Tom Peters tells me about his search for excellence … as he receives the Thinkers50 lifetime achievement award

November 19, 2017

Tom Peters received the Thinkers50 Lifetime Achievement Award on Monday at what has become “the Oscars of management thinking”. Amidst hundreds of fellow business gurus, the great Charles Handy introduced Tom’s personal “search for excellence”, a journey that has seen Tom use his famous book as an excuse to rant and rave at the world’s business leaders for the last 40 years.

Sharing a glass of champagne with the 75 year old American, just before he went on stage, I told him how he was the man who had inspired me to explore the business world. And ultimately to join the world of consultants, educators and speakers too. As Tom himself likes to remind everyone, “business is so damn simple – listen to and serve your customers well, treat your employees even better, and find the simplest way to deliver what people want.”

I told him how my own father – a comprehensive school headteacher in northern England always talked about Tom, despite never working in business. I even remember how “In Search of Excellence” was the only business book we ever had in my parent’s home.

My Dad once engaged Tom to talk at a conference of teachers.  As president of the headteachers’ association at the time, he had had to persuade many colleagues that an American business guru really had something relevant to say about education. But his message transformed many of their minds – what their role was really about, why teaching matters to society, and in many ways, why they are the keys to the future. Indeed, on Monday Tom told me that working with teachers had been one of his most satisfying audiences, because of the difference they could make to so many children’s futures.

On stage, Tom was back to his favoured ranting. “Zuckerberg will have the epitaph on his tombstone as the man who killed truth” he proclaimed in disgust at the way in social media platforms have allowed news agendas to be hijacked and manipulated, resulting in the demise of truth and trust. At the same time I reminded him that as trust in institutions has declined, trust in our peers has grown, often enabled by our socially connected worlds. True he agreed, but best of all he reflected “it has allowed small businesses to thrive, to be just as great – maybe a lot better than big companies … I absolutely love small businesses”.

His rants went on – about the immoral distortions of business by the “playground” of Silicon Valley, and about the intellectualisation of much of business thinking – the irrelevance of business schools, and the artificial hype of thought leadership. “Why use words like talent, when we just mean people?”. Comparing a 1990 video of Tom in full guru flow, to today on stage, he did seem like a bit of a grumpy old man. Whilst in the past his passion was to inspire what is possible, it seems more that he is now more concerned about what is wrong. Nevertheless, he was as provocative and entertaining as ever.

Tom was born in Baltimore in 1942.  He graduated from Cornell with a degree in civil engineering and then gained an MBA form Stanford, plus a PhD in organisational behaviour. The title of his dissertation was “Patterns of Winning and Losing: Effects on Approach and Avoidance by Friends and Enemies.”

He spent 4 years serving in the US Navy, in Vietnam and then later working in the Pentagon. In 1973 he spent two years working in the White House as a senior drug-abuse advisor, during the Nixon administration.  In 1974 Tom joined McKinsey, becoming a partner in organisation effectiveness, then leaving after 7 years to become an independent consultant.

The publication of his incredibly popular business book In Search of Excellence in 1982 marked a turning point in Tom’s career.

When he joined McKinsey he was asked to explore “why do businesses so often fail to effectively implement new strategies?”, so Tom was asked to look at “organisation effectiveness and implementation issues” in an inconsequential offshoot project nested in McKinsey’s rather offbeat San Francisco office.

In Search of Excellence became a bestseller, gaining exposure in the United States at a national level when a series of television specials based on the book and hosted by Peters appeared on PBS. The primary ideas espoused solving business problems with as little business-process overhead as possible, and empowering decision-makers at multiple levels of a company.

The best thing about Tom is his attitude. He loves business, and people. He rants and raves, but in order to inspire and energise. He entertains too. And he makes you think.

Thinkers50 Global Awards 2018: Who is the most influential business thinker?

At Thinkers50 we dedicate ourselves to bringing together the best ideas for business leaders, curating the theories and practices of gurus across the world, to help leaders think smarter and win in a fast-changing world.

Over the last year we’ve been incredibly busy developing the concept further – including the launch of new “IdeasLabs” in Odense (Thinkers50 Europe) and Qingdao (Thinkers50 China), we’ve also launched some ground-breaking books (Dear CEO, 50 Letters to the World’s CEOs from the Best Thinkers), a new speakers agency (get all the top people in one place), and we put on the top business event in Europe this year (Thinkers50 European Business Forum 2017).

At the heart of all of this are the thinkers … The Thinkers50 global ranking is published every two years, it is the essential guide to which business thinkers and ideas are in – and which have been consigned to business history. The Thinkers50 ranking is unveiled at the “Oscars of Management Thinking”.

Here are the 2017 winners:

Breakthrough Idea Award

The Thinkers50 Breakthrough Idea Award celebrates a Eureka moment in management. It is given for a radical idea, which has the potential to forever change the way we think about business. From Taylorism to the Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, new ideas have challenged what we know about the world. This award is dedicated to the legacy of CK Prahalad, who proved there is nothing so practical as a great idea.

Previous winners: Rachel Botsman for collaborative consumption (2015); the Ellen MacArthur Foundation for the circular economy (2013); and Vijay Govindarajan for the $300 house (2011).

Winner: Emotional Agility/Susan David

How do you stay sane in a relentlessly changing world? Make sense of paradox? Keep disrupting and shaping your own thinking to stay with, or get ahead of the zeitgeist? Susan is on the faculty of Harvard Medical School, and is co-founder of the Institute of Coaching at McLean Hospital. She is the author of Emotional Agility (Penguin, 2016), which Harvard Business Review rated as one of its Management Ideas of the Year.


Other nominees were

The DRIVE Framework/Mark Esposito & Terence Tse

Mark Esposito teaches at Harvard University’s Division of Continuing Education and is a senior professor at Grenoble Graduate School of Business in France and a fellow at the Judge Business School at Cambridge University. Terence Tse is an associate professor of finance at the London campus of ESCP Europe Business School and head of Competitiveness Studies at the i7 Institute for Innovation and Competitiveness.

They are authors of DRIVE: Understanding How the Future Unfolds (Lioncrest, 2017).

100 Coaches/Marshall Goldsmith

One of the world’s leading executive coaches and author, most recently of Triggers (Crown, 2015), Goldsmith has launched a project to pass on his knowledge to the next generation. The original plan was to attract 15 coaches who would commit to passing on their own knowledge to 15 others. Such was demand that the project was expanded to 100 coaches.

The 100-Year Life/Lynda Gratton & Andrew Scott

London Business School professors and authors of The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity (Bloomsbury, 2016). Gratton and Scott’s book heralds massive social upheaval – and opportunity for social and commercial innovation.

The Purpose Economy/Aaron Hurst

Author of The Purpose Economy (Elevate, 2016), Hurst is the CEO of Imperative, a technology platform that helps people to discover what gives them purpose in their work. He is the founder of the Taproot Foundation where he helped develop the $15 billion pro bono service market.

Onlyness/Nilofer Merchant

Silicon Valley-based ex-Apple exec, Merchant is the author of 11 Rules for Creating Value in the Social Era (HBR, 2012). Her latest book is The Power of Onlyness: Make Your Wild Ideas Mighty Enough to Dent the World (Penguin Random House, 2017).

Corporate Rebels/Joost Minnaar, Pim de Morree & Freek-Jan Ronner

Known as “The Corporate Rebels,” Minnaar, de Morree and Ronner are on a mission to make work more fun. They quit their frustrating corporate jobs and set out to travel the globe and visit the world’s most inspiring organizations, from Spotify to Patagonia, sharing their insights as they go.

Awesomely Simple/John Spence

The author of five books, John Spence’s rallying call is “Making the Very Complex…Awesomely Simple.” In his twenties, he was the CEO of an international Rockefeller foundation, overseeing projects in 20 countries. He has been the owner or CEO of six companies and currently serves on the board or as an adviser to several companies. He speaks and teaches throughout the world.

Digital Thinking Award

Digital technology has transformed the world of work. It has also changed the way we understand ourselves as human beings. But which thinker’s research and insights shed the newest and most original light on the new digital reality? The Thinkers50 Digital Thinking Award celebrates the thinker who has done the most to convert the digital language of the 0 and 1 into useful human insights.

This Award was introduced in 2015 and won that year by Erik Brynjolfsson & Andrew McAfee.

Winner: Don Tapscott & Alex Tapscott

Networks are more powerful than ever – their value multipliers with every additional participant. They drive exponential impact. New technologies like blockchain will enable the next generation of the internet-based world to have any more profound impact on markets. Authors of The Blockchain Revolution: How the Technology behind Bitcoin is Changing Money, Business, and the World (Portfolio, 2016), an international bestseller. Canadian technology trailblazers, they are also co-founders of the Blockchain Research Institute. Don Tapscott is the author of The Digital Economy, Wikinomics and other global bestsellers.


Other nominees were:

1. Erik Brynjolfsson & Andrew McAfee

Directors of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Initiative on the Digital Economy and co-authors of The Second Machine Age (Norton, 2014) and Race Against the Machine (Digital Frontier Press, 2011). Their latest book is Machine, Platform, Crowd (WW Norton, 2017).

2.  Kate Darling

An expert in robot ethics, Darling is a researcher at the MIT Media Lab. Her work explores the emotional connection between people and life-like machines and anticipates difficult questions that lawmakers, engineers, and the wider public will need to address as human-robot relationships evolve.

3.  Jose Esteves

Professor of Information Systems at Spain’s IE Business School, Esteves’ work is at the forefront of understanding how technology impacts lives – from hacking to e- government and cyber-attacks. He is co-author of Value in a Digital World (Springer, 2017).

4.  Martin Ford

Martin Ford is a futurist focusing on the impact of artificial intelligence and robotics on society and the economy, and the author of Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future (Basic Books, 2015) and The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future (Acculant, 2009). He is founder of a Silicon Valley-based software development firm.

5.  Anindya Ghose

An Indian-born professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business, Ghose’s work focuses on economic issues and consumer behaviour as it relates to the internet, mobile, digital marketing, big data, and business analytics. In his book TAP: Unlocking the Mobile Economy (MIT Press, 2017), Ghose discusses the opportunities created by the global prevalence of and dependence on smartphones.

7.  Sherry Turkle

The Abby Rockefeller Mauze Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at MIT, as well as the founder and director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self, a center of research and reflection on the evolving connections between people and artifacts. She is the author of Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age (Penguin Press, 2015) and Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other (Basic Books, 2011).

8. Hu Yong

A professor at Peking University’s School of Journalism and Communication, Hu Yong’s publications include Internet: The King Who Rules, the first book introducing the Internet to Chinese readers, and The Rising Cacophony: Personal Expression and Public Discussion in the Internet Age, documenting major transformations in Chinese cyberspace. He is co-founder of the Digital Forum of China, a nonprofit organization that promotes public awareness of digitization and advocates a free and responsible Internet. His blog has a readership of seven million.

Innovation Award

If necessity is the mother of invention, then innovation is its nurturing father. The word innovate comes from the Latin to “make new.” It has never been more pressing – in society or in organizations. The Thinkers50 Innovation Award recognizes the thinker who has contributed the most to our understanding of innovation over the last two years.

Previous winners: Linda Hill (2015), Navi Radjou (2013), and Clay Christensen (2011).

Winner: Scott Anthony

Scott is a great strategic thinker, and I am currently using his A+B+C dual transformation to help a pharma client deliver today’s business whilst also creating tomorrow. Managing partner of Innosight, the innovation and growth consulting firm, he is the author and co-author of several books, including (with Clay Christensen) Seeing What’s Next (HBR, 2004) and The First Mile (HBR, 2014). His latest book, Dual Transformation: How to Reposition Today’s Business While Creating the Future, co-authored with Clark Gilbert and Mark W. Johnson, (HBR Press 2017), tackles how successful incumbent companies can counter the threat of disruption.


Other nominees were

2. Jeff Gothelf & Josh Seiden

Lean thinking and design evangelists, founders of the global Lean UX movement, and authors of Sense & Respond: How Successful Organizations Listen to Customers and Create New Products (HBR Press, 2017). They argue that becoming a sensing organization requires shifting from managing outputs to what the authors call “outcome focused management.”

3. Jeanne Liedtka

Professor of Business Administration at the Darden School at the University of Virginia, Liedtka was formerly the chief learning officer at United Technologies Corporation. She is the co-author of Designing for Growth: A design toolkit for managers (Columbia Business Press, 2011) and Solving Problems with Design Thinking: Ten Stories of What Works (Columbia Business Press, 2011). Her forthcoming book is Designing for the Greater Good.

4. Soren Kaplan

A former Hewlett Packard executive, Kaplan is an affiliated professor at the Center for Effective Organizations at USC’s Marshall School of Business. He is the founder of the consulting firm Innovation Point, and a co-founder of iCohere, a web collaboration platform for online learning and social networking. His latest book The Invisible Advantage (Greenleaf, 2017) looks at how firms create and sustain a culture of innovation.

5. David Robertson

David Robertson is Professor of Practice at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. From 2002 through 2010, he was the LEGO Professor of Innovation and Technology Management at IMD. Robertson is the author (with Bill Breen) of Brick by Brick: How LEGO Reinvented its Innovation System and Conquered the Toy Industry, (Random House, 2013). His latest book is The Power of Little Ideas: A Low-risk, High-reward Approach to Innovation (HBR Press, 2017).

6. Christian Seelos & Johanna Mair

Johanna Mair is a professor at the Hertie School of Governance and the Distinguished Fellow at the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society and a senior research fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School. Christian Seelos is a visiting scholar at the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society at Stanford, and the Leo Tindemans Chair of Business Model Innovation at KU Leuven. Seelos and Mair are the authors of Innovation and Scaling for Impact: How Effective Social Enterprises Do It (Stanford Business Books, 2017).

7. Tendayi Viki

The founder and principal consultant at Benneli Jacobs, a strategy and innovation consultancy firm that helps companies develop their internal ecosystems to innovate like startups, Viki co-designed and helped implement Pearson’s Product Lifecycle, an innovation framework that won Best Innovation Program 2015 at the Corporate Entrepreneur Awards. He is the co-author, with Dan Toma and Esther Gons, of The Corporate Startup: How Established Companies Can Develop Successful Innovation Ecosystems (Vakmedianet, 2017).

8. Howard Yu

Professor of Strategic Management and Innovation at IMD in Switzerland, Yu specializes in technological innovation, with a focus on why and how some firms can sustain new growth while others cannot. His award-winning paper, “Leopards sometimes change their spots: How established firms can transform themselves,” argues that as well as being vulnerable to disruption from new start-ups, incumbent companies can also leverage their advantages.

Leadership Award

Teams, corporations, and organizations of every kind, demand and require leadership. Yet the nature of that leadership and how we understand the role of the leader is constantly being reappraised. The Thinkers50 Leadership Award acknowledges thinkers who shed powerful and original new light onto this perennial and still vital subject.

Previous winners: Marshall Goldsmith (2015 and 2011), and Herminia Ibarra (2013).

Winner: Hal Gregerson

Leadership is about asking the right questions, not having all the answers. Hal is all about questions. Executive director of the MIT Leadership Center and a senior lecturer in leadership and innovation at MIT’s Sloan School, he is the author of 10 books. His question-centric research project to surface insights into how leaders can build better questions to unlock new solutions helped defined what Gregersen calls his Catalytic Questioning methodology.


Other nominees were:

1. Angela Duckworth

Angela Duckworth is a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. She is also the founder and CEO of Character Lab, a nonprofit whose mission is to  advance the science and practice of character development. Duckworth studies grit and self-control, two attributes distinct from IQ. Her first book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance (Simon & Schuster, 2016) was a New York Times bestseller.

2.  Sydney Finkelstein

The Steven Roth Professor of Management and Faculty Director at the Tuck Center for Leadership, Syd Finkelstein is the author of several best-selling books including Why Smart Executives Fail and What You Can Learn from Their Mistakes (Portfolio, 2003). His latest book, the result of a ten-year research project, is Superbosses: How Exceptional Leaders Master the Flow of Talent (Penguin Portfolio, 2016).

3.  Heidi K. Gardner

Author of Smart Collaboration: How Professionals and Their Firms Succeed by Breaking Down Silos, (HBR Press, 2017), Gardner’s work focuses on leadership and collaboration in professional service firms. She is a distinguished fellow at Harvard Law School’s Center on the Legal Profession and faculty chair of the school’s Accelerated Leadership Program.

5.  John Mattone

John Mattone is one of America’s leading executive coaches, with over 30 years’ experience in the fields of leadership and human capital management. He champions the 4As of leadership: Altruism, Affiliation, Achievement, and Abundance. He is the author of Talent Leadership (Amacom, 2012) and Intelligent Leadership: What You Need to Know to Unlock Your Full Potential (Amacom, 2013). His latest book, co-authored with Nick Vaidya, is Cultural Transformations: Lessons of Leadership and Corporate Reinvention (Wiley, 2016).

6.  Margarita Mayo

Margarita Mayo is professor of leadership and organizational behaviour at IE Business School in Madrid. A Fulbright Alumni of Harvard University, and research award winner at the Center for Creative Leadership, her latest book Yours Truly: How to Stay True to Your Authentic Self (Bloomsbury, 2018) explores what it means to be an authentic leader.

7.  Karl Moore

An expert in CEO and C-Suite leadership, Karl Moore is an associate professor at the Desautels Faculty of Management McGill University and an associate fellow at Green Templeton College. His current research looks at introvert/ambivert/extrovert leaders in the C-Suite and the issues faced in leading millennials. His book Effectively Working with Millennials will be published later in 2017.

8.  Simon Sinek

Born in the UK and now based in the US, Simon Sinek is a marketing consultant and lecturer at Columbia University. He is the author of four books including the 2009 best seller Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action (Penguin, 2009) and Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Some Don’t (Penguin, 2015). His latest book is Find Your Why: A Practical Guide for Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team (Portfolio, 2017).

Strategy Award

Where you are going and how you intend to get there lie at the heart of management and leadership. Strategy is the intellectual and inspirational lifeblood of organizations. The Thinkers50 Strategy Award celebrates the very best of strategic thinking. If you were running a corporation, who would you turn to for strategic advice?

Previous winners: Alex Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur (2015); Rita McGrath (2013); W Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne (2011).

Winner: Richard D’Aveni

The Bakala Professor of Strategy at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, D’Aveni is the author of a number of influential books including Hypercompetition (Free Press, 1994), Beating the Commodity Trap (HBR Press, 2009) and Strategic Capitalism (McGraw-Hill, 2012). His forthcoming book, When Titans Rule the World (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018), builds on his HBR article “3-D Printing Will Change the World,” and charts the rise of “panindustrial” manufacturers.


Other nominees were:

1. Weiru Chen

Weiru Chen is an associate professor of strategy at the China Europe International Business School, where he teaches industry and competitive analysis, business model innovation, and strategy. He is the author (with Cho-Hsuan Yu) of Platform Strategy: Business Model Revolution, a Chinese bestseller based on a study of 40 Chinese firms and 20 global companies.

3.  Pankaj Ghemawat

Indian-born Pankaj Ghemawat is the professor of management and strategy and director of the Center for the Globalization of Education and Management at the Stern School of Business. He is also the Anselmo Rubiralta Professor of Global Strategy at IESE Business School in Spain. He is the author of World 3.0: Global Prosperity and How to Achieve it (HBR Press, 2011) and The Laws of Globalization (Cambridge, 2017).

4.  W Chan Kim & Renée Mauborgne

W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne are Professors of Strategy at INSEAD and Co-Directors of the INSEAD Blue Ocean Strategy Institute. They are the authors of the New York Times, #1 Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestseller Blue Ocean Shift – Beyond Competing (Hachette, 2017) and the over 3.6 million copy international bestseller Blue Ocean Strategy, which is recognized as one of the most iconic and impactful strategy books ever written. Blue Ocean Strategy is published in a record-breaking 44 languages.

5.  Rita G McGrath

On the faculty of Columbia Business School since 1993, Rita McGrath is the author of The End of Competitive Advantage (Harvard, 2013). She is also co-author of MarketBusters: 40 Strategic Moves that Drive Exceptional Business Growth (HBR Press, 2005), and The Entrepreneurial Mindset (HBR Press, 2000). Her next project, tentatively entitled “Discovery Driven Advantage,” examines how companies can build true proficiency in innovation.

6.  Roger Martin

The former dean of University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, Martin is a strategy advisor to CEOs worldwide and the author of ten books, including Thinkers 50 award winners Playing to Win (with AG Lafley, HBR Press, 2013) and Getting Beyond Better (with Sally Osberg, HBR Press, 2015). His new book Creating Great Choices (with Jennifer Riel, HBR Press, 2017) follows up on his 2007 bestseller The Opposable Mind (HBR Press).

7.  Alex Osterwalder & Yves Pigneur

Yves Pigneur is a Belgian computer scientist and Alex Osterwalder is a Swiss consultant and founder of Strategyzer. They are the authors of Business Model Generation (Wiley, 2010), which has sold more than one million copies in 30 languages. They invented the “Business Model Canvas,” used by companies worldwide. The original book has been followed by Business Model You (Wiley, 2012) and Value Proposition Design (Wiley, 2014).

8.  András Tilcsik

Hungarian-born Tilcsik is an assistant professor of strategic management at the Rotman School of Management and a faculty fellow at the Michael Lee-Chin Family Institute for Corporate Citizenship. In 2015, he and Chris Clearfield won the Bracken Bower Prize from McKinsey and the Financial Times, given to the best business book proposal by scholars under 35. The book, Meltdown: Why Our Systems Fail and What We Can Do About It, is forthcoming (Penguin, 2018).

Talent Award

In ancient Greece, the talent was a unit of currency. Today, human talent has become the global currency, with organizations competing for the very best people from around the world. With the changing attitudes to work and new generations entering the workforce, the challenge now is to better understand how talented individuals work best and how they can effectively be attracted, motivated, and retained. Research into talent has never been so important and practically useful.

This award was introduced in 2015 and won that year by Stew Friedman.

Winner: Amy Edmondson

The Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at Harvard Business School, Amy Edmondon’s field research into teamwork has spanned a range of environments including the cardiac surgery operating room; factory floor; and executive suite. She is the author of Teaming: How Organizations Learn, Innovate, and Compete in the Knowledge Economy (Jossey-Bass, 2012) and Extreme Teaming: Lessons in Complex, Cross-sector Leadership (Jossey-Bass, Sept 2017).


Other nominees were:

1.  Ayse Birsel

Ayse Birsel is co-founder and creative director of the design and innovation studio Birsel + Seck. The Turkey-born, New York-based designer is the creator of Design the Life You Love (Ten Speed Press, 2015), a book and coursework that teaches non- designers how to create a meaningful life using her design process. This process is labeled Deconstruction: Reconstruction (DE:RE).

2.  Shane Cragun & Kate Sweetman

Founding partners at the consulting firm SweetmanCragun, their latest book is Reinvention: Accelerating Results in the Age of Disruption (Greenleaf Book Group Press, 2016). A former editor at Harvard Business Review, Sweetman teaches at MIT’s Legatum Institute for Entrepreneurship. Cragun is co-author of The Employee Engagement Mindset (McGraw Hill).

3.  Carol Fishman Cohen

CEO of iRelaunch, Fishman Cohen consults to corporations on career reentry strategy. Her return to work at Bain Capital after 11 years out of the full-time workforce is documented in a Harvard Business School case study. Her article “The 40-year old intern” was selected for HBR’s 90th anniversary celebration of articles that made the biggest difference to readers’ lives. Her TED talk “How to get back to work after a career break” has been viewed over 1.4 million times and translated into 27 languages.

5.  Sallie Krawcheck

CEO and co-founder of Ellevest, a digital financial advisor for women, and the owner and chair of Ellevate Network, Sallie Krawcheck was previously the president of the Global Wealth and Investment Management division of Bank of America. An outspoken commentator on the topic of Wall Street regulatory reform, she is the author of Own it: The Power of Women at Work (Crown, 2017).

6.  Lauren Noël & Christie Hunter Arscott

Lauren Noël is managing director of QUEST, a global leadership institute for early career women. Her work focuses on engaging, advancing and inspiring women in the first decade of their careers. Christie Hunter Arscott is a principal at QUEST. She is an expert on gender and generational strategies, and formerly deputy leader of Deloitte Consulting’s US Diversity & Inclusion Service Offering.  They are the authors of “What executives need to know about millennial women” (ICEDR, 2015).

7.  Jennifer Petriglieri & Gianpiero Petriglieri

INSEAD professors Jennifer Petriglieri and Gianpiero Petriglieri are the authors of the Harvard Business Review article “The Talent Curse: Why High Potentials Struggle – and How They Can Grow Through It” (May-June 2017). They have previously been shortlisted for the Thinkers50 Radar Award and the Thinkers50 Leadership Award, respectively.

8.  Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic

An international authority in psychological profiling, talent management, and people analytics, Chamorro-Premuzic is the CEO of Hogan Assessment Systems, Professor of Business Psychology at University College London, and a visiting professor at Columbia University. He has published eight books and is co-founder of, a digital start-up that enables organizations to identify individuals with entrepreneurial talent.

Ideas Into Practice

There is nothing so practical as a great idea. At Thinkers50 we value new thinking that makes a meaningful contribution in the real world. Equally, we admire organizations that are open to new ideas no matter what their source. The T50 Ideas into Practice Award celebrates an organization putting new ideas to work.

This award was introduced in 2015 and won that year by Zhang Ruimin, CEO of Haier Group.

Winner: Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez

Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez is director of the Program Management Office at the pharmaceuticals company GlaxoSmithKline Vaccines and former chair of the Project Management Institute. He was head of post-merger integration at Fortis Bank, leading the largest takeover in financial service history: the acquisition of ABN AMRO. He is the author of The Focused Organization (Routledge, 2012) and creator of the Hierarchy of Purpose concept.


Other nominees were:

2.  Mary C. Gentile

Professor of Practice at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business, Mary Gentile is the creator and director of Giving Voice to Values – a pioneering business curriculum for values-driven leadership. A senior advisor at the Aspen Institute Business & Society Program, she is the author of Giving Voice To Values: How To Speak Your Mind When You Know What’s Right (Yale University Press, 2010). Giving Voice to Values has piloted in over 900 business schools and organizations globally.

3.  ofo

Putting the sharing economy to work is the Chinese bike-sharing startup ofo. It began life two years ago with its founders pooling private savings of 150,000 yuan ($21,800). Dai Wei, the 26-year-old entrepreneur, named the firm ofo as the letters look like a bike. Its value was recently calculated as more than $3 billion. Over 6 million of the company’s bright yellow bikes can be found in more than 150 Chinese cities, and are now moving into London and Singapore with a planned expansion to 20 countries, including Japan, Spain, France, Netherland, Germany, and the Philippines.

4.  The Faculty of Medical Leadership and Management

The UK’s Faculty of Medical Leadership and Management works to promote excellence in leadership on behalf of all doctors in the National Health Service and at all stages in their medical careers. The CEO and medical director is a former neurosurgeon, Peter Lees, a long-time champion of the importance of leadership in the medical world.

5.  Adele Sweetwood

Adele Sweetwood is senior vice president of global marketing for SAS. She is the author of The Analytical Marketer: How to Transform Your Marketing Organization (HBR Press, 2016). Challenged to change by its company’s own analytical products, the SAS marketing organization was forced to rethink. The book presents practical guidance for developing a marketing culture that thrives on and adds value through data and analytics.

6.  Peter Terium & Deborah Rowland

In 2016 RWE AG Group CEO, Peter Terium, and change coach, Deborah Rowland, concluded an innovative transformation programme of a 62,000-strong energy company. Over the course of 3 years, a radical leadership development programme for the company’s top 360 leaders – using Rowland’s Still Moving model of change leadership – helped transform a century-old energy company, leading to a more open, collaborative, agile and socially responsible organization fit for the 21st century. RWE has now undergone a significant split and launched one of the fastest and most successful IPO’s in German history.

7.  Anita Krohn Traaseth

Anita Krohn Traaseth is the managing director of Innovation Norway, the Norwegian Government’s most important instrument for innovation and development of Norwegian enterprises and industry. Previously, she was CEO of Hewlett-Packard Norway. Traaseth has also had leading positions in Simula Innovation, Intelligent Quality, and Det Norske Veritas. In August 2012, she began to publish a personal blog on leadership, titled tinteguri and went on to publish her first book, Good enough for the bastards – courage, vulnerability and credibility (Kindle, 2014).

8.  Louise van Rhyn

Louise van Rhyn is a social entrepreneur who believes the worlds’ biggest problems can be solved through cross-sector collaboration and an understanding of complex social change. In 2010, she started the School at the Centre of Community Social Change Process and the Partners for Possibility Leadership Development Process to change education in South Africa through collaborative partnerships between business leaders and school principals.

Radar Award

Which of the new generation of business thinkers is most likely to shape the future of business and business thinking? Whose work has the potential to challenge the way we think about management? With the Thinkers50 Radar Award we identify and celebrate the thinker-most-likely-to.

Previous winners: Erin Meyer (2015), Nilofer Merchant (2013), and Lucy Marcus (2011).

Winner: Amy Webb

Amy Webb is a quantitative futurist. She is a professor of strategic foresight at the NYU Stern School of Business and the founder of the Future Today Institute. Webb’s research focuses on the future of technology, business, governing and society, and her work has been featured in the New York Times, Harvard Business Review, Wall Street Journal, MIT Sloan Management Review, Guardian, BBC and elsewhere.

Other nominees were:

1.  Noah Askin

Assistant professor of organizational behaviour at INSEAD, Askin’s research interests include social and cultural networks, status, the production and consumption of music, and higher education. His TED talk, “The recipe of a hit song” examined what makes a song reach the top 100 Billboard chart.

2.  Alexander Betts

Betts is Professor of Forced Migration and International Affairs and director of the Refugee Studies Centre at the University of Oxford. His research focuses on the politics and economics of refugees. He is the author of Mobilising the Diaspora: How Refugees Challenge Authoritarianism (Cambridge University Press, 2016) and Refugee Economies: Forced Displacement and Development (Oxford University Press, 2016). Most recently he co-authored Refuge (Allen Lane, 2017).

3.  Zoë Chance

Former marketing manager at Mattel and now a professor at the Yale School of Management, Zoë Chance examines persuasion and decision-making through the lens of behavioural economics. Her 4Ps Framework for Behaviour Change was the foundation for Google’s global food guidelines, helping 60,000 people make healthier choices every day. Her TEDx talk on influencing behavioural change is called “How to make a behaviour addictive.”

4.  Mona Hammami Hijazi

Former US President Jimmy Carter describes Hammami Hijazi as “a leading voice on global giving.” The author of The Giving World (Thinkers50, 2016), she is a director at the Office of Strategic Affairs, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Court. Previously, she was a lead associate at the consulting firm Booz & Company and also worked as an economist with the International Monetary Fund and the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia. She has authored several articles and policy papers published by the IMF.

5.  Mark Greeven

Mark Greeven is a Dutch academic based in Hangzhou, China, with a ringside seat on fast evolving developments in Chinese management and leadership. He is an associate professor at Zhejiang University’s School of Management. In addition, he is a research fellow at China’s National Institute for Innovation Management and the International Institute for Asia Studies. He is co-founder of the ERIM China Business Research Centre.

6.  Maja Korica

Croatian born Maja Korica is an associate professor at Warwick Business School in the UK. Her research focuses on understanding the nuances of complex and rarely seen organizational settings, particularly at the top of organizational hierarchies, and has appeared in leading practitioner publications including MIT Sloan Management Review (“Staying in the know: overhauling your personal knowledge structure,” 2015).

7.  Katherine Milkman

Katherine Milkman is an associate professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, and an associate professor at the Perelman School of Medicine. Her research uses “big data” to document various ways in which individuals systematically deviate from making optimal choices. Her work has examined what factors produce self-control failures and how to reduce them. She has also explored race and gender discrimination, focusing on how a decision’s context can alter the manifestation of bias.

More: Thinkers50 European Business Forum 2017

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