Thursday, November 17, 2011

Best 50 Business Thinkers

Clayton Christensen has been ranked #1 in the Thinkers50 assessment of the best business thinkers of our day.  The Thinkers50 uses ten criteria to evaluate thinkers: originality of ideas; practicality of ideas; presentation style; written communication; loyalty of followers; business sense; international outlook; rigor of research; impact of ideas and the elusive guru factor.  The thinkers are judged by a panel of advisors and includes votes from people who have answered the question "Who is the most important living management thinker?"  

Christensen's work is covered in several books, but his most influential contribution comes from the formulation of disruptive innovation theory first proposed in The Innovator's Dilemma, recently named one of the best six business books of all time by The Economist.  (see my post on this topic here).

Christensen's acceptance speech is a departure from straight business talk.  He waxes philosophic about the parallels between business theory and its application to personal life.  He refers to Mintzberg's work on the difference between deliberate and emergent strategy - the deliberate  being a unwavering pursuit of a specific intention with a fixed strategy, the emergent being a process where a series of actions in response to external situations or realities develop into a strategy.  Clay uses this framework to conclude that he doesn't want to leave it to chance what kind of person he wants to be (deliberate strategy), but that he entrusts how he gets there to emergent strategy that adapts to unknown threats and opportunities.  He is integrating this kind of thinking and discussion into his teaching at the Harvard Business School.

 I was proud to see several Canadians featured on the list.  
Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman School of Management (and my boss, since I teach there as an Adjunct Professor), vaulted to sixth place.  Martin is best known for the concept of integrative thinking as a way of solving business problems, and design thinking as a path to success in business. 

At the ninth rank is another Canadian (who also happens to teach at Rotman), Don Tapscott,  who writes on impact of technology on society, including such books as Growing Up Digital and Wikinomics.

Can we count Malcolm Gladwell as Canadian?  He was born in England and now lives in the US, but he grew up in Canada.  So let's count him as Canadian.  Gladwell is one of those journalists who investigates patterns and presents new possibilities in clear and understandable language.  Books such as The Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers have engaged the public in presenting new ways of thinking of things.  Gladwell made it as #10.

Coming in 30th position was Henry Mintzberg of McGill University, recognized for his work on organizational theory and emergent strategy (as described above).

 I heard recently that publishers estimate that only 30% of the business books people buy are actually read.  This kind of honour helps filter the books that I really should be out reading.

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