Associate Professor of Management at Columbia Business School and a fellow of the Strategic Management Society (an honour given to those who have had a significant impact on the field), Rita McGrath is a globally recognized management thinker and one of the world’s leading experts on strategy and growth in uncertain and volatile business environments. She is renowned for her ability to help organisations achieve transformational growth in uncertain and volatile times. The author of The End of Competitive Advantage: How to Keep Your Strategy Moving as Fast as Your Business and Discovery Driven Growth: A Breakthrough Process to Reduce Risk and Seize Opportunity, audiences value her unique ability to connect cutting edge research to practical business problems. She offers a bold new set of principles for succeeding in our rapidly changing world and presents a fresh strategy playbook. In presentations, she outlines this framework and shares diagnostic tools for organizations looking to identify their next effective strategy and create a fluid and dynamic business environment. McGrath also uses great visuals and interactive exercises during her presentations to illustrate her points.
Recognised the world over for her expertise, Rita McGrath has been named one of the top 10 business thinkers at the Thinkers50 Global Management Awards and was cited as one of the nine most disruptive thinkers in business by CIO magazine. In November 2013 Thinkers50 presented Rita with the #1 award for Strategy, the Distinguished Achievement Award. She has also been inducted into the Strategic Management Society “Fellows” in recognition of her impact on the field. Recognized as one of the top 10 business school professors to follow on Twitter, McGrath also appears regularly on television and radio and is often cited in the press, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Financial Times, Businessweek, Fast Company, and authors a regular column, “The Entrepreneurial Strategist” for Inc Magazine.
The End of Competitive Advantage challenges the concept of sustainable competitive advantage — once a necessary part of strategy, now an increasingly obsolete and unrealistic goal for most firms. Dramatic changes in business have unearthed a major gap between traditional approaches to strategy and the way the real world works now. McGrath believes the new path to winning means capturing opportunities fast, exploiting them decisively, and then moving on quickly once they are exhausted. It is about learning to thrive in a transient advantage economy. In 2013, The End of Competitive Advantage was recognized by Strategy+Business as the #1 business book of the year and was also named #1 general business book by 800CEOREAD.
McGrath has authored three other books. Discovery Driven Growth was heavily endorsed by business thought leaders and named one of Businessweek’s best design and innovation books. Her methodology for planning (originally published in a best-selling Harvard Business Review article) was cited as an antidote to “innovation killers.” Her other books are The Entrepreneurial Mindset and MarketBusters: 40 Strategic Moves that Drive Exceptional Business Growth, which was named one of the best business books of 2005 by strategy+business and featured at a Microsoft CEO Summit.
McGrath’s many academic publications have also appeared in leading journals, such as the Harvard Business Review, Strategic Management Journal, Academy of Management Review, Academy of Management Journal, and Management Science. Her best-selling HBR article “Discovery Driven Planning” (1995) is recognized now as an early articulation of today’s “lean” startup movement.
Prior to academia, she was an IT director, worked in the political arena, and founded two start-ups. A highly respected researcher, she has won numerous awards for excellence in scholarship.
Rita McGrath’s insights are relevant across a wide range of sectors, including:
Finance – with regulators creating massive uncertainty and placing increasingly stringent demands on financial institutions, the need for thinking differently has never been more pressing. As one of Rita’s clients said to her the other day, “sometimes I feel as though I now have only one customer, and those are government regulators!”. The sector is also seeing incursions into traditional lines of business by new entrants that are offering clients services that are radically less expensive or solve the same solutions in an entirely new way. Your teams ignore competition from other industries, the need to manage both cyclical and structural change and the need to obtain early warnings and make decisions faster at their peril.
Pharma – it’s news to no one that the “blockbuster” model on which traditional pharmaceutical organizations were based has basically evaporated. With payers less willing to cover treatments at any cost, the increasing power of pharmaceutical benefit managers and the fragmentation of treatment states made possible by understanding individual disease propensities, the entire sector is bracing itself for a radical transformation. Your senior team needs to be able to discern the most important patterns in this fog of news and be decisive about the new direction of your firm. Importantly, they need to understand which assumptions have fundamentally changed and which still hold.
Tech/IT – as companies transform their businesses into Cloud-based operations, shared services replace the server farms of old and the role of technology leaders goes well beyond keeping the lights on, a radically new playbook for strategy will be essential. Rita “gets” tech companies. She was herself an IT director for nearly a decade in the public sector. Her consulting clients have included nearly every flavor of company in the sector, from more mature organizations such as Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, IBM, Intel, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments to smaller companies and startups such as F-Secure. A big focus of her research over the years has been both entrepreneurial new firms and firms trying to better manage their internal innovations.
Retail – as retailers struggle to figure out how to compete against on-line players like Amazon and how to create their own presence on the web, it’s clear that new business models, fresh thinking and revisiting what a retail environment should be like are all absolutely critical. Rita is at the moment working on an online strategy with several extremely well known CEO’s of struggling retailers to consider re-inventing the model.
Professional services – are professional service firms headed for disruption, in which many services clients used to value are outsourced, automated or made irrelevant? That’s the picture many paint. At the same time, tremendous opportunities present themselves for professional service firms to leverage their clients’ needs to be faster, scale up fast and think globally at all times. Thinking through the right strategic moves in such turbulent environments is core to Rita’s new book The End of Competitive Advantage.
Travel /hospitality / food – it may be one of the biggest industries in the world, but the stresses facing the travel industry call for entirely new thinking. Technology is making it easier for customers to get information, compare prices and make their own arrangements. Third party advice sites such as TripAdvisor, Yelp and Zagat can make or break a business in the sector – a few bad reviews can radically trim business. At the same time, new entrants from companies such as AirBnB, Uber, and Lyft have the potential to replace today’s middlemen with themselves as newly in the center of the most critical transactions. Rita’s book The End of Competitive Advantage provides a vantage point from which to get a sense for coming changes and what actions to take now to get ready.