Thought leader? It sure has a nice ring to it. You can almost picture it. The jet-set life. Fat speaking fees. Interviews with all the big outlets. Consulting gigs with the powerful firms. Access to all the right circles – and the adoration of all the right people.
Self-employment: control over your time with a steady income to boot.
HARVARD AND WHARTON LEGENDS TOP THE LIST
Ah, business faculty can dream from their brownstone stoops. For many, their research is relegated to dusty journals with the occasional peer citation. It’s not easy being a business professor, watching companies make the same mistakes in their haste and hubris – all the knowledge and none of the influence. Still, some ideas eventually break though. A book hits the bestseller list, a TED Talk goes viral, or a podcast resonates. In some cases, their research helps us make sense of how the world is evolving. Other times, they package old truths in new ways. At their best, they reveal the symbiotic relationships behind the disparate elements. In the process, they show us where to move, how to spend, when to act, and why it matters.
And these ideas inspire new models and markets that inevitably produce better options and experiences.
Every two years, these thinkers are honored by Thinkers50, an organization that recognizes the best management ideas. For the second consecutive time, Thinkers50 honored Harvard Business School’s Amy Edmondson as the top business thinker. Wharton’s Adam Grant moved up four spots to rank as the runner-up. Paul Polman and Andrew Winston, authors of Net Positive: How Courageous Companies Thrive By Giving More Than They Take, debuted in the Top 10 at #3.
BUSINESS SCHOOL FACULTY DOMINATE THE LIST
Thinkers50 was founded in 2001 by two business professors – Des Dearlove and Stuart Crainer – who’ve taught at IE Business School and Oxford University and collaborated on The Financial Times Handbook of Management. Since then, Thinkers50 has emerged as the “Oscars of Management Thinking” according to The Financial Times. Held in odd numbered years, Thinkers50 accepts online nominations from May to July of those years from the general public. From there, nominations are examined by the Thinkers50 Panel of Advisors. While the process is democratic, it is not necessarily transparent. The panel, together with Dearlove and Crainer, compile the ranking using “proprietary methodology” for evaluating the contributions of the nominees, weighing their impact over both the long-term and the past two years.
Broadly, Thinkers50 evaluates business ideas against their Viability and Visibility. Viability is grounded in what Thinkers50 describes as the 4 R’s: Relevance, Rigour, Reach, and Resilience. In other words, they test thought leaders’ ideas against how applicable, far-reaching, and durable they are (along with the caliber of research behind them). When it comes to Visibility, think academic citations and media coverage, public speaking engagements and affiliations. If these thought leaders are rock stars, then Visibility measures their wattage.
This year, the Thinkers50 honorees were celebrated at a gala held in London from November 5-6. Over the years, it has rated thinkers and leaders like Peter Drucker, Michael Porter, Clayton Christensen, C.K Prahaiad, W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne, and Amy Edmondson as the world’s most influential business voices. Among this year’s class, you’ll find business professors, CEOs, authors, executive coaches, consultants, engineers, doctors, lawyers, and psychologists. Like the previous 2021 ranking, women outnumber men, this time by a 29-to-27 margin (There are 6 thinkers who are treated as pairs, such as Blue Ocean Strategy co-authors W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne). Among these 56 thought leaders, you’ll find 44 who either teach in business schools full-time or work as adjuncts or executive educators. That includes 9 of the 13 thought leaders who populate Thinkers50 in 2023.
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