A thought leader? It sure has a nice ring to it. You can visualize it. The life of the jet set. Fat speech fees. Interviews with all major media outlets. Consulting gigs with powerful companies, access to all the right circles—and the admiration of all the right people.
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Harvard and Wharton legends are on the list
Ah, you can dream of business faculty from brownstone stoops. For many, their research amounts to occasional peer citations in dusty journals. It’s not easy being a business professor, seeing companies make the same mistakes in haste and haste – all the knowledge and none of the influence. Still, some ideas eventually fail. A book hits the bestseller list, a TED Talk goes viral, or a podcast resonates. In some cases, their research helps us understand how the world is changing. Other times, they repackage old truths in new ways. As much as possible, they reveal the symbiotic relationships behind the various elements. They show us where to move in the process, how to pull it off, when to act, and why.
And these ideas inspire new models and markets that 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 time in a row, Thinkers50 has honored Harvard Business School’s Amy Edmondson as a top business thinker. Wharton’s Adam Grant moved up four spots as runner-up. Paul Polman and Andrew Winston, authors Net positive: How brave companies thrive by giving more than they takeIt appeared in the Top 10 at #3.
Business school faculty oversee the list.
Thinkers50 It was founded in 2001 by two business professors – Des Derlov and Stuart Kreiner – who taught at the IE Business School and Oxford University and collaborated on THe is a management book of the Financial Times. Since then, Thinkers50 has emerged as the “Oscars of management thinking”. Financial Times. Held in odd-numbered years, the Thinkers50 accepts online nominations from the general public between May and July. From there, candidates are vetted by Thinkers50’s panel of advisors. While the process is democratic, it is not necessarily transparent. The panel, along with Dearlove and Crayer, compiles the ranking by using a “proprietary approach” to evaluate the nominees’ contributions, measuring their impact over the long term and over the past two years.
Broadly speaking, Thinkers50 evaluates business ideas in terms of their viability and visibility. Viability is based on what Thinkers50 describes as the 4 Rs: Relevance, Rigor, Reach and Resist. In other words, they test thought leaders’ ideas by challenging how applicable, far-reaching, and long-term they are (along with the level of research behind them). When it comes to visibility, think academic citations and media coverage, public speaking engagements, and communications. If these thought leaders are rock stars, visibility measures their power.
This year, the Thinkers50 honorees were honored at a gala event in London on November 5-6. Over the years, it has provided the world’s most influential business voice to thinkers and leaders such as Peter Drucker, Michael Porter, Clayton Christensen, CK Prahide, W. Chan Kim and Rene Mauborgne, and Amy Edmondson. In this year’s class, you’ll find business professors, CEOs, authors, executive coaches, consultants, engineers, doctors, lawyers, and psychologists. As in the previous 2021 ranking, women outnumbered men, this time by a 29 to 27 margin (there are 6 thinkers caught as a pair, e.g. Blue ocean strategy co-authors W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne). Of these 56 thought leaders, you’ll find 44 who teach full-time at business schools or work as adjunct or executive instructors. This includes 9 of the 13 thought leaders who will fill the Thinkers50 in 2023.