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Meet Margaret Heffernan

Why we need less tech and more messy human skills
Blog 165 Margaret Heffernan

If you’re interested in the future of work, human capital and exploring what radical uncertainty lies ahead, then this article is for you.

If you’ve never heard of Margaret Heffernan, let us briefly introduce you. Her TED Talks have been viewed by well over 13 million people. She has led businesses in both the US and the UK. She mentors CEOs, is a professor of practice at the University of Bath and has published six books, which have won her multiple awards. She’s known for her work in business leadership, innovation and creativity. She’s a great storyteller and easy to listen to. If you want to have your thinking prodded around the future of leadership, then the TED Talks below should be of interest!

  • In her 2019 talk The human skills we need in an unpredictable world (15:23), Margaret speaks to our reliance on technology, which makes us over-dependent and less likely to be able to manage without it. She says the “unexpected is becoming the norm” and we must have workarounds to better defend ourselves against unpredictability. To do this, Margaret reminds us to practise our “human, messy, unpredictable skills” and to not let machines think for us. We’ll lose it if we don’t use it.
  • In 2012’s Dare to disagree (12:40), Margaret talks about the positivity of disagreement, and the power in debate. She explains that people in organisations tend to be afraid of conflict, and don’t know how to manage arguments. She suggests that if we want to have “thinking organisations and a thinking society” that we need to teach young people to stand up to authority and learn how to participate in constructive conflict.
  • If you’ve heard of Margaret before, it’s likely you’ve seen this 2015 TED Talk, which is famous for its chicken references. In Forget the pecking order at work (15:38), she describes how traditionally, superstars are rewarded by “giving them all the resources and all the power”. Yet it’s the skills like social sensitivity (aka empathy) and the bond, loyalty and trust that develops between colleagues over time that allows individuals to fulfil their potential – not rewards for being the ‘best of the best’.

You can find out more about Margaret here.

A reminder that we recommend you invest five hours per week in self-development. This should be a blend of informal and formal learning. Reading, listening and watching content that grows your mind is a great way to accelerate your personal growth. Journal writing, asking for feedback, meeting with a mentor and formal study, all count too. Remember: personal growth is about the whole you, not just your career. Taking up a new hobby, meditating more or taking better care of the one body you have are all investments you won’t regret.

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