John Higgins – A biography

Researcher, Author, Editor, Advisor

Since 2013 I’ve been exploring the realities of ‘speaking truth to power’ and what it takes for people to find their voice in a meaningful way in the workplace.

This has required me to pay close attention to the nitty-gritty of power, in all its forms and expressions, and how people create and respond to the status and labels they perceive in themselves and others. It has also meant trying not to collude with well-intentioned initiatives (often sanctioned by the more senior and powerful) that focus on equipping junior others with technical skills, while ignoring the social dynamics that sustain a particular climate of open-ness or silence.

In the last two years my work has focused specifically on the role of activism in the workplace.

The research reports that document the work so far have been published through Ashridge Executive Education, while it has been popularised through pieces in the Harvard Business Review, Sloan Management Review (upcoming), European Business Review, British Medical Journal Leader and the journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. It is summarised in book form in ‘Speak Up. Say what needs to be said and hear what needs to be heard’ (FT Publishing 2019, with Megan Reitz).

In parallel to this work into activism and speaking truth to power, I have been thinking and writing closely with Dr Mark Cole, examining and rigorously critiquing the taken for granted thinking that locks organisational life, leadership and management into some desperately impoverishing habits. We have written extensively about this on the Radical OD blog ( and in our latest book: ‘Leadership Unravelled: The faulty thinking behind modern management’ (Routledge 2022).

We have now widened this exploration into an explicit inquiry into the habits of mind and practice that create cultures of silence – working title: ‘The Great Unheard’. This work draws on my work with Dr Kathleen King, which began in 2006, and saw us write three books together, working closely with the faculty and students of the Ashridge Doctorate and Masters in Organisational Change.

Prior to this life as a researcher and writer, I spent fifteen years as a jobbing consultant, finishing up as a Business Director at Ashridge Consulting, after a period of time in the grandiosely named ‘Global Centres of Excellence’ of AT Kearney.

As well as this experience of day-to-day organizational life my approach to living and working is coloured by an intensive and sustained process of Jungian psychoanalysis, which has left me with a deep respect for the power of history and the human unconscious. I take reason with a large pinch of salt.

For some years I also stepped out of the hurly-burly of full-time work to be the prime carer for my two daughters – who are now all grown up and left home.

Other versions of my professional identity exist at The Right Conversation, GameShift and Metalogue – who are part of the extended network I collaborate with.