Margaret Heffernan

Author - Willful Blindness, A Bigger Prize

About Margaret

Bio

Education: M.A. Cambridge University; honorary doctorate from University of Bath Professional Career: 13 years at the BBC, producing radio and TV drama and documentaries. Managing Director, IPPA. Managing Director, Marlin Gas Trading. Chief Executive Officer, InfoMation; Chief Executive Officer, ZineZone Corporation; Chief Executive Officer, ICAST Corporation. Author: The Naked Truth, A Working Woman's Manifesto (2004) How She Does It: How Female Entrepreneurs are Changing the Rules for Business Success (2007) Women on Top (2009) Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at our Peril (2011) - finalist for the Financial Times/Goldman Sachs Best Business Book of the Year; A Bigger Prize: How we do better than the Competition (2014.)

TED Conferences

TEDWomen 2015, TEDGlobal 2013, TEDGlobal 2012

Areas of Expertise

Speaking. Writing. Playwriting. Business. Entrepreneurship. Tech

An idea worth spreading

If we were better at managing conflict, we wouldn't be so afraid of it. If we were less conflict averse, our eyes would see more, our ears hear more and we would widen and enrich the people and ideas we were prepared to engage with. Most people have far more creativity, skill, knowledge, insight and energy than they ever tap - because they are afraid of the conflict their fierce identities might provoke. But when we overcome that fear, we discover instead our great capacity for innovation and change.

I'm passionate about

Honesty. New ideas that make work joyful. The glue between people that makes them stronger, better, braver and more creative. Mistakes that change what you see. Fierce collaboration.

Universities

Cambridge. Bath.

Talk to me about

Courage. Creativity. Music. Hope. The role that business can take as a force for good. John Updike. Complexity. Humility. Wilful blindness. Mistakes. Powerlessness.

People don't know I'm good at

Singing classical music. Directing plays.

My TED story

About to be written...

Comments & conversations

163921
Margaret Heffernan
Posted about 1 month ago
Margaret Heffernan: Why it's time to forget the pecking order at work
The reason for the language is because preaching to the converted, while fun, doesn't achieve much. More important and satisfying is confirming people who've always thought along these lines so that they have more courage and confidence to follow those beliefs. Equally important is talking to those who always did think economic measures were all that counted and persuading them that there is far more to life and even to economics than the measures they're accustomed to. Bridging these chasms of misunderstanding isn't easy but it is essential if we're going to get everyone to work together. As for the talk that challenges the rhetoric of economics, I'm with you on that. It would necessarily reference RFKennedy's analysis of GDP (see below) and other metrics that provide gross misdirection. If you are interested in exploring this in more detail, my bigger book A Bigger Prize does that. And no I'm not saying that because I'm puursing my economic interest in your buying book but pursuing my intellection passion to change peoples' thinking about the efficacy of competition. “The gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.”
163921
Margaret Heffernan
Posted about 1 month ago
Margaret Heffernan: Why it's time to forget the pecking order at work
My experience is different. Using the term 'social capital' gives people permission to take seriously something they care about but have been persuaded by a lot of bad business education they have to consider ONLY in terms of ROI. It gives them permission to feel again and to be human. Is this always true in every case? No. But I've found it is more often true than not.
163921
Margaret Heffernan
Posted about 1 month ago
Margaret Heffernan: Why it's time to forget the pecking order at work
The value in calling the social value of work 'social capital' is that it persuades organisations and their leaders to take it seriously. In general, they've viewed this stuff as soft, trivial, marginal, unimportant. When you call it social capital, they sit up and pay attention. Perhaps they shouldn't -- but my main goal is getting them to see that creating rich social environments at work - as everywhere - is good for everyone. Not just the super chickens. Of course, social capital isn't my term - it's borrowed from the study of communities where it was clear that social capital delivered social value: safety, security, resilience. These all matter everywhere.
163921
Margaret Heffernan
Posted about 1 month ago
Margaret Heffernan: Why it's time to forget the pecking order at work
I don't believe for one moment that the only value of cooperation is economic. The whole point of social capital is that it delivers far far more than economic value - much of it beyond measure (and none the less valuable for that.) I think there's far more value in work and in cooperation than the narrow returns of economics and routinely get annoyed by the rhetoric that suggests the only reason to do anything is economic. Super-chicken behaviour isn't just uneconomic; it's an awful way to live.
163921
Margaret Heffernan
Posted almost 2 years ago
Margaret Heffernan: Dare to disagree
I completely agree Daniel. We have a real problem that most employees are searching for what they hope to be the 'right' answer - which means the answer their manager will like. Much of the education system is geared towards this.