Thinkers50 European Business Forum 2019

September 25, 2019 at Odense, Denmark (2 day event for Europe's CEOs)

“Learning from Asia” … Exploring the best new ideas from around the world to help Europe’s business leaders to innovate and grow.

The European Business Forum 2019 will take place in the beautiful City of Odense, the birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen and one of Europe’s leading robotics hubs. What better place to explore the new ideas shaping the world of business?

Hosted by Peter Fisk, EBF is known as “the Davos of business thinking”. EBF19 brings together the world’s top business academics and Europe’s business leaders to write the story of the future.

This year we recognise the dramatic ways in which markets all around the world are being shaken up – by new technologies, new consumers, new challenges, and new aspirations. From artificial intelligence to robotics, digital platforms and ecosystems, climate change and millennial workers, new middle classes and polarising politics, entrepreneurs and global giants.

Most significantly, we explore how today’s winning companies are responding to this new world by changing the way they work – dynamic strategies, agile mindsets, living cultures, innovative business models, fluid structures, fast operating systems, inspiring leadership.

Asia is probably the world’s most dynamic market right now, and equally with some of the best new ideas for how to do business. From Beijing to Hyderabad, Shenzhen to Singapore, Jakarta to Tokyo, we see radical innovations in every sector, and exponential growth of companies.

Alibaba’s data-driven self-tuning strategies, Softbank’s $200bn venture funds, Tencent’s gamified WeChat-fuelled ecosystem, Haier’s rendanheyi entrepreneurialism, Uniqlo’s fast and slow model, Meituan’s radical distribution, DBS’s bank reinvention, Jio’s dramatic market growth, and more.

What can we learn from these Asian markets, and the new approaches embraced by their most successful companies? And how can European business leaders apply these ideas to their own organisations in relevant and profitable ways?

EBF19 Agenda

Here’s the fabulous line-up of speakers, insights and ideas, for this year’s forum:


0900     Peter Fisk … Welcome to the future

We live in an incredible time. A world of relentless change. More change is going to happen in the next 10 years, than the last 250 years. 7% growth in Asia, 1% in Europe. Asia has 5 billion people, 65% of the world’s megacities, 70% of global growth, 30 of the Fortune 100. Consider these companies: Alibaba’s self-tuning ecosystem, BYD low-cost driverless cars, Bytedance’s intelligent content, DBS’s radical bank, Haier’s corporate entrepreneurship, Samsung’s engineers at drama school, Softbank’s 300 year vision. These businesses are all leaders in their fields. What are their secrets? How can they inspire European business to rise again, in a more enlightened way, to seize the opportunities of an incredible changing world?

Welcome by the Mayor of Odense, Peter Rahbæk Juel.

Session 1: Exploring the new world

Global markets are being transformed at speed. Power shifts are economic, political and culture. Emerging markets dominate mature markets, both in growth and ideas. A new generation of businesses, fuelled by technology and imagination, challenge once-invincible corporations. Influencers build brands through the power of networks and relationships, yet reputations can also fall fast and dramatically. Technology challenges humanity, requiring new regulation and ethics, whilst social and environmental issues beg for new solutions. This is the reality for today’s business leaders.

0915     Kjell Nordstrom… The New Funky Business

20 years ago, the Swede’s book Funky Business took the world by storm. It challenged the management class to wake up to a world of change. It encouraged revolution of change, to embrace “competitiveness as what you know, multiplied by who you know”, and to seize power by empowering people with dreams. So how has the world changed in the last 20 years? Is the funky of 1999 now a normality, demanding new levels of “funkyness” to win in today’s economy? Kjell Nordstrom is back to re-shock and re-inspire your brains. It’s time for business to get funky again.

0945     Anna Rosling… Factfulness Live

How well do you know today’s world? Facts can describe a very different world from what we imagine. Indeed, most of our ideas and opinions are shaped by huge misconceptions about what the world is really like. Anna’s father-in-law Hans Rosling, a global health professor and unintentional YouTube star, changed the way we think about the world through his bubble charts of statistics, with a passion to show that the world is a much better place than we thought. Anna continues this journey, looking at changing markets, with particular focus on the changing nature of consumers and businesses around the world.

1015    Discuss … Why do business leaders need new perspectives? Why should we look to new markets like Asia for better ideas and inspiration, to apply to our businesses in Europe?

1030 – 1100     Break

Session 2: Connecting the new world

Whether you work for a small, local company or a global corporate, today’s ever more global and virtual world requires skills to navigate through cultural differences and decode cultures foreign to your own. When you have Americans who precede anything negative with three nice comments; French, Dutch, Israelis, and Germans who get straight to the point; Latin Americans and Asians who are steeped in hierarchy; Scandinavians who think the best boss is just one of the crowd … the result can be, well, sometimes interesting, even funny, but often disastrous.

1100     Erin Meyer… The Culture Map Workshop

INSEAD’s renowned culture expert Erin Meyer, an American living in Europe, is back at EBF19 as your guide through this subtle, sometimes treacherous terrain where people from starkly different backgrounds are expected to work harmoniously together. In her bestselling book The Culture Mapshe provides a field-tested model for decoding how cultural differences impact international business. She combines a smart analytical framework with practical, actionable advice for succeeding in a global world.

1230 – 1330     Lunch

Session 3: Learning from new markets

What can we learn from those fascinating markets of Asia and beyond? Jack Ma was rejected in the west, but thrived in the east, building Alibaba with the power of imagination and intuition. Indeed, a recent WEF study found that 90% of Asian business leaders believe that creativity is important, compared to 57% in Europe. And whilst Asia was seen as a land of imitation, it is now the leader of innovation, leaping ahead without the legacy of heritage, to seize the opportunities of changing locally and globally. Agree, or not? And if so. what can a European business learn?

1330     The need for new perspectives

1335     Linda Yueh… the economic perspective

Frequent viewers of British television will recognize the face and voice of Linda Yueh, an economist, broadcaster, and writer, who was previously Chief Business Correspondent for BBC News and host of several TV shows about the economy, business, and finance. In her latest book, The Great Economists: How their ideas can help up today, Linda explains the key thoughts of history’s greatest economists, how their lives and times affected their ideas, how our lives have been influenced by their work, and how they could help with the policy changes that we face today.

1350     Milo Jones… the cultural perspective

Milo Jones is an American based in Poland, working at IE Business School, who focuses on the impact of digital technologies on geopolitics, society and business using his experience working with Accenture, Morgan Stanley, and even CIA. Milo focuses on themes from intelligence to finance, geopolitics and cultures. In 2016, Milo also spoke at a special event organized by Harvard Business Review Korea/DBR on his application of intelligence methodologies to business situations.

1405     Christina Boutrup… the technology perspective

Christina Boutrup is a Danish author, and an expert on the Chinese world of technology, hosting radio- and TV-shows about China. She interviewed Alibaba’s founder Jack Ma and closely followed the global expansion of Chinese companies authoring several books about business in China. In her most recent book The Great Tech-revolution – How China Shapes our Future, she underscores why all decision-makers should pay attention to the Chinese tech-revolution and what companies in the West can learn from China.

1420     Tendayi Viki… the innovation perspective

Tendayi Viki, a Harvard and Stanford psychologist, and part of the Strategyzer group, explores how big corporates can act like start-ups, to innovate and grow. He helps large organisations develop their ecosystems so that they can innovate for the future while managing their core business. He was shortlisted for the Thinkers50 Innovation Award and named on the Thinkers50 2018 Radar List of emerging management thinkers to watch. He is the co-author of The Corporate Startup and The Lean Product Lifecycle.

1435    Debate … Which insights and ideas from Asia are most relevant for European business leaders to adopt and adapt in their own businesses?

1500 – 1530    Break

Session 4: Winning in the new world

The average 18-year-old today will live in at least three different countries during their lives, whilst a century ago, our grandparents rarely even left their home towns. Today we are all citizens of a rapidly connecting and changing world. Our cultures and communities are speckled with our desires for exotic tastes and better lives. Our businesses become a global ecosystem of supply and demand. Every business and individual is on a journey in this new world. Our journeys give us new insights and ideas, enabling us to grow as individuals, both personally and professionally.

1530     Martin Roll… My Journey from Europe to Asia

From ad agencies to collaborating with McKinsey, Martin Roll is a Dane who moved to Singapore to specialise in Asian brand strategies, combining the best ideas of east and west. He has lived in Asia for two decades and is now a senior advisor to business leaders, Asian conglomerates and prominent global business families on the most important issues in managing successful global brands and businesses, and exercising great leadership.

1600     Irene Yuan Sun… My Journey from Asia to Africa

Irene Sun was born in China, raised in America, found herself in Africa, later worked with McKinsey, and is author of The Next Factory of the World: How Chinese Investment Is Reshaping Africa. Her book highlights how China has become Africa’s largest trade partner, the largest infrastructure financier, and the fastest-growing source of foreign direct investment. Chinese entrepreneurs are flooding into the continent, investing in long-term assets such as factories and heavy equipment. Irene tells a story about resilient Chinese entrepreneurs now building in Africa what they so recently learned to build in China – a global manufacturing powerhouse.

1630     Navi Radjou… My Journey from Europe to America

Born in India, Navi Radjou is a French-American academic and an author of Frugal Innovation. He is now based in Silicon Valley and writing new books on leadership and sustainability. His TED talk on frugal innovation has garnered over 1.7 million views. Navi’s ideas have been shaped by his eclectic cultural background including his Indian roots, his French education, and his Silicon Valley milieu. He is also a lifelong student of yoga, Ayurveda, and Buddhist meditation.

1700     Summary of day 1

1830    Pre-dinner drinks

1900    Networking Dinner … bringing together business leaders, thinkers and sponsors

An opportunity for local hosts, business leaders, speakers, and sponsors to network, and reflect on the best new ideas in business. This year’s EBF comes in the same month that Facebook opens a huge new datacentre in the City of Odense, a symbol of its rapid redevelopment for the 21st century.

After seating Stuart Crainer and Des Dearlove, founders of Thinkers50 will give a brief update on the world of business ideas, previewing the 2019 Global Awards that will take place in London in November. Known as “the Oscars of business thinking”, this year’s short lists include a fabulous collection of new thinkers and fresh ideas to stimulate your future.

After starters … Happiness is the big idea of Henry Stewart, CHO of Happy, and author of The Happy Manifesto. In a world of polarising economics and politics, relentless change and innovation, social and environmental tensions, we all need a little more humanity, even humility. Henry is all about being, feeling and leading happy.

After main course  … Erica Dhawan, author of Get Big Things Done: The Power of Connectional Intelligence, inspires us with the power of connectedness. Sitting in one of Europe’s leading robotics hubs, connections matter. Here in Odense, surrounded by fellow leaders and thinkers, new connections are possible, and could even help us create new futures. Together all these great ideas and connections could change our futures. Having grown up in India, Erica will also give us a personal insight into how Asia has influenced her as she works around the world.


0900     Bjarke Wolmar… a shared mission

Thinkers50 has a mission to help business make the world a better place through the power of ideas. Ideas drive innovation, but also progress in society, and wealth of nations. In Europe Thinkers50 seeks to help European businesses to find their competitive edge in a world of radical change. The City of Odense has a wonderful history of storytelling, through its famous son Hans Christian Andersen. However, the real story is about the future, and how Odense is playing a leading role in harnessing the power of robotics, from biotech to drones, to be an ideas and innovation hub for Europe.

Session 5: Rethinking strategies

Strategy has become a difficult concept in business. How can you plan for an uncertain future, combining the need for direction in a world of infinite choices, with the need for constant agility? Masayoshi Son talks about his 300 year plan, whilst Mark Zuckerberg continues to “move fast and break things”. The rapid emergence of tech and convergence of sectors means that any business could effectively do anything. Rita McGrath talks about the need to see round corners, whilst BlackRock CEO Larry Fink’s call for “purpose beyond profit” has made investors and leaders re-think what matters.

0905     Haiyan Wang… Inspired by Chinese business

Haiyan Wang is a lecturer at INSEAD and Managing Partner of the China India Institute, which she runs with her husband Anil Gupta. She is based in Washington, DC, and works as an expert on Chinese business. She is a frequent contributor to BusinessWeek, The Wall Street Journal, and carries out research to assist in the creation of business strategies which focus on the rising economies of China and India.

0930     Discuss

What are the best ideas from China for European business? How can business leaders practically adapt and apply them?

0945     Anil Gupta… Inspired by Indian business

Anil Gupta has been named by The Economist as one of the world’s “superstars” for research on emerging economies. By 2025, China and India will be two of the world’s four largest economies. By then, economic ties between them should also rank among the 10 most important bilateral ties worldwide. Anil Gupta focuses on this in his writings and his work at The China India Institute.

1010     Discuss

What are the best ideas from India for European business? How can business leaders practically adapt and apply them?

1030 – 1100     Break

Session 6: Rethinking leadership

Leadership drives the business forwards, amplifying the potential of ideas, people and partners. However, as power shifts from hierarchy to network, as ideas trickle up rather than down, and action is in the hands of everyone, a new approach to leadership is required. Sensemaking, connecting, imagining, changing and implementing. These are the challenges of today’s business leader. At EBF17 Lars Rebien Sorensen inspired us with his passion for action. During EBF18, Jim Hageman Snabe inspired us with his dreams and details. This year at EBF19, we continue to explore what makes a great leader.

1100     Jean-Francois Manzoni… Leading the future

Jean-Francois Manzoni is the French-Canadian President of IMD Business School, where he focuses on high performance leadership and governance. He has lived in 5 countries, including Singapore, and worked in more than 30. Over that time, he’s been struck by how difficult it is for executives to internalise new behaviours; they know more and more about “good leadership practices”, but are less effective at putting it into practice back in the workplace. Closing that “knowing-doing gap” is a must for business leaders facing an ever more challenging world.

1130     Erica Dhawan … Leading through connections

Erica Dhawan has a passion for how people connect. She runs her own business Cotential, and is the coauthor of Get Big Things Done: The Power of Connectional Intelligence. Through speaking, training and consulting, Erica teaches business leaders innovative strategies that increase value for clients, deliver results and ensure competitiveness. She features on the Thinkers50 Radar, one of the emerging management thinkers most likely to shape the future of business.

1200     Rasmus Hougaard… Leading in your mind

Rasmus Hougaard is a Dane based in New York City, and an author of The Mind of the Leader. He leads an initiative that builds on the power of mindfulness within business called the Potential Project.

1230 – 1300     Lunch

Session 7: Rethinking innovation

Innovation is the rocket fuel of progress. In recent times words like disruption, most popularised by Clay Christiansen, has become the mantra, alongside new approaches like design thinking and lean implementation. At the same time, we realise that it is business models and customer experiences where innovation has the most impact. Over 350 “unicorns” have emerged in recent years to shake up every market. They are multi-billion-dollar start-ups, or perhaps we should just call them innovators… How do big companies compete in this world? How do you innovate at speed? How should you rethink the way you rethink?

1330     Scott Anthony and Howard Yu… the innovation champions

Scott Anthony is winner of the Thinker50 Strategy Award 2017, Managing Partner of Innosight, American born, and now based in Singapore. His books include Seeing What’s Next and Dual Transformation.

Howard Yu was born in Hong Kong, and now living in Switzerland. He is the author of Leap: How to thrive in a world where everything can be copied. He is an IMD professor, and has been called “the new Clayton Christiansen”

This session is more like a boxing match. A contest of innovation ideas. There are 5 rounds. Each contender has 5 minutes to make their case, and then the audience have 5 minutes to reflect and vote for the winner.

1345     Round 1 … How did Asia influence you?

Howard grew up in Asia and then came to Europe, whilst Scott chose to move there from America. How has Asia influenced them personally, and in their innovation work?

1400     Round 2 … Who is the better innovator – Singapore or Switzerland?

Comparing the two countries where Scott and Howard are based, which is better placed to drive innovation of the next decade? What is the best environment for innovation, and do governments help or hinder?

1415     Round 3 … How do big companies beat small companies?

Eric Ries’ The Lean Start-Uphas become a bible for modern business innovation, seeking to be more entrepreneurial, fast and experimental. But should large companies try to be like small ones, or should they play their own, better game?

1430     Round 4 … Do short-term priorities make disruptive innovation impossible?

Most businesses are driven by short-term pressures (despite the desire for longer-term thinking, focus on purpose beyond profit etc). Does this preclude disruptive innovation, or can you be just as disruptive quickly?

1445     Round 5 … What is the role of the CEO in innovation?

Steve Jobs v Jeff Bezos v Satya Nadella v AG Lafley v Jack Ma v Mukesh Ambani v Mary Barra v Indra Nooyi v Ma Huateng … these CEOs had very different roles in innovation. How can CEO’s be most useful, and in which types of innovation?

1500 – 1530     Break

Session 8: European Business Lecture 2019

1530     Introduction to the European Business Lecture

The European Business Lecture is a seminal moment in the European business calendar, defining the agenda for business leaders in the years ahead. In previous years, the world top ranked business thinkers have called for a radical rethink by leaders in how they manage their organisations. Michael Porter called for a new approach to strategy based around shared value, extending the economic focus to society. Roger Martin called for a scientific revolution in business thinking, with organisations becoming complex adaptive systems, and the merging of strategy and execution, built around projects.

1535     Alex Osterwalder… Leading the Invincible Company

Alex Osterwalder is the Swiss “strategyzer”, and the outstanding European business thinker of this decade, with books including Business Model Generation and the forthcoming The Invincible Company. Last year at EBF18, he led a fabulous workshop on how to develop a portfolio of business models for today and tomorrow – to exploit and explore – and in doing so create a relentless approach to innovation and growth, and become invincible. This year he returns to EBF19, to give the European Business Lecture with a focus on the role of business leaders in driving his concept of the “invincible” organisation. In particular, he will call for Europe’s business leaders to embrace creativity and innovation, to be more entrepreneurial like their Asian peers, and to be a force for progress in the world.

1635     Q&A with Alex

1650     Summary of EBF19

1715    Celebrate the future

Drinks Reception with the Mayor of Odense, Peter Rahbæk Juel.

Here’s what happened at EBF17:

Here’s what happened at EBF18:

Join me at the Thinkers50 European Business Forum, Europe’s premier event for business leaders, on 25-26 September 2019 in Odense, Denmark.

Tickets are limited and available now from


Here’s a preview of each of this year’s speakers:

Kjell Nordstrom Exploring the new world … His book Funky Business shook up the management world 20 years ago, now Kjell is back to reshock and reinspire your brains. It’s time for business to get funky again.

Anna RoslingExploring the new world, Factfulness Live … following in the footsteps of her late father in law, Hans Rosling, she will challenge our assumptions and perspectives of a changing world, with particular insight into Asian markets.

Erin Meyer … Connecting the new world, The Culture Map Workshop … The Paris-based American professor at INSEAD is back, this time with a unique workshop for 500 business leaders. 90 minutes to roll up your sleeves and work with Erin to understand how you can better work with different cultures across Asia, and around the world.

Linda Yueh … Learning from new markets, economic perspective … the economist, writer and broadcaster describes an economy that has echoes of history. Here’s a clip from her latest book:

Tendayi Viki … Learning from new markets, entrepreneurial perspective … the Harvard and Stanford psychologist explores how big corporates can act like start-ups, to innovate and grow.

Christina Boutrup … Learning from new markets, technology perspective … Danish author, and an expert on the Chinese world of technology. She knows Jack Ma and Wang Jianlin better than most.

Milo Jones Learning from new markets, intelligence perspective … the American based in Poland, from Walmart to Accenture, Morgan Stanley to IE Business School, he is also closely connected to the CIA.

Martin Roll … Winning in the new world, from Europe to Asia … from ad agencies to collaborating with McKinsey, the Singapore-based Dane specialises in Asian brand strategies.

Irene Yuan Son … Winning in the new world, from Asia to Africa … born in China, raised in America, from McKinsey, author of The Next Factory of the World: How Chinese Investment Is Reshaping Africa

Navi Radjou … Winning in the new world, from India to America … born in India, the French-American academic is author of Frugal Innovation and is now based in Silicon Valley.

Jean-Francois Manzoni Rethinking leadership, leading the future … the French Canadian is President of IMD Business School where he focuses on high performance leadership and governance.

Rasmus Hougaard Rethinking leadership, leading in your mind … author of The Mind of the Leader, the Dane is based in New York City and leads the Potential Project.

Erica Dhawan Rethinking leadership, leading through connections … She runs he own business Cotential, and is author of Get Big Things Done: The Power of Connectional Intelligence.


Haiyan Wang … Rethinking strategies, inspired by the best ideas from China … Managing Partner of the China India Institute, and lecturer at INSEAD, based in Washington DC and an expert on Chinese business.

Anil Gupta … Rethinking strategies, inspired by the best ideas from India … The world’s leading expert on Indian business, now professor at the University of Maryland.

Scott Anthony … Rethinking innovation, innovating with dual impact … Winner of the Thinker50 Strategy Award 2017, Managing Partner of Innosight, American born, now based in Singapore.

Howard Yu Rethinking innovation, innovation that leaps forwards … born in Hong Kong now living in Switzerland, author of Leap, the IMD professor has been called “the new Clayton Christiansen”

Alex Osterwalder ... Leading the Invincible Company … the Swiss “strategyzer” is the outstanding business thinker of this decade, from Business Model Generation to The Invincible Company. This year he returns to give the EBL, a highlight of the business year in Europe, focusing on the challenge and opportunities ahead for business leaders.

How can you learn from all these thinkers?

All of the above will feature at the Thinkers50 European Business Forum, Europe’s premier event for business leaders, on 25-26 September 2019 in Odense, Denmark.

Tickets are limited and available now from

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