Clayton Christensen
Clayton Christensen
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World’s top 50 management gurus

Clare Simmons — November 2013

Biennial awards rank global big thinkers for their contributions to business strategy, innovation and digital economics.

Clayton Christensen, the Harvard Business School professor who pioneered the economic model of ‘disruptive innovation,’ has been confirmed as the world’s most influential management thinker. Following in the footsteps of legendary business gurus Peter Drucker and CK Prahalad, Christensen tops the newly released Thinkers50 biennial ranking of management minds for the second time.

The 2013 top 50, which is selected through a combination of voting at the Thinkers50 website and input from a handpicked team of management experts, also saw the elevation of digital economy chronicler Don Tapscott to the number four position, and the surprise disappearance of Blink, Tipping Point and Outliers-author Malcolm Gladwell from the ranking altogether. This year’s list also showed the increased influence of Asia on business management ideas: together with the ever-growing number of thinkers with roots in the Indian subcontinent were the first group of Chinese business leaders.

In 2013, women management gurus also increased their standing, taking 13 of the 50 places (when the Thinkers50 started a dozen years ago, there were only two in the list.)

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 Navi Radjou, fellow at Cambridge Judge Business School and co-author of Jugaad Innovation, the exploration of economic ingenuity in emerging economies; and the Lifetime Achievement Award, presented to Ikujiro Nonaka, whose thinking on pragmatism and knowledge creation in business has been a major influence on the international perspective of many Japanese management teams. Those winners shared the limelight at the London awards ceremony with those confirmed as 2013’s top 10 business thinkers:

Clay Christensen
Fifteen years after The Innovator’s Dilemma transformed the way business leaders look at innovation, the Harvard Business School professor is still inspiring managers everywhere. At the top spot for the second time running, since the last Thinkers50 in 2011 he’s published How Will You Measure Your Life?: Finding fulfilment using lessons from some of the world’s greatest businesses.

W Chan Kim and 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. Sister institutes have since been established in Malaysia, North America and South America, and a new book is expected in 2014.

Roger Martin
The former dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto also takes this year’s Thinkers50 Best Book Award, for Playing to Win: How strategy really works, co-authored with P&G’s reinstated CEO, AG Lafley. As chair in productivity and competitiveness at the university, his research work centers on the problem-solving power of ‘integrative thinking,’ business design, strategy, CSR, and country competitiveness.

Don Tapscott


From the pre-browser 1990s to today, a sample of his book titles tell 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. The first to feature in the Thinkers50 app series last year, Tapscott published Radical Openness: Four unexpected principles for success with Anthony Williams in 2013, and also took this year’s Thinkers50 Global Solutions Award.

Vijay Govindarajan


Since the last Thinkers50, the Tuck School of Business professor has published Reverse Innovation with fellow Tuck academic Chris Trimble, which drew on his former role as GE's first professor in residence and chief innovation consultant. VG, as he’s known, is famed for his profound insight into how successful businesses optimize innovation on a global scale.

Rita McGrath

cropped Rita-Gunther

An expert on strategy in uncertain and volatile environments, the Columbia Business School professor was also awarded this year’s Thinkers50 Strategy Award. Her latest book, The End of Competitive Advantage: How to keep your strategy moving as fast as your business (2013) was shortlisted for this year’s Thinkers50 Book Award. 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.

Michael Porter
The ‘god of competitive strategy’ and 2005 winner of the Thinkers50 holds onto his place in the top 10 this year. A long-standing Harvard Business School professor, he’s led management thinking on the dynamics of strategy and competitiveness within business for three decades, most recently turning his attention to corporate social responsibility and the healthcare sector.

Linda Hill
Shortlisted for the Thinkers50 Leadership Award in 2011 and 2013, the professor of business administration at Harvard Business School specializes in managing change and cross-organizational relationships, implementing global strategy, leadership development, talent management and innovation. This year, she published Collective Genius: The art and practice of leading innovation, following 2011’s co-authored Being the Boss: The 3 imperatives for becoming a great leader.

Herminia Ibarra
Making her top-10 debut, this Cuban-born professional development expert is the professor of leadership and learning, professor of organizational behavior at INSEAD. Also the recipient of the 2013 Thinkers50 Leadership Award, Ibarra consults internationally on talent management, leadership development and women’s careers.

Marshall Goldsmith
Famed for applying his Buddhist outlook to turn frosty CEOs into ‘better people’, the leading executive coach holds onto his top-10 position this year. Author of 30-plus management books, including What Got You Here Won't Get You There and Mojo, his most recent title, Managers as Mentors: Building partnerships for learning, was co-authored with fellow business guru, Chip Bell.

See the full Thinkers50 rankings and Distinguished Achievement Awards

First published November 2013
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