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Margaret Heffernan

Entrepreneur, TED Speaker, Business Author & Former CEO

CEO, TED speaker and business thinker Margaret Heffernan is a charismatic and authoritative speaker who challenges the most common business practices in ways and from angles that never fail to surprise and engage her audience. Her latest book, Uncharted: How to Map the Future Together, invites us to adapt to a world in which uncertainty is the new normal.  It could not be more timely as Covid19 brings unprecedented disruption to lives and businesses across the globe. Margaret now offers virtual conferencing and webinars to clients.

Dr. Margaret Heffernan produced programmes for the BBC for 13 years. She then moved to the US where she spearheaded multimedia productions for Intuit, The Learning Company and Standard&Poors. She was Chief Executive of InfoMation Corporation, ZineZone Corporation and then iCast Corporation, was named one of the "Top 25" by Streaming Media magazine and one of the "Top 100 Media Executives" by The Hollywood Reporter.

The author of six books, Margaret’s third book, Willful Blindness : Why We Ignore the Obvious at our Peril was named one of the most important business books of the decade by the Financial Times. In 2015, she was awarded the Transmission Prize for A Bigger Prize: Why Competition isn’t Everything and How We Do Better, described as "meticulously researched... engagingly written... universally relevant and hard to fault." Her TED talks have been seen by over twelve million people and in 2015 TED published Beyond Measure: The Big Impact of Small Changes. Her most recent book, Uncharted: How to map the future was published in 2020.

She is a Professor of Practice at the University of Bath, Lead Faculty for the Forward Institute’s Responsible Leadership Programme and, through Merryck & Co., mentors CEOs and senior executives of major global organizations. She holds an honorary doctorate from the University of Bath and continues to write for the Financial Times and the Huffington Post.

Talks available Virtually as well as Face to Face


The biggest mistakes we make in life and work aren’t caused by total unknowns but by information we could have and should have but somehow manage not to have. The law calls this willful blindness because we had an opportunity for knowledge which was shirked. Examples are all around us: the banking crash, Deepwater Horizon, VW emissions, Wells Fargo, Boeing.

How does this happen? But there are also examples of willful blindness in which great opportunities for innovation were missed: how did Google miss social networking? Why didn’t hotels take Airbnb seriously? Examples abound. So what are the forces at work, in us and in corporate cultures, that allow willful blindness to flourish – and what can we do to minimize it.

Using a wide array of real life examples, Margaret Heffernan dissects the causes of this ubiquitous phenomenon and identifies how we can all see better.

Wilful Blindness: How we ignore the obvious at our peril was shortlisted for the FT Best Business Book award and was described as “one of the most important books of the decade.” Dr Heffernan has talked about this work to organizations as diverse as healthcare, financial services, schools, government bodies, pychologists, engineers and designers.

See TED talk here. 


Around the world, organizations strive to develop a collaborative workforce. They know that diverse minds, working together, will see more opportunities and identify risk better. But collaboration is difficult. For the most part, we’ve been brought up to compete with each other – at school, university, for jobs – and great collaboration requires a great deal more than open plan offices. So what are the organizations that do this well and what are the routines and cultures that develop and enhance people who can work together effectively for years on end?

A Bigger Prize won the Transmission Prize in 2015 for the great communication of important ideas. Dr Heffernan has talked about this work to broadcasters, sports teams, large and small corporations, universities and business schools.

See TED talk here. 

UNCHARTED: How to think about an unpredictable future

We are all brought up to plan: for families, careers, businesses. But planning requires that we can forecast the future – and today that is harder than ever. Experts in prediction argue that the very best they can do is forecast 400 days out. For those less gifted, the horizon is 150 days. Most forecasts are propaganda or wishful thinking. Models fail because they leave out what later matters and history doesn’t repeat itself. So what do we do in the light of the fact that we don’t know what the future holds?

Companies that don’t want to be stuck in incrementalism do experiments, testing what the future could look like. In doing so, they find options and opportunities no amount of planning would surface. Imaginative scenarios of possible futures build a more robust culture and reveal possibilities. Institutions like CERN show how it is possible to run successful organizations even when mired in uncertainty and ambiguity. Artists build work that remains vital and meaningful across generations; we can learn from them. Survivors of existential crisis show the capabilities we must hold in reserve. In an age of uncertainty, preparedness is a more productive mindset than planning.

Uncharted published in February 2020 in the UK and September 2020 in the US. Be prepared….


The world is awash with forecasts and predictions about the future of work. They all contradict each other, revealing how much we don’t know about what the dynamic workforce of the future will need or look like. But there are fundamental mindsets and attitudes which will make organizations better able to be creative and responsive as the world changes. What does your company need to be trustworthy, relevant and capable of adapting to what cannot yet be seen.

This talk derives from all of Dr Heffernan’s major work around collaboration, creativity, curiosity and the need for organizations of all kind to stay connected to the societies they serve.

See TED talk here.


Wilful BlindnessThe Naked Truth

Beyond MeasureWomen on Top   A Bigger Prize


"Margaret delivered a colourful and engaging masterclass to a sold out session here in the IMI. She discussed how deceptively small measures can have a disproportionate impact on building a strong, sustainable organisational culture. Here at the IMI, we look at successful events on the number of fronts and audience participation is key. The Q&A session with Margaret was our best yet." - David Magee, IMI

“Margaret was brilliant, very approachable and positive. Plus, she delivered an incredible presentation. Please pass along our appreciation, along with her average score from the audience:  8.82/10 - amazing score & great presentation. Very inspiring!” Excellence Summit

"The session was optimistic and encouraging, it emphasised that there are opportunities amongst all of the challenges that our clients are facing and provided advice on how to navigate the uncertain times that lie ahead." DLA Piper Thought Leader Series

"Margaret was fabulous, a great storyteller with practical tips.  She was one of the highest rated speakers of the event." LINKAGE (USA)

"We owe YOU a huge thank you. Your session was definitely the highlight of the day - everyone was so engaged and then talking about it at the drinks later on having received their books - inspiring stuff. We were very pleased with how the day went." PWC (London)

"Your presentation was excellent, very well received by the teams, at all levels. I personally loved it. It very much resonated with me, and everyone could take something back to their day to day life, reflect and hopefully make some changes that would be beneficial to all. During all the many presentations we had at L@L, every single GSK presenter from Legal referred to your presentation! Thanks again. It was a pleasure to listen to you." SK (London)

"As you can tell from the attached evaluation summary, those in the room were really engaged.  They benefitted from not only from the stories you shared, but also those you encouraged in the room from each other.  Everyone was able to take something away to use and develop back at their organisations and Trusts.  I couldn’t have asked for more from a masterclass." KKS ACADEMY

"Margaret delivered a colourful and engaging masterclass to a sold out session here in the IMI. She discussed how deceptively small measures can have a disproportionate impact on building a strong, sustainable organisational culture. Here at the IMI, we look at successful events on the number of fronts and audience participation is key. The Q&A session with Margaret was our best yet." - David Magee, IMI

"Margaret’s contribution at our annual strategic offsite was outstanding – we could not have wished for a more thought provoking and insightful presentation. We had expected that she would hit some of the topics that we have built our change initiatives around – but little did we expect that our approaches would be this close. Our colleagues who were there also agreed with the majority rating her session as the one of the most valuable of our offsite." - Allianz Global Investors

"The feedback for Margaret was fantastic, delegates really got a lot out of what she said, and how she said it! Content was fantastic, I think that Margaret related to the brief really well but crucially brought the fantastic external perspective that we were looking for. When it came to the panel I think that Margaret was a brilliant asset and brought a huge amount to the table." Aisling Lewis, MPD Leader, Procter & Gamble

"I was chatting to a couple of chief executives at the end of the conference, and both unprompted commented that yours was the most stimulating session, and the one that got them thinking the most." - Joe Simpson, Principal Strategic Advisor, Local Government Association

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