The business world is fickle and has a short memory. This is especially true in the world of business ideas. New tools and techniques are put to work and then taken for granted as they are incorporated into business life. The quest for novelty and differentiation means that curious business leaders move quickly onto the next big idea. This is reflected in the Thinkers50 Ranking, which is a barometer of the ideas and thinkers making an impact today.
This relentless curiosity is a good thing. But, it can mean that over time the names of those who originated the most innovative business ideas and inspired best practice are overlooked or forgotten. Through the Thinkers50 Hall of Fame we salute the distinguished thinkers whose contributions to management thinking have made it what it is today.
Every year we honour the contribution of a few individuals by inducting them into the Thinkers50 Hall of Fame. Their names and legacies are added to the ranks of those who have arrived here before them. All are distinguished thinkers who have all made a lasting and vital impact on how organisations are led and managed. They are the giants upon whose shoulders managers and leaders stand.
Thinkers50 Hall of Fame status is at the discretion of the Thinkers50 founders, Stuart Crainer and Des Dearlove, and their advisors. It is an honour given in recognition of an outstanding and exceptional contribution to management thinking over many years.
The recipient of the Thinkers50 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award, Ikujiro Nonaka became interested in management and organization while working for Fuji Electric in 1958. He ended up working for the company for nine years and noticed that most of the new theories and methods introduced in Japan were coming from the US. He quit his job and left to study in the US. “My ambition was to develop a new, original, made in Japan theory, rather than borrowing theories from elsewhere,” says Nonaka.
There is a point in the lives of leaders, a moment when the leader makes the grade, when they leap from management to leadership, from team member to leader. For Warren Bennis that moment came when he was the youngest infantry officer in the European theatre of operations during World War II. This experience was what Bennis later labelled a “crucible”.
Howard Gardner, professor of cognition and education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and adjunct professor of psychology at Harvard University, gained worldwide recognition in the early 1980s for his theory of multiple intelligences, outlined in Frames of Mind (1983).
Recipient of the Lifetime Achievement award at the 2011 Thinkers50, Handy describes himself as a social philosopher. Born in Ireland, Handy studied at Oxford University and then worked for Shell and studied at MIT. He launched and ran the Sloan Programme at London Business School where he became a professor. Handy’s first book was Understanding Organisations (1976).
Robert Kaplan and David Norton are best known as the originators of the Balanced Scorecard, a strategic management tool that links a company’s current actions with its long-term goals. The Balanced Scorecard is one of the most successful and widely used management tools in the world.
In his early career, Mintzberg was described as the “enfant terrible of strategy”. The Canadian business school professor has made a career out of looking at things differently. He started out by actually looking at what managers do. In The Nature of Managerial Work (1973) he revealed that managers flitted from task to task with the concentration span of gnats. Nothing much had changed when Mintzberg revisited this subject decades later in Managing (2009).
Charismatic, passionate and insightful, Tom Peters virtually invented the modern thought leadership industry. He was co-author (with Bob Waterman) of the first modern business bestseller, In Search of Excellence (1982). Written at a time when America’s competitiveness was being threatened by Japan, In Search of Excellence demonstrated that there were still many excellent American companies.
The multi-talented Kenichi Ohmae first came to prominence in the West with the publication of The Mind of the Strategist (1982). At a time when people were seeking to understand the Japanese way, the book offered insights and hope in equal measure. Later, and more significantly, Ohmae ushered in the realities of globalization with a series of groundbreaking books. These included Triad Power, The Borderless World, The Invisible Continent and The Next Global Stage.
We remember the contributions of another innovative thinker, Chris Argyris. “Because many professionals are almost always successful at what they do, they rarely experience failure. And because they have rarely failed, they have never learned how to learn from failure,” observed Chris Argyris. A Harvard Business School professor since 1971, the oft-bow-tied Argyris put learning centre-stage on the executive agenda.