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The People Teaching Podcast Episode 17: Learning How to 'Human' Better with Margo Purcell

017: Learning How to ‘Human’ Better with Margo Purcell

In this episode, Margo Purcell joins me to talk about InceptionU, and all the ways in which we can become a better, more rounded human being on this planet. 

She shares deep and pivotal insights into what we can do to learn in a more significant way.

Margo is a compassionate and thoughtful leader who is helping to cultivate a community of learners that are deeply connected and driving economic growth in Alberta and beyond.

As a co-founder and CEO of InceptionU, Margo is responsible for the overarching success of learning programs and corporate offerings. She works closely with her co-founders, industry, and government partners to develop accessible programs that reflect the needs and opportunities that exist within Calgary’s innovation ecosystem. She is also one of InceptionUs Essential Skills facilitators.

Margo is a long time entrepreneur, a graduate of Leadership Calgary, a licensed Lumina Learning Practitioner and certified Lifepath practitioner. Since 2004, she’s operated her own consulting company, Open to Possibilities, and worked across a wide variety of industries delivering leadership and career development.

In November of 2019, Margo traveled to Mauritius where she was an Expert in Residence at the African Leadership University, an experience she will never forget. 

Margo has a slight addiction to HGTV,  enjoys water polo, spicy food and takes great enjoyment in watching her two kids grow into amazing young adults.

Listen in as we talk about:

  • The experience people get when working with InceptionU. Margo takes us behind the scenes of the organization’s approach and principles.
  • Embracing diversity in teaching and learning. Margo talks about how it ultimately drives deeper, richer learning as well as better learning and tech outcomes.
  • What it means to be ‘future fit’. How do we become future fit? Margo shares key insights into how to adopt this important mindset shift.
  • Why ‘essential skills’ are so hard to learn. Margo differentiates between hard and soft skills, and shares why ‘essential skills’ are so important.


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InceptionU’s approach is to create an environment for learners to take their learning as far and as deep as they want to, with the facilitators first helping them identify any barriers they may be encountering and finding their way through. Margo talks about the key point of ‘unlearning’ – unlearning the conditional and linear thinking pattern we’re used to, as it is not reflective of how our brains learn or how life is. 

Margo talks about the adaptability of the program, offering choice for learners in their own learning path. There are revisit opportunities for those who need to ask questions, deep dives for those who want to explore more, and “choose your own explore” for those who want to venture into other areas of interest. The program is based on the foundation of agile principles and critical, creative, and systems thinking, setting the foundation to learn how to learn. Industry experts are also brought in to offer additional knowledge on topics that appeal to the cohort.

Margo Purcell is the co-founder and CEO of InceptionU.

Diversity is an integral part of teaching and learning. In the work that Margo does, people come with a diversity of backgrounds, education, age, culture, industry, and neurodiversity. It ultimately drives deeper, richer learning as well as better learning and tech outcomes. 

It is so important to embrace and understand how other people might have seen or approached things. We need to get curious about it. If we are curious about the other person and other approaches, it reduces a lot of friction that can be encountered in trying to create something new. Rather than sticking with a position, find areas of shared interest. 


Margo Purcell, co-founder and CEO of InceptionU says, "Future fit is being equipped with that ultimate rekindling - - that curiosity we're all born with."


“Future fit is being equipped with that ultimate rekindling — that curiosity we’re all born with.”

Margo explains the concept of being “future fit”, which means equipping oneself to be able to respond to rapidly changing conditions and being able to figure out something new even without knowing where to start or how long it may take. 

As she shares in our conversation, future fitness is not about future proofing, which involves guarding oneself against the future, but instead building, creating, and producing something else with the energy that would have been spent on protection.

Becoming future fit is similar to physical fitness in that it involves starting small and gradually building up one’s abilities to take on greater challenges. It requires developing ultimate rekindling of the curiosity we are born with, building confidence in one’s own competence, and utilizing available resources to figure things out. Future fitness is about being equipped with the ability to figure things out, even in the face of uncertainty, rather than trying to predict and protect against all possible future scenarios.

Margo Purcell is the co-founder and CEO of InceptionU

Margo shares the difference between hard skills and soft skills, which she prefers to call essential skills, as she believes they are not just nice-to-have, but need-to-have skills that differentiate humans from machines. Essential skills are about how you do what you do and include creativity, imagination, communication, curiosity, and the ability to learn from and with others. 

As Margo says in our interview, essential skills are often undervalued in the workplace, and companies tend to cut training in these areas first during times of downturn. However, she argues that these skills are critical to success and differentiation in the workplace, and that humans possess unique abilities such as creativity, imagination, and the ability to communicate that machines cannot replicate.


  • What is something that you would love to learn about or something that you would love to learn how to do? How to be a better human

  • What is a place that is at the top of your travel bucket list? Space

  • What is a book, podcast, or TV show that you have enjoyed recently? Book: The Dawn of Everything – A New History of Humanity by David Graeber and David Wengrow

  • If you could sit down and have a conversation with someone that you would love to learn from, who would it be? Her Dad


1:00 Meet Margo

2:45 Margo’s story

9:35 Margo shares what teaching and learning look like at InceptionU

15:00 Margo describes the importance of diversity in teaching and learning at InceptionU

16:50 Margo talks about what it means to be ‘future fit’ and how we can embody this idea

20:05 Margo explains what is meant by the term ‘essential skills’ and why they can be so hard to learn

23:40 Margo describes how people can actively take part in the “new economy” of the tech industry 

27:25 Margo reflects on her favourite teacher

31:40 What Margo is most proud of looking back on her journey so far

33:02 Margo answers some rapid fire questions

40:05 Margo’s words of wisdom



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