The world’s top management gurus in 2015
Michael Porter
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The world’s top management gurus in 2015

Kenny MacIver — November 2015

Biennial awards rank the world’s 50 most influential business thinkers based on their contributions to leadership, strategy, innovation and digital economics.

Michael Porter, the Harvard Business School professor who has led business theory on the nature of competition for more than three decades, has been confirmed as the world’s most influential management thinker. Following in the footsteps of legendary business gurus Clayton Christensen, Peter Drucker and CK Prahalad, Porter tops the newly released Thinkers50 biennial ranking of management minds for the second time.

The 2015 top 50, which is selected through a combination of voting at the Thinkers50 website and input from a handpicked team of management experts, not only recognized Porter’s long-standing contribution to management thinking but, following the 2007 economic crash, his insight into how concepts of ‘shared value’ can reshape capitalism and its relationship to society. Even more recently, his focus has shifted to digital and an exploration of how smart-connected products are transforming competition, business models, companies and wider society.

“Management thinking — and a new conception of how corporations relate to society — is one of the most powerful tools we have in the world now to address societies’ pressing challenges,” he highlighted in his acceptance address. “And through creating shared value, I think we can create solutions to problems [in] health, nutrition, the environment, education, housing and others

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 Linda Hill, Harvard Business School professor and co-author of Collective Genius and Being the Boss; and the Digital Thinkers Award, presented to MIT Sloan School of Management professors Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, whose recent book The Second Machine Age brilliantly conveys the immense scale of change that will unfold as the digital revolution progresses (see I-CIO’s Big Thinker video interview with Erik Brynjolfsson). Other I-CIO Big Thinkers featured in the rankings included Seth Godin (at no. 23) and Lynda Gratton (ranked 31).

Below we profile the Thinkers50 top 10:

Michael Porter
The ‘god 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 explored how the Internet of Things is sparking a revolution that will transform competition and have profound implications for society.
Follow at: @MichaelEPorter

Clayton Christensen

Clay Christensen
Eighteen 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 book is How Will You Measure Your Life? Finding fulfilment using lessons from some of the world’s greatest businesses, although in recent months he’s found himself pressed into defending his model of disruptive innovation as critics have pointed to a string of historical exceptions to the theory. (Image: Kai T Dragland/NTNU)
Follow at: @claychristensen

W Chan Kim & Renée Mauborgne

cropped HR PR blueocean
The minds behind 2005’s seminal 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 should navigate their way in uncharted waters. As well as turning their attention to extending Blue Ocean thinking towards leadership, the pair have recently published an expanded and updated edition of their 3.5 million-selling original.
Follow at: @BlueOceanStrtgy

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 — with the strategic thinker consistently signaling the potential of different digital waves long before most have even felt a ripple. What’s coming in 2016 promises to be equally profound: Blockchain Revolution, an exploration of how the technology that underpins bitcoin offers a model for putting control over personal information and engagement in ecommerce back in the hands of people, so “shaping the next era of prosperity in finance, business, healthcare, education and governance.”
Follow at: @dtapscott

Marshall Goldsmith

Marshall Goldsmith
Goldsmith was the recipient of the 2015 Thinkers50 Leadership Award. Famed for applying his Buddhist outlook to turn frosty CEOs into ‘better people,’ the leading executive coach improved his ranking from 10 to five over the past two years. Author of 30-plus management books, including What Got You Here Won’t Get You There and Mojo, his most recent title is Triggers: Creating behavior that lasts—Becoming the person you want to be.
Follow at: @coachgoldsmith

Linda Hill

Linda Hill
Winner of the Fujitsu-sponsored Thinkers50 Innovation Award for 2015, the professor of business administration at Harvard Business School specializes in breakthrough leadership and the qualities it takes to foster, inspire and create value from innovation. In 2013, she co-authored Collective Genius: The Art and Practice of Leading Innovation, following 2011’s bestseller Being the Boss: The 3 imperatives for becoming a great leader.

Roger Martin

Roger Martin
The head of the Martin Prosperity Institute and former dean at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, Martin’s research centers on the problem-solving power of ‘integrative thinking,’ business design, strategy, CSR and country competitiveness. This year he followed his 2013 bestseller Playing to Win: How strategy really works (co-authored with P&G chairman AG Lafley) with Getting Beyond Better: How social entrepreneurship works. Co-authored with Skoll Foundation CEO Sally Osberg, the deep thinking behind the book and another collaboration, Two Keys to Sustainable Social Enterprise, earned the pair the 2015 Thinkers50 Social Enterprise Award
Follow at: @RogerLMartin

Herminia Ibarra

Herminia Ibarra

As professor of leadership and learning as well as professor of organizational behavior at INSEAD, Herminia Ibarra is an internationally renowned expert on professional and leadership development and the incubation of exceptional management talent. The recipient of the 2013 Thinkers50 Leadership Award, she is the author of Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader and the bestseller Working Identity: Unconventional strategies for reinventing your career. A native of Cuba, she spent 13 years on the faculty at Harvard Business School and is a member of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Councils.
Follow at: @HerminiaIbarra

Rita McGrath

Rita McGrath
An expert on strategy in uncertain and volatile environments, the Columbia Business School professor has helped guide management strategy at Pearson, Coca-Cola Enterprises, General Electric, Alliance Boots and numerous other enterprises, and is the author of The End of Competitive Advantage: How to keep your strategy moving as fast as your business. Prior to entering academia two decades ago, she was an IT director, worked in the political arena and founded two start-ups. In high demand as a speaker and consultant, she’s also been recognized as one of the top 10 business school professors to follow on Twitter.
Follow at: @rgmcgrath

Dan Pink

Dan Pink
Dan Pink is the author of five provocative books about business, work and human behavior, including A Whole New Mind: Why right-brainers will rule the future, Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us and his latest, To Sell is Human: The surprising truth about moving others. Before venturing into the world of ideas and motivation 18 years ago, Dan worked in several positions in politics and government, including serving from 1995 to 1997 as chief speechwriter to vice president Al Gore. (Image: Rebecca Drobis)

Follow at: @DanielPink

See the full Thinkers50 Ranking 2015

First published November 2015
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