The world’s top management gurus in 2017-18
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The world’s top management gurus in 2017-18

Kenny MacIver — November 2017
Biennial Thinkers50 awards rank the world’s 50 most influential business thinkers based on their insights into leadership, strategy, innovation and the impact of digital.

Business school professor and C-suite adviser Roger Martin, the author of 11 books on management best practice and a champion for responsible business, has been confirmed as the world’s most influential management thinker. Following in the footsteps of legendary business gurus Michael Porter, Clayton Christensen, Peter Drucker and CK Prahalad, Martin tops the recently released Thinkers50 biennial ranking of management minds.

The 2017 top 50, which was selected through a combination of public nominations at the Thinkers50 website and input from a handpicked team of management experts, recognizes Martin’s long-standing contribution to business thinking. Central to that has been his advocacy of ‘integrative thinking,’ which the CEOs from Procter & Gamble, Lego and many other corporations have drawn on to make “more effective and creative choices.”

In his acceptance address, Martin highlighted the privilege of being part of a community of management thinkers who “have as their number one desire to do work that influences the world” for the better.
Alongside the Thinkers50 ranking, eight other awards — ‘the Oscars of management thinking’ — were presented for specific areas of contribution. Those included the Fujitsu-sponsored Innovation Award, which went to Scott Anthony, managing partner at innovation and growth consultancy Innosight, whose latest co-authored book Dual Transformation: How to Reposition Today’s Business While Creating the Future and Seeing What’s Next deals with how successful incumbent companies can counter the threat of disruption.

The Digital Thinking Award was presented to technology trend pathfinder Don Tapscott and his son Alex Tapscott in acknowledgement of their illuminating work The Blockchain Revolution (see I-CIO’s Big Thinker interview series with Don Tapscott). Tapscott was also named the world’s number two most influential management figure. Other I-CIO Big Thinker interviewees featured in the rankings include:
Rita McGrath (10)
Erik Brynjolfsson & Andrew McAfee (12)
Linda Hill (15)
Hermina Ibarra (20)
Lynda Gratton (29)
Seth Godin (33)

Rachel Botsman (46).

Below we profile the Thinkers50 top 6:

Roger Martin
Roger Martin
The director of the Institute for Corporate Citizenship and the Martin Prosperity Institute at the Rotman School of Management, and the Toronto-based business school’s former dean, Roger Martin has centered much of his research on the problem-solving power of ‘integrative thinking’ — the creative, business-enhancing capacity he has observed in CEOs at GE, P&G, Lego and elsewhere to consider two conflicting models or ideas and then produce a synthesis that is superior to either, mixing up the variable set of customers, employees, competitors, capabilities, cost structures, industry evolution and regulatory environment. That is the central theme of his latest book, Creating Great Choices: A Leader’s Guide to Integrative Thinking, which Malcolm Gladwell called “the rarest of business books that teaches decision-makers how to think, not what to think.” Other works have looked at the social role of enterprises (Getting Beyond Better: How Social Entrepreneurship Works) and core business strategy (Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works, co-authored with P&G chairman AG Lafley). As a measure of the applicability of that output, Martin’s guidance is in constant demand from management teams, governments and, of course, MBA students around the world.
Follow at: @RogerLMartin

Don Tapscott
From the pre-browser 1990s to today, a sample of his book titles tells it all — Paradigm Shift, The Digital Economy, Growing Up Digital, Macrowikinomics, The Blockchain Revolution — with the strategic thinker consistently signalling the potential of different digital waves long before most have even felt a ripple. Tapscott was awarded the Thinkers50 Digital Thinking Award in 2017 for his work on blockchain, co-authored with his ex-investment banker son Alex, which explores how the technology that underpins bitcoin will shape “the next era of prosperity in finance, business, healthcare, education and governance.”
Follow at: @dtapscott

Clayton Christensen
Clay Christensen
Twenty years after The Innovator’s Dilemma transformed the way business leaders look at innovation, the Harvard Business School professor is still inspiring managers everywhere. Ranked number one in the Thinkers50 in both 2013 and 2011, his most recent co-authored book, Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice, comes out against a business management axiom: that successful businesses need to understand their customers (demographic profile, buying habits, etc). His contrary view is that they need to understand the job the customer has in mind and what inspires them to “hire” a product or service to get it done. Think Uber, Airbnb, Intuit… (Portrait: Kai T Dragland/NTNU)
Follow at: @claychristensen

W Chan Kim & Renée Mauborgne
cropped HR PR blueocean

The minds behind 2005’s 3.6 million-selling Blue Ocean Strategy, the professors of strategy and management at France’s INSEAD business school and directors of its Blue Ocean Strategy Institute are the experts in how companies navigate their way in uncharted waters. In 2017, they launched the long-awaited follow-up, Blue Ocean Shift: Proven Steps to Inspire Confidence and Seize New Growth, which provides a step-by-step strategy development guide for organizations seeking to shift from crowded, established competitive landscapes to new, open plains.
Follow at: @BlueOceanStrtgy

Michael Porter

Michael Porter
The ‘godfather of competitive strategy’ Michael Porter has been an immutable feature of the Thinkers50’s top 10 since the ranking was first compiled in 2001. A long-standing Harvard Business School professor, he’s applied economic theory and strategy concepts to some of the biggest challenges facing corporations, nations and societies, including market competition and company strategy, economic development and national performance, the environment and healthcare provision. Most recently, he has been exploring how augmented reality will play a big part in almost every organization’s future strategy.
Follow at: @MichaelEPorter

Marshall Goldsmith
Marshall Goldsmith
Goldsmith, the recipient of the 2015 Thinkers50 Leadership Award is famed for applying his Buddhist outlook to turning frosty CEOs into ‘better people.’ The author of 30-plus management books, including What Got You Here Won’t Get You There and Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts, the executive supercoach’s latest co-authored work promises even more: Lifestorming: Creating Meaning and Achievement in Your Career and Life is a practical guide “to becoming the person you want to be by redesigning your life, friends, behaviors and beliefs to move closer to your goals every single day.”
Follow at: @coachgoldsmith

• See the full Thinkers50 Ranking

First published November 2017
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