The Cognitas team



Our strength comes from our unusual combination of skills

Dr Laura Watkins


Laura has been researching and working in the field of personal and organisational performance for over 20 years. Her early neuroscience research looked at how the brain makes complex decisions and manages change. She then spent six years at McKinsey & Co as a strategy and organisation consultant, and co-founded McKinsey & Co's leadership practice in Europe. She co-founded The Cognitas Group in 2008 in order to help leaders thrive, perform, and build powerful organisations.

Client work

Laura works as a partner to CEOs and other senior executives to drive the change they are seeking in their teams and organisations. She brings transparency and structure to help teams get aligned on what they are trying to achieve and address roadblocks. She provides support and encouragement to help clients have honest conversations and repair trust. She gets into the mechanics of how individual leaders, teams and organisations operate day-to-day, to make sure that people are using their time well and making decisions productively. She is the lead faculty and programme director for several long-running leadership programmes for senior executives. Laura is known for being determined to help her clients get the result they seek and for challenging with a smile. Her clients say she “brings something special to every meeting, particularly in how she engages with very senior people” and “has a great capacity to bring structure out of confusion”.

Laura has worked all over the world, with dozens of multi-national teams and organisations. She works in English and French.

Background and other interests

Laura has a PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience from Cambridge and an MA in Physiology and Psychology from Oxford. She’s a voracious learner and has trained in many individual and group development techniques.

She is passionate about education and career access for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Until recently she was Chair of Governors at Haverstock School in North London and she has worked with many other education organisations.

In her spare time, Laura loves running, hiking, winter sports, flying trapeze and learning languages (currently Italian). She’s writing a novel on the side, and works for a few weeks each winter as a ski teacher for the Swiss Ski School.

Shani Ospina

Shani Ospina


Shani is an executive coach and leadership advisor with over fifteen years' experience in working with dozens of organisations, leaders, executives and entrepreneurs. She believes that in order to execute effectively and get the results they want, leaders need a clear sense of purpose and vision, pragmatic tools to implement it, and the self-awareness to evaluate and adjust their impact.

Client work

Shani combines business expertise with a natural ability to unearth and demystify mindset patterns and relationship dynamics to help leaders create the impact they want. With her firm challenge and coaching, leaders learn to anticipate and respond effectively to the complex and evolving challenges they face. Shani has coached and advised individual leaders and leadership teams in blue chip companies, family-owned businesses and startups alike. She has also designed and delivered several large scale leadership programmes for some of the world’s most respected brands.

Her clients value her ability to “get to the heart of the problem and understand underlying motivations and dynamics”. At the same time, she “allows analytical people to open the door to their emotions” and challenges clients with “very honest feedback” delivered with “power and grace, compassion, kindness and strength”.

Shani works with clients across five continents and in multiple languages including English, Italian, Spanish, French and German.

Background and other interests

Shani brings a unique blend of skills and talent acquired as a consultant at McKinsey & Co, as an investor and portfolio manager in private equity, and through extensive training and experience as a coach. As a result, she understands both the commercial realities and the human dynamics of organisations.

Shani holds a B.A. (Summa cum Laude) in Economics, Geography and International Studies from the University of Miami, an MSc (with Distinction) in Development Studies from the London School of Economics and a Certificate in Corporate Finance from the London Business School. She has been training as a coach for over a decade, including in ontological and somatic coaching and uses various other coaching and psychometric techniques and tools.

Shani currently spends as much of her spare time as possible with her two young children hoping to pass on her love of outdoor sports, nature and music to them. She is also enjoying introducing her children to adventure travel and continuing her goal of visiting most countries in the world over the next few decades.


Here is an introduction to some of our key team members.