Inspirational Woman: Rita Gunther McGrath | Professor, Columbia Business School

Tell us about yourself

Currently, I am a speaker, consultant, educator and author who works with senior management teams to help change their thinking.  My big goal is to help companies become better at coping with the challenges of what I call the ‘transient advantage’ economy, in which heightened competitive forces can make even strong advantages short-lived.  I’ve been on this trajectory for about 20 years.  Before returning to Academia, I worked in the public sector on IT projects for major governmental agencies.  I grew up in Rochester, NY (the home of Kodak) and moved to the New York City area in the late 1970s.  I am married and have two delightfully grown up children.

Tell us about any current projects

My recent book ‘The End of Competitive Advantage’ has become very popular, and so I am spending quite a bit of time helping people understand the implications and empowering them to take appropriate action.  The next project I would like to spend significant time on is learning from intelligent failure, which I believe is key to eventual success in both business and life.

What has been your biggest challenge in achieving your success?

Balancing the demands of personal life with a competitive career is certainly not easy, and it can cause friction in your relationship with those around you – particularly between spouses!  Certainly finding enough time to get the necessary work done was quite difficult.  I found doing a Ph.D. after several years in a managerial role to be very challenging, as the expectations of the two worlds are very different.  It can be exhausting.  I was fortunate to have some very powerful mentors and sponsors who made it possible.

What has been your greatest achievement personally?

On the professional side, certainly introducing ideas that have changed the way people think about strategy and innovation has been very rewarding.  Concepts such as “discovery driven planning” have fundamentally shifted our approach to innovating in high uncertainty environments.  Personally, it would have to be parenting two people who are now pursuing their own dreams, and still being on good terms with them, as well as having a rich and mutually supportive relationship with my husband.

If you weren’t doing what you do now, what would you be doing?

Wow, that is hard to say.  Perhaps I would be developing an entrepreneurial company.

Who has been your biggest inspiration?

Although I have certainly met many inspiring people in my life, it’s hard for me to pick just one.  I think a combination of my mother, who has a Ph.D. in microbiology and conducted some ground-breaking experiments in her work, and the women I saw who were pursuing their own careers.  It suggested to me that I could have a full life without sacrificing independence, which is a very strong value for me.

What does the future hold for you?

Another book, the next chapter of my life with my husband as he considers the next step in his career, and supporting our children as they discover what they would like to do.  I will be opening a new company in 2015 and hope to grow that into a high-impact endeavour that changes management thinking even more.

About Rita Gunther McGrath

Rita Gunther McGrath, a Professor at Columbia Business School, is regarded as one of the world’s top experts on strategy and innovation.  Her ideas have been widely used by leading organisations throughout the world, who describe her thinking as sometimes-provocative, but unfailingly stimulating. She fosters a fresh approach to strategy amongst those she works with. Thinkers50 presented Rita with the #1 award for strategy, the Distinguished Achievement Award, in 2013.  She is also in their top ten global list of management thinkers overall.  She has also been inducted into the Strategic Management Society “Fellows” in recognition of her impact on the field.  She consistently appears in lists of the top professors to follow on Twitter. McGrath is the author of four books; the most recent being the best-selling ‘The End of Competitive Advantage’ (Harvard Business Review Press), rated the #1 book of the year by Strategy+Business.

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 13.53.56


Twitter: @rgmcgrath

WeAreTech Festival 2024 advert

Upcoming Events


No Events

Job Board Banner

Related Posts