C-Suite Concerns: Meabh Quoirin Of Foresight Factory On The Top 5 Issues That Keep Executives Up at Night

An Interview With Cynthia Corsetti

Diversification is crucial. In today’s rapidly evolving market, businesses are often warned about over-reliance on their core operations. This challenge extends even to highly successful companies. For instance, a leading global FMCG company we work with had to rethink its strategy to remain competitive, illustrating that adaptability is key across all sectors, regardless of past success.

When it comes to business leadership, challenges are omnipresent. From rapidly changing market dynamics to technological disruptions, executives today grapple with multifaceted issues that directly impact their decision-making and strategic orientations. What really keeps the leaders of today’s corporate world awake at night? How do they navigate through these turbulent times to ensure the growth and stability of their organizations? As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Meabh Quoirin.

Meabh Quoirin is the CEO and Co-Owner of Foresight Factory. Her expertise lies in interpreting behaviours and signals to uncover what matters most to consumers today and tomorrow. Meabh regularly briefs and advises global brands such as BP, Jaguar Land Rover, Edgewell Personal Care, Ford, Mars and 3M at C-suite/board level ensuring their strategy, culture and practices are future ready, alleviate risk and deliver growth.

A bi-lingual and experienced public speaker, Meabh is a key voice in the world of foresight and strategy, as well as a LinkedIn Influencer and one of their nominated Top Voices. She is a guest lecturer at Dublin University, sits on the Advisory Board of Advertising Week and regularly speaks at high profile industry events such as Ted X and Advertising Week around the world.

Under the leadership of Meabh and her Co-CEO, Christophe Jouan, Foresight Factory has pioneered the use of AI and machine learning to correlate consumer trends with commercial behaviour so brands can identify first-mover and fast-follower opportunities, as well as areas of potential risk. The company has also been awarded the Hyer Culture 100 Award for 2024, a fantastic endorsement of Foresight Factory’s hugely diverse team. Meabh is especially proud to be leading a 50% female Board of Directors and a company that brings together 17 different cultures and a plural approach to success.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive into our discussion about communication, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

My career is a rich tapestry of languages, culture, and broad business exposure, which all aligned when I discovered global foresight over 20 years ago.

Starting as a junior assistant and progressing through every role to leadership, I’ve found a passion in foresight — it’s the perfect arena to indulge my curiosity and drive strategic thinking.

My brain enjoys big, strategic work and resists minutiae. I think that right brain dominance helps me live our brand promise of ‘Seeing Beyond’. My passion for reading and playing music in my younger years played a significant role in strengthening my analytical thinking.

I’ve learned the importance of long-term planning in an often-short-sighted world. It’s taken a pandemic to prove that we all need to get better at forecasting!

You are a successful leader. Which three-character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Firstly, adopting a human-first approach, I ensure every team member feels valued and included, which has even led us to win culture awards. Resilience is my second trait; navigating multiple economic downturns and personal challenges has only fuelled our growth. Lastly, energy and inspiration are vital. People need to hear something different from a leader. I strive to show up daily, with a good mix of humour and humility. I also believe it’s vital to share new, engaging ideas, which helps foster an environment ripe for change and innovation.

I carry my eclectic background with me everywhere and ask others to do as I do, not as I say.

Leadership often entails making difficult decisions or hard choices between two apparently good paths. Can you share a story with us about a hard decision or choice you had to make as a leader? I’m curious to understand how these challenges have shaped your leadership.

One tough decision was choosing between leading the expansion into the USA myself or staying in the UK. Both options posed significant disruptions: uprooting a family of five (including a child with special needs) from London to Manhattan, versus funding and finding new leadership in a sector where talent is scarce. We chose the latter, but I had to show up a lot in person. I learnt early that distant or remote leadership makes it very hard to accelerate strategy and people.

Another major decision was choosing organic growth over external funding for our business, prioritizing sustainable development over rapid scaling, which has profoundly shaped our strategic independence and integrity.

What do you believe are the top five concerns currently preoccupying the minds of C-suite executives, and why?

Top concerns for C-suite executives include being able to drive sustainable growth amid environmental challenges, understanding shifting customer demographics, particularly Gen Z, and diversifying beyond core business models to stay relevant Additionally, the complexity of managing multiple strategic horizons without sufficient resources has become a critical focus, especially as emerging technologies like AI disrupt traditional business practices.

  1. Growth must evolve, driven by numerous compelling factors, chief among them being sustainability. The environmental imperative is no longer optional; it’s a critical survival factor for businesses. Resource scarcity impacts every facet of operations, affecting CEOs on both the supply and demand sides. Leaders face a stark choice: address these costly challenges head-on or risk significant consequences by deferring action on this ticking time bomb. This topic is at the forefront of concerns for C-suite executives, as evidenced by its status as one of our most searched-for subjects. Executives are deeply engaged in discussions about how to accurately measure sustainability efforts and are increasingly anxious about the growing regulatory focus. There’s a sizeable concern that these pressures are beginning to fundamentally alter — or are on the cusp of altering — the very role of brands in our economy.

In the face of rapid technological advancements and market shifts, do you find that you need to constantly recalibrate your strategies to ensure sustained growth?

Absolutely, staying relevant requires constant evolution. At Foresight Factory, we proactively adapt by integrating new technologies and insights across our operations, ensuring that we not only keep pace but lead in our field.

With the emergence of AI, blockchain, and other transformative technologies, how do you determine which tech trends are worth investing in?

We build frameworks for businesses that help them see which trends, including tech, will allow them to succeed in the future. The fundamental issue centers on defining their vision and truly owning it. Once established, they can confidently proceed to strategically position their bets on macro trends.

I think it is also key to separate what technology can deliver for my vision versus how it will help with the execution. There are many layers to tech trends from the external and macro visible points you mention, to the hidden layers of data enablement that lie underneath.

With increasing digital threats, how are you prioritizing cybersecurity, and what measures are you taking to protect your organization’s assets?

Our Technical Director maintains best practices in line with the requirements for Cyber Essentials Plus accreditation. This includes patch management, account security, real-time threat monitoring, making sure our devices are all encrypted should they become lost or stolen. We have disaster recovery procedures in place in the event of a breach and robust backups should our data ever become compromised. We conduct annual security penetration tests on our Collision platform to ensure that the system is secure.

We take ever-evolving digital security seriously and dedicate a portion of our tech budget to making sure we are protected from emerging threats.

As a top executive, how do you manage stress and maintain mental well-being? Do you have any personal practices or routines that help you stay centered?

Absolutely! I make it a point to immerse myself in nature daily through running, which refreshes both body and mind. Yoga keeps me centered, providing emotional balance and focus. My reading habit — encompassing poetry, fiction, and non-fiction — offers intellectual stimulation and serene pleasure. Additionally, I enjoy socializing with friends, ideally over organic wine from the bio-dynamic vineyard I’ve invested in, located in the Loire Valley, France.

What habits or practices have been most instrumental in your personal and professional growth?

Being and staying curious and always trying to discover and learn about new ideas, new disciplines, new perspectives.

Being people first — staying connected. It’s so tempting for people (of all ages) to stay online these days, but there is really no substitute for genuine encounters. Loneliness is the next pandemic on our doorstep.

Stretch and challenge — doing this for others, being pushed to do so myself. A little bit of evolution, always.

The business world is evolving faster than ever. How do you ensure you’re constantly updating your knowledge and staying ahead of the curve?

It’s virtually impossible to keep up with everything, but fortunately, I’m surrounded by a passionate team. We prioritize pluralism, absorbing and analyzing from diverse sources, which our platform Collision handles superbly by distilling vast arrays of data (socio-cultural data, news, innovations, social media listening plus our own data) through proprietary algorithms. Staying informed internally is my priority.

Though I find business books often tedious and repetitive, I compensate with enriching podcasts and essential reads suggested by peers. Moreover, online content from commentators like Yuval Noah Harari and Scott Galloway provides stimulating insights; though not always entirely accurate, they’re invaluable for understanding broader cultural and motivational shifts.

The importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace has been emphasized more than ever. Do you have any initiatives promoting diversity and inclusion in your organization?

We are immensely proud of our D&I initiatives. Initially shocked to discover a pay gap, we promptly addressed it, learning that women often undervalue themselves in salary negotiations.

We’ve made significant progress since: 85% of our staff cherish working at Foresight Factory because it embraces their full identities. Our board is 60% female, and we have two CEOs as you know, one is female, and one is gay. Our team also represents 14 nationalities.

Lately, we’ve focused on enhancing continuous learning and further increasing our rich mix of ethnicities. We’re performing better than ever, with a diverse array of religious and ethnic backgrounds, and continue to optimize our visa processes to facilitate global talent access to the UK and US.

Can you share a piece of feedback or advice you received that significantly altered your leadership approach or philosophy?

I have one piece of advice given to me and two that I embody and share.

A respected female leader once told me to “Always hire people that are better than you.” This has been invaluable.

I also champion the principle “do as I do, not as I say,” urging leaders to be hands-on and avoid managers who overly delegate.

Lastly, my favorite quote from Camus, “Life is the sum of all your choices,” reflects my belief that while we may not control every aspect of life, we can control how we respond to challenges. This belief underscores the resilience I strive for and encourage in the workplace.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I am deeply committed to equality and would eliminate private education up to third level to address early wealth disparity. Such exclusivity fosters societal polarization and widens the privilege gap, as affluent children are tutored to keep pace with peers, distancing them from diverse backgrounds.

Wealthy privately educated individuals often disproportionately consume and influence global resource allocation — an expensive and unintended consequence of our educational system. As Chair of Governors at two public schools, I witness these disparities daily.

While competitiveness amongst humans is a great thing, it’s crucial to level the playing field to ensure equal opportunities for all.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Follow my journey and join the conversation on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/meabh-quoirin-60a99a/

Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

About the Interviewer: Cynthia Corsetti is an esteemed executive coach with over two decades in corporate leadership and 11 years in executive coaching. Author of the upcoming book, “Dark Drivers,” she guides high-performing professionals and Fortune 500 firms to recognize and manage underlying influences affecting their leadership. Beyond individual coaching, Cynthia offers a 6-month executive transition program and partners with organizations to nurture the next wave of leadership excellence.