptness to harness collective intelligence. Many leaders find themselves guiding teams composed of individuals possessing skills and knowledge they themselves lack.

Building Organizational Capacity: Previously, leaders were primarily assessed based on immediate results. However, in the current landscape characterized by a tight labor market and the departure of baby boomers, prioritizing talent development is imperative for navigating uncertainty and ensuring sustained business continuity.

Today's leaders must concurrently drive exceptional performance while fortifying organizational resilience. Through sharing insights, research, analogies, and case studies, McGowan's discourse elucidates why embracing this three-pronged approach is both the future of work and the pathway to superior performance today. 


The success of any organization hinges entirely on the performance of its people and, more specifically, their ability to collaborate. We are uncivil and increasingly dysfunctional. Our increasing polarization is robbing performance. Loneliness, spanning across all demographic groups, has been intensifying for decades, culminating in what the surgeon general deems an epidemic. As social beings, our collaborative nature has propelled us to the top of the food chain. It is now believed Homo Sapiens emerged ahead of other human ancestors not because we were stronger or faster or had larger brains, we did not, but because of our ability to both communicate and collaborate.  However, our growing isolation is reshaping our brain function. When individuals feel lonely, their amygdala triggers a "fight or flight" response and activates our sympathetic nervous system, fostering an "us" vs. "them" hostile response. Moreover, a rapid amalgamation of social, cultural, and technological shifts, though inherently apolitical, has been politicized, exacerbated by social media echo chambers that reinforce our biases, reducing our ability to trust and collaborate. In the end civility is lost and with it trust, engagement, performance, growth, and profitability. 

To navigate your organization through inevitable change cycles—whether adapting to AI, restructuring, launching new products, or simply sustaining success—it's imperative to keep your team focused and cohesive, through minimizing interruption and internal conflicts. Heather's presentation delves into the origins of our current state of distraction and division, drawing on research to pinpoint key factors contributing to distraction, while offering strategies to foster cohesion and concentration within your organization.

Note: This discussion does not revolve around politics or personal views, but rather explores the biological and cultural factors that have divided us, alongside practical leadership tools for managing an increasingly fractured and distracted workforce with techniques to lead profitable growth and performance through focus on shared vision and purpose. 


Throughout much of the history of work, talent has traditionally been gauged by physical outputs. Despite the advent of transformative technologies such as generative artificial intelligence, one undeniable truth remains: the defining characteristic of this era is the ability to harness the potential of your workforce to drive profitable growth.

Research consistently highlights the pivotal role of human capital, which contributes a staggering 90% of enterprise value in the S&P 500. While technology, particularly generative artificial intelligence, increasingly handles routine tasks, the real competitive advantage lies in the performance of augmented human talent and creativity.

We've now entered the era of human value, where humans are recognized as assets to cultivate rather than expenses to minimize. No matter how impressive technology may be, its effectiveness is ultimately determined by the humans who utilize it.

In this presentation, explore strategies for navigating and mastering this challenging yet exhilarating new landscape, where we not only learn from technology but also collaborate and innovate alongside it. This paradigm shift encourages us to view technology as a partner in our journey, rather than a mere tool to be wielded.


In today's dynamic and rapidly evolving work environment, maintaining peak performance while preventing burnout is paramount. Ignoring societal polarization does little to mitigate distractions. To help our teams stay focused and excel, it's crucial to realign them with shared values, their desired impact on the world, and a sense of belonging to something greater than themselves—offering profound opportunities for growth.

This enlightening discussion explores the art of cultivating resilient teams capable of thriving amidst adversity while prioritizing well-being.  Drawing on cutting-edge research and practical approaches, this presentation delves into the transformative potential of authentic leadership, effective communication, empathy as a performance driver, and fostering a highly performance workplace culture. Discover actionable strategies to nurture resilience through emphasizing the importance of trust-building and psychological safety, both crucial for organizational health and sustainable, profitable growth.

Heather McGowan
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