Ade McCormack

Founder of the Disruption Readiness Institute, Writer and Global Advisor

A recognised free thinker and advisor on building organisations optimised for an unknowable future.


Ade McCormack has been described as an ‘inspiring slap in the face’. Today he advises business and government leaders on people-centric transformation. He has interwoven anthropology, neuroscience, technology and human performance to provide a unique perspective on how we build super-resilient organisations, ie organisations that operate like living organisms. His approach also transforms the role of people from ‘cogs in the machine’ to cognitive athletes. This might be considered as next generation employee wellness.

Ade is a former technologist. He studied astrophysics and has worked with governments, inter-governmental agencies (European Commission and the European space Agency) and many of the world’s leading brands across multiple sectors. He is the author of 6 books on digital matters and a former Financial Times columnist on digital leadership. He has also lectured at MIT Sloan School of Management on digital leadership. Today he works with the University of Cambridge as an associate of the Moller Institute, Churchill College as a leadership advisor.

Ade has a global perspective. He has worked in around 40 countries, again across a wide range of sectors. The issues related to disruption and transformation are indeed universal.  He has recently worked with several former prime ministers across the world to create a blueprint for the next generation of public sector leaders.

Ade has a personal interest in movement and its relationship with cognition. This is reflected in his keynotes. He is a former track sprinter, who today enjoys martial arts, parkour and dancing. His wife considers dancing to be the most lethal of his interests.

Recent speaking clients include:

  • Google
  • WorkDay
  • European Forum for New Ideas
  • Tata Consultancy Services
  • FT
  • EY
  • Salesforce.


The Future of  Work – Welcome to the Cognitive Gymnasium

Covid and hybrid work are simply bit players in the seismic shift taking place in respect of the changing nature of work. Algorithms and robots are increasingly vying for human work. There is a role for humans to play in the workplace, but it means raising our game. You will leave this workshop with a better sense of what lies ahead and will be in a better position to attract and retain the best talent.

The Future of  Work – The Human-Centric Organisation

Centralised leadership and treating the workers as cogs in the machine are just two characteristics of the industrial-era factory model – a model that many established organisations continue to embrace. Consequently their response to threats and opportunities is somewhat arthritic and potentially fatal. Hence the urgent need for transformation.

But digitalisation is not enough.  The World Economic Forum’s Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) message in many respects promotes the soulless factory model. Ironically, new technologies are stimulating the need for people as innovation cannot be elicited from an algorithm or robot. So the organisation needs to be re-engineered around the talent.

Transformation – How to Build a Super-Resilient Organisation

The world is becoming increasingly uncertain and volatile. Organisations need to evolve from inert soulless factories to living, sensing, opportunistic organisms. Today it is less about winning and more about ‘staying in the game’. But how can organisations transform given that many are optimised for less volatile times?

Employee wellness – From Cog to Cognitive Athlete

Centralised leadership and treating the workers as cogs in the machine are just two characteristics of the industrial era factory model. A model that many established organisations continue to embrace. Consequently their response to threats and opportunities is somewhat arthritic and potentially fatal.

We need to harness the cognitive capacity of our people. This is a largely untapped asset. Cognition lies at the heart of being human. We sense. We decide. We act. Organisations similarly need to behave like living organisms.

Leadership – How to lead in a post-strategy world.

Industrial era leadership was straightforward. Build a factory around an idea and continuously refine the model by minimising failure and improving efficiency. The problem is today that no amount of process refinement will offset the macro-environmental forces that are increasingly bearing down on the organisation.

This requires a new type of leader. One that is comfortable with ambiguity and increasing uncertainty. Post-industrial era leaders know that innovation trumps process and they recognise that failure is a critical part of the new model.

Innovation – Turning human potential into market value

In a world where dominance or competitive advantage are transient at best, businesses need to make innovation central to their model. Increasingly fickle customers, coupled with markets emerging and dying overnight, will force the pace of innovation.

Innovation cannot be extracted from an algorithm or a robot, people are key. Thus smart organisations are discarding the factory model of the industrial era, where the worker was simply a cog in the machine, to one that turns human cognition into market-pleasing innovation.

Disruption – Why there is no post-covid, new normal nor even next normal

Disruption is on the increase. There is no post-covid, new normal or next normal. Abnormal and increasing disruption is the backdrop to our lives going forward. Simply throwing new technology at your old business model will not prepare it for what is an unknowable future.



“We wanted someone who would engage our leadership differently, make them think along new lines, stretch their ideas, perhaps make some uncomfortable but above all consider our future in a new light.  Ade did this brilliantly.  Engaging, fast paced and multifaceted.  Just what was needed to shake things up a little in the last session of our conference!” Helen MacPhee, VP Finance, AstraZeneca

“Thank you so much for an amazing presentation at our recent Human Resource Management Association of Jamaica (HRMAJ) Members Meeting on ‘Digital and biological disruption…the future of both work and talent.’ We are still getting feedback from our members about how good it was and the members who missed it are expressing their regret. It was a complete wow and very thought provoking! You deliver world class quality every time! #disruptivethinkerguru #thankyoufromJamaica” Melissa Anderson, Director, Human Resource Management Association of Jamaica

“Ade spoke at Microsoft Sweden´s biggest event called TechDays. Ade’s session ‘Does the IT department have a future?’ got the 3rd best score out of all 85 speakers (score 8.41/9). He did a great job challenging the IT people in the audience to better understand the business needs of their company. Given this was a summit primarily aimed at technologists his ranking is highly impressive. I can recommend Ade.” – Göran Ölander, Enterprise Marketing Manager, Microsoft – Sweden

“Ade was a guest keynote presenter at the 2009 Gartner Outsourcing & IT Services Summit in London. His presentation was extremely well received by the audience, with feedback such as “very engaging”, “focused and relevant”, and “some interesting perspectives & funny!” I found Ade to be very easy and reliable to work with. He delivers presentations that are challenging, well considered, informative and humorous. I would be happy to engage him again for future speaker engagements.” – Shane O’Rourke, Director, Gartner

“Ade gave an inspiring Keynote speech to IT Service Management Forum Conference audience in Finland. I would recommend Ade to anyone looking for an excellent speaker.” – Mervi Vikki-Aaltonen, Deputy Chairman of the Board, itSMF Finland

“I invited Ade to participate in a roundtable discussion on the future of technology; the discussion was part of some important research that we’re doing. His insightful comments covered new ground in an innovative way, and were a valuable contribution.” – David Moloney, Director, PWC

Ade spoke on the emerging 21st Century CIO role at the CIOnet UK Annual Conference. He was authoritative, clear and highly rated by the audience, building a strong case for change. – Nick Smith, UK Network Leader, CIOnet

“Ade was a keynote speaker at a conference seeking to open senior leader’s minds to the potential of 4IR technologies. He was widely appreciated across the diverse audience, for a thoughtful long term perspective on this issue, emphasising the enduring role of humans to create, manage and lead the use of these new technologies. A great speaker, who actively contributes to the wider discussions at the events he attends – hugely valuable. Thank you Ade.” David Sales, Training Manager – St John’s Innovation Centre, University of Cambridge

 “Ade spoke at an event for around 250 of our UK & Israel Technology team. It was an extremely insightful and useful presentation on Business 4.0, with the team citing it as one of the best parts of the overall event we had organised. Ade has a fantastic presentation style, and it was clear in the prep calls that he was able to take our overall theme of the event and link that to his presentation, articulating stories and concepts from the background we had shared, to help make the presentation relevant to the audience. I would highly recommend Ade as a motivational speaker and thought leader.” Hannah Bertolone, Programme Leader, Oracle

“We engaged Ade to open up our Perspectives event in Geneva with a keynote on the future of work. Ade delivered an interesting and thought provoking speech. All feedbacks were very positive. The audience was impressed and inspired by his thoughts and experiences around this hot topic. We intend to re-engage Ade as part of our enterprise IT leadership communications.” – Suzi Preradovic, Marketing Manager, Microsoft

“I had the pleasure of working with Ade at the CEEIT 2009 – Central and Eastern European IT Leaders Summit where he delivered a keynote speech on the subject of CIO leadership. Not only the content was at a very high level, presenting leap-ahead ideas on the subject, but also his style of delivery met the expectations of the attendees, which resulted in him becoming one of the highest rated presenters.” – Mihaly Nagy, Managing Director, Stamford Global

“The importance of e-skilling cannot be over-emphasised. Productivity growth requires that European citizens not only acquire digital skills for the work and study they currently do, but equip themselves with the tools needed to deal with the pace of the digital revolution sweeping across all cultures and societies. McCormack encourages stakeholders to re-examine the ways in which European business, education and government approach life-long skilling. For European business and society to benefit in competitive times, those who strive for excellence will be the winners. The e-Skills Manifesto provides a vision for Europe to keep pace with and stay ahead of the competition.” – Johan Deschuyffeleer on Ade’s e-Skills Manifesto book, Senior Vice President, Technology Services EMEA, HP


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