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Thinkers 50

Thinkers50—2011 Winners

PROVIDER NEWS: At a guru-packed awards ceremony last night in London the 50 top management thinkers were revealed according to the public voting and judging assessment of the biennial Thinkers50. The top award has only been attained by three individuals in the awards ten year history, Peter Drucker (twice), Michael Porter and CK Prahalad (twice). Once again the US ran off with the majority of the positions. Here is the list…

The Innovation Guru: According to the all-new Thinkers50, the most influential living management thinker in the world is Professor Clayton Christensen of Harvard Business School. Christensen, the author of several best-selling books including The Innovator's Dilemma, tops the list for the first time. "I never would have imagined I would merit an award like this. I am so honoured and so grateful," said Christensen when presented with the ward by Thinkers50 co-founder Des Dearlove in Boston. Christensen's influence on the business world has been profound. In The Innovator's Dilemma, he looked at why companies struggle with radical innovation in their markets. The book introduced the idea of disruptive technologies and disruptive innovation to a generation of managers. The innovator's dilemma is that the very management practices that have allowed them to become industry leaders also make it hard for companies to develop the disruptive technologies that ultimately steal away their markets. More recently, Chriensen has applied his ideas to healthcare and education to show how enlightened management thinking can tackle the big issues facing society. Christensen also picks up the 2011 T50 Innovation Award.

No. 2. Blue Ocean Thinkers: At two in the 2011 ranking are the INSEAD professors W Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne. Kim and Mauborgne, Korean and American respectively, are the authors of Blue Ocean Strategy and a string of highly influential Harvard Business Review articles. (They also collect the 2011 T50 Award for Strategy.) Blue Ocean Strategy has sold over two million copies, and has been embraced by companies, not-for-profits and national governments around the world. In 2010, for example, the government of Malaysia launched the third wave of its National Blue Ocean Strategy. A key target is building rural infrastructure – providing housing and water supplies for the rural poor. The Malaysian Prime Minister Dato' Sri Najib Razak has said publicly that BOS has already proved useful in several government programs. "Blue Ocean Strategy is a management tool which can be applied in the government's administrative context as it enables us to think out of the box with good results," he said in a recent interview. "It will be expanded to other initiatives."

No. 3. The $300 Man: At No.3, with his highest appearance in the ranking to date is the Indian-born thinker Vijay Govindarajan. VG, as he is better known, is a professor at the Tuck School of Business in New Hampshire. In 2008, Govindarajan joined General Electric (GE) for 24 months as the company's first Professor in Residence and Chief Innovation Consultant. He is the originator (with GE CEO Jeff Immelt, and Chris Trimble) of the concept of reverse innovation – where innovation takes place in emerging markets and then is brought back into developed countries. Reverse innovation is rated by the Harvard Business Review as one of the ten big ideas of the decade.An August 2010 blog by Govindarajan and Christian Sarkar challenging designers to create a house for $300 set off a campaign to re-invent housing for the world's poorest people – which earned Govindarajan the CK Prahalad Breakthrough Idea Award.

No. 4. Great Expectations: At No. 4 is Jim Collins, a former Stanford professor whose book credits include Built to Last (with Jerry Porras); and Good to Great. Collins' new book Great by Choice (written with Morten Hansen), came out last month (October 2011), and seeks to understand why some companies thrive in unstable environments while others falter.

No. 5:May the Forces Be With You: Strategy heavyweight Michael Porter is at No. 5. Porter's Five Forces Framework is taught in every business school in the world, and its creator, a Harvard professor and former T50 winner, makes a return to the top 10. An expert on competitiveness, Porter has advised the UK government among others. Most recently, he has championed the concept of Shared Value, arguing that firms should generate value for society as well as shareholders.

No.6:Designed to Think: Also making his way up the list is Roger Martin, dean of the Joseph L. Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, and champion of integrative thinking. His latest book Fixing the Game rails against the wrongheaded decoupling of the "real" market (the business of designing, making and selling products and services) from the "expectations" market (the business of trading stocks, options and complex derivatives)

No. 7. Coach Class: At seven is corporate America's favourite executive coach Marshall Goldsmith. Straight talking Goldsmith combines a nononsense approach with a Buddhist philosophy. The author of the best-sellers What Got You Here Won't Get You There and Mojo, doesn't charge if hiscoaching doesn't work.

No. 8.Playing to his Strengths: Also powering up the ranking is Marcus Buckingham. Buckingham is best known for championing the idea that we should play to our strengths rather than worry about our weaknesses. The charismatic author of a string of best-sellers including First, Break all the Rules (with Curt Coffman); and Now Discover Your Strengths (with Donald O. Clifton) enters the top 10 at number eight.

No. 9. Wiki-thinker: In the top 10 for the first time, too, is the Canadian digital guru Don Tapscott. Tapscott, who was also shortlisted for the T50 Global Village Award, is probably best known for his 2006 book Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything co-authored with Anthony Williams. Tapscott revisited the theme with Macrowikinomics: Rebooting Business and the World (shortlisted for the T50 Book Award), revealing how mass collaboration is being used by businesses, organizations, and individuals to revolutionize the way we live and learn.

No.10.What the Guru Saw and Other Adventures: Tenth position goes to another Canadian, Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell is an award winning staff writer for the New Yorker magazine. He is also the author of a string of bestselling books, including The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference (2000); Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (2005); Outliers: The Story of Success (2008); and What the Dog Saw And Other Adventures (2009).

So what are the other stories to come out of the new ranking?

Female thinkers: The big story is the arrival of an increasing number of women thinkers in the top 50. The Thinkers50 is male, pale and stale no longer. In 2011, there are 11 women in the ranking, compared with just five in 2009. At joint second,(with writing partner Chan Kim) INSEAD's Renée Mauborgne is the highest placed woman ever. Also moving up are Lynda Gratton of London Business School, up from 18 to 12; Harvard's Rosabeth Moss Kanter – up to 25; Tammy Erickson up from 46 to 33. Newcomers in 2011 are Sylvia Ann Hewlett who goes straight in at 11; Linda Hill (16); Teresa Amabile (18); Rita McGrath (19); the Cuban-born thinker Herminia Ibarra (28); Amy Edmondson (35); and Columbia Business School's Sheena Iyengar(48). "When you consider that women constitute half the world's population, they are still under represented in the Thinkers50," says Thinkers50 co-creator Des Dearlove, "but they are making serious inroads. We knew there were a number of women just outside the top 50 because we were picking them up on our guru radar – people like Linda Scott from Saïd Business School and Haiyan Wang from the China India Institute. What is particularly impressive is that so many have come straight into the top 25."

The Asian Invasion: The other big story is the surge of Asian thinkers. Korean-born W Chan Kim is the highest placed at joint No. 2. Vijay Govindarajan and Harvard Business School dean Nitin Nohria at 3 and 13, respectively, are two of seven Indian-born thinkers to make the 2011 ranking. Joining Govindarajan and Nohria, are London Business School's Nirmalya Kumar (26); Pankaj Ghemawat author of World 3.0 (27); Vineet Nayar, CEO of the Indian high-tech company HCL and the highest placed practitioner in the ranking (40); Harvard's Rakesh Khurana (41); and quality expert Subir Chowdhury (50). Just missing out on the Thinkers50 but on the radar are two female, Chineseborn thinkers, Haiyan Wang; and the Chinese CEO and author, Dong Minghzu; the Japanese head of MIT's Media Lab, Joi Ito; the Korean business woman Soo Joo Kim; and happiness guru Srikumar Rao

Globe Trotting Gurus: The 2011 Thinkers50 is also the most international ever. No fewer than 10 different nationalities feature in the top 50 – with thinkers from the US, Canada, Cyprus, Korea, Holland, the UK, Greece, India, Sweden, and Cuba. North Americans are still the largest grouping, but in 2011, no fewer than 23 non-Americans make the ranking – compared with just 10 in the first ever Thinkers50 in 2001.

Canada Calling: Remarkably, the other nationality punching well above its demographic weight is Canada, with four thinkers in the top 50 (and three in the top ten). Roger Martin, Malcolm Gladwell, Don Tapscott and Henry Mintzberg all come from north of the border.

Changing of the Guru Guard: The new ranking also signals a passing of the baton to a new generation of gurus. There are 19 newcomers to this year's ranking: Sylvia Ann Hewlett; Nitin Nohria; Linda Hill; Teresa Amabile; Rita McGrath; Richard Rumelt; Jeffrey Pfeffer; Nirmalya Kumar; Pankaj Ghemawat; Dan Pink; Vineet Nayar; Herminia Ibarra; Henry Chesbrough; Sheena Iyengar; Ken Robinson; Andrew Kakabadse; Stew Friedman; and Subir Chowdhury. Only 13 of the original 50 from 2001 still make the cut.

Fading but not forgotten is the evergreen Tom Peters, who drops five places to number 24. Henry Mintzberg, arch critic of the MBA rises three places to number 30. Change expert John Kotter is up six places to 34. Harvard's Chris Argyris; the doyen of leadership, Warren Bennis; marketing guru, Philip Kotler; and Irish-born Charles Handy are elevated to the status of Thinkers50 Emeritus.

Lifetime Achievement: Charles Handy is also singled out for the first-ever Thinkers50 Lifetime Achievement Award.

Comeback Kids: The Thinkers50 welcomes back Fons Trompenaars and Seth Godin who were both in earlier rankings, but missed out in 2009. "Interesting times demand interesting ideas," say Thinkers50 creators Stuart Crainer and Des Dearlove. "There is a real sense that how we view business and how business is practiced is changing. The ideas of the people featured in the Thinkers50 make a difference on the factory floor and in the C-suites of the world. In business, ideas matter because they can be the difference between mediocre performance and competitive advantage."

The full listing of the 2011 Thinkers50 is now available at .


The Thinkers 50 ranking is based on the votes of 1,200 business people, consultants, academics, MBA students and visitors to the projectÕs website. Nonetheless, Professor Porter only just made it to the top. Had the ranking been compiled a few weeks earlier, the title would have gone to Peter Drucker for the third successive year. But the father of modern management died on November 11 at the age of 95.

2005 rankings

  1. Michael Porter, Harvard strategy specialist
  2. Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft
  3. C K Prahalad, LBS (location-based service) strategy man
  4. Tom Peters, leadership consultant
  5. Jack Welch, GE's ex-CEO and celebrity
  6. Jim Collins, author of Good to Great
  7. Philip Kotler, Kellogg's marketing guru
  8. Henry Mintzberg, promotes managers not MBAs
  9. Kjell Nordstrom & Jonas Ridderstrale, funky business exponents
  10. Charles Handy, British portfolio worker99
  11. Richard Branson, entrepreneur and Virgin flyer
  12. Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert
  13. Thomas Stewart, Intellectual Capital author
  14. Gary Hamel, strategy consultant
  15. Chan Kim & Rene Mauborgne, Blue Ocean Strategy duo
  16. Kenichi Ohmae, Japanese strategy master
  17. Patrick Dixon, futurist and change guru
  18. Stephen Covey, author of Knows The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
  19. Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Harvard's change manager
  20. Edward De Bono, Lateral thinker and author
  21. Clayton Christensen, Harvard's new-tech guru
  22. Robert Kaplan & David Norton, Balanced Scorecard creators
  23. Peter Senge, learning organisation inventor
  24. Ram Charan, coach to the CEOs
  25. Fons Trompenaars, intercultural management man
  26. Russ Ackoff, specialist of systems thinking
  27. Warren Bennis, humanist leadership guru
  28. Chris Argyris, action and learning guru
  29. Michael Dell, Dell Computer's founder
  30. Vijay Govindarajan, Tuck's strategy innovator
  31. Malcolm Gladwell, Blink and Tipping Point guru
  32. Manfred Kets De Vries, Psychoanalytic economist
  33. Rakesh Khurana, Harvard labour market guru
  34. Lynda Gratton, LBS people and strategy guru
  35. Alan Greenspan, head of US Federal Reserve
  36. Edgar Schein, MIT organisational psychologist
  37. Ricardo Semler, Radical CEO of Semco
  38. Don Peppers, Customer relationship man
  39. Paul Krugman, economist and columnist
  40. Jeff Bezos, Amazon boss
  41. Andy Grove, one of the Intel founders
  42. Daniel Goleman, emotional intelligence inventor
  43. Leif Edvinsson, professor of intellectual capital
  44. James Champy, Advocate of re-engineering
  45. Rob Goffee & Gareth Jones, authentic leaders
  46. Naomi Klein, No Logo author
  47. Geert Hofstede, cultural expert
  48. Larry Bossidy, chair of Honeywell
  49. Costas Markides, LBS strategy professor
  50. Geoffrey Moore, hi-tech marketing man
European Foundation for Management Development


“The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not turbulence; it is to act with yesterday’s logic”. — Peter Drucker

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