Distinguished Achievement Awards

Acknowledging outstanding contributions to
management thinking.

about the awards

About the Thinkers50 Distinguished Achievement Awards

The biennial Thinkers50 Distinguished Achievement Awards were created in 2011 to recognise the exceptional contributions of individual thinkers.

Award categories can vary slightly in any given year, but tend to fall into the categories below. Thinkers50 publishes the specific list of upcoming awards, including descriptions of the criteria for each one, during the award nomination period.

Distinguished Achievement Award Categories:

  • Breakthrough Idea Award
  • Coaching & Mentoring Award
  • Digital Thinking Award
  • Ideas into Practice Award
  • Innovation Award
  • Leadership Award
  • Radar Award
  • Strategy Award
  • Talent Award

In addition to the category awards, a Lifetime Achievement Award is given to an individual thinker in recognition of an outstanding body of work over an entire lifetime; and a Founders’ Award is given to individuals in the world of business ideas who provide industry leadership and inspiration.


Recognising an outstanding body of work over an entire lifetime.

The Thinkers50 Lifetime Achievement Award is given to someone who has had a long-term impact on the way people think about and practice management. The first-ever award in this category was given to Charles Handy in 2011. Recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Award gain automatic entry into the Thinkers50 Hall of Fame.

See the complete list of Lifetime Achievement Award recipients


For an individual who has paved the way for thought leadership to flourish.

The Thinkers50 Founders’ Award, introduced in 2019, recognises individuals in the world of business ideas who provide industry leadership and inspiration. It acknowledges the invaluable contribution of the architects who lay the foundations for ideas to flourish. The first Thinkers50 Founders’ Award recipient was Santiago Iñiguez de Onzoño, President of IE University.


Thinkers50 Distinguished Achievement Awards: The Selection Process

Nominations for the Thinkers50 Distinguished Achievement Category Awards are open from May to July in Thinkers50 Awards Gala years (odd-numbered years), and shortlists are announced in late summer. Awards are conferred in November at the biennial Thinkers50 Awards Gala event.

All nominations for the Thinkers50 Distinguished Achievement Awards are considered by the Thinkers50 Panel of Advisors.

Public participation is an important part of the Awards process. In Thinkers50 Awards years (odd-numbered years) all interested parties are invited to participate in the nomination process by submitting online the names and qualifications of thinkers they wish to put forward for consideration. Nominations from across the globe are accepted – and encouraged.

The Thinkers50 Distinguished
Achievement Awards have been described by the Financial Times as

The Oscars of Management Thinking

because, like the Oscars, they are highly prestigious in their industry and are presented at a gala event attended by scores of the great management thinkers of our time. The Thinkers50 Awards Gala also features the announcement of the new Thinkers50 Ranking.

for the next Distinguished Achievement Awards

Thinkers50 Distinguished Achievement Awards 2021

THINKERS50 awards gala 2021


15-16 November 2021

2021 marked the 20th anniversary of the first ever Thinkers50 Ranking and the Thinkers50 2021 virtual Gala saw leading business and management thinkers from around the world share two full days of ideas, inspiration, and celebration.

Thinkers50 Distinguished Achievement Awards 2021 recipients and shortlists

Award recipients

Leon Prieto & Simone Phipps

for cooperative advantage

Authors of African American Management History: Insights on Gaining a Cooperative Advantage


Elizabeth Altman

Todd Bridgman & Stephen Cummings

Leon Prieto & Simone Phipps

Navi Radjou

Megan Reitz & John Higgins

Christian Sarkar

Sandra Sucher & Shalene Gupta

Andrew Winston & Paul Polman

Coaching and Mentoring
award recipient

Nankhonde Kasonde-van den Broek

Executive Coach, development activist and entrepreneur

Coaching and Mentoring AWARD 2021 SHORTLIST

Ayse Birsel

Michael Bungay Stanier

Julie Carrier

Priscilla Gill

Jesse Hsu

Nankhonde Kasonde-van den Broek

Tracy Sinclair

Modupe Taylor-Pearce

Digital Thinking
award recipient

Sinan Aral

Author of The Hype Machine and the director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy (IDE)

Digital Thinking AWARD 2021 SHORTLIST

Sinan Aral

Matt Beane

François Candelon

David De Cremer

Kate Darling

Erica Dhawan

Ashley Galina Dudarenok

Amy Webb

Award recipient

Louise van Rhyn

for Symphonia & Partners for Possibility

Social entrepreneur and the designer of the Partners for Possibility (PfP) programme


NK Chaudhary

Subir Chowdhury

Piyush Gupta & Robin Speculand

Dambisa Moyo

Marlon Parker

Louise van Rhyn

Luz Rello Sanchez

Gabriela Teasdale

award recipient

Amantha Imber

Organizational psychologist and founder of behavioural science consultancy Inventium


Scott Anthony, Paul Cobban, Natalie Painchaud & Andy Parker

Christian Busch

Rahaf Harfoush

Amantha Imber

Stefanie K. Johnson

David Schonthal & Loran Nordgren

Martin Reeves & Jack Fuller

Tendayi Viki

award recipient

Hubert Joly

Senior lecturer at the Harvard Business School and the former chairman and CEO of Best Buy


Todd Cherches

Kirstin Ferguson

Frances Frei & Anne Morriss

Morela Hernandez

Hubert Joly

Oleg Konovalov

Alyson Meister, Brianna Caza & Wei Zheng

Geoff Tuff & Steven Goldbach

award recipient

Ruth Gotian

Chief learning officer and assistant professor of education in anesthesiology and former assistant dean of mentoring and executive director of the Mentoring Academy at Weill Cornell Medicine


Ruth Gotian

Laura Huang

Jackson Lu

Nina Montgomery

Kaisa Snellman

Dashun Wang

Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg

Kai D. Wright

award recipient

Katy Milkman

The James G. Dinan Professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, host of Charles Schwab’s popular behavioural economics podcast Choiceology, and the former president of the Society for Judgment and Decision Making


Sangeet Paul Choudary

David Scott Duncan

Margaret Heffernan

Rita McGrath

Katy Milkman

Alex Osterwalder, Yves Pigneur, Fred Etiemble & Alan Smith

Christian Rangen

Christian Stadler, Julia Hautz, Kurt Matzler & Stephan Friedrich Von Den Eichen

award recipients

Erin Meyer & Reed Hastings

Authors of No Rules Rules


Sheree Atcheson

Dorie Clark

Erin Meyer & Reed Hastings

Tsedal Neeley

Lindsey Pollak

Laura Morgan Roberts

Michelle R. Weise

Ben Whitter

Lifetime Achievement
award recipient 2021

Philip Kotler

Philip Kotler is truly the father of modern marketing. Marketing Management has been the marketing bible for generations of students throughout the world. But, much more than that, he has carried on over many decades as a pioneer of marketing in new industries and activities. He has remained relevant, engaged and curious. To influence practice and theory over such an extended period is a remarkable achievement and to do this through genuinely groundbreaking ideas is even more so. It is a great thrill for us at Thinkers50 to celebrate Philip’s work.

Founders’ award recipient 2021

Mohi U. Ahmed

‘Mohi is a practitioner who realises the power of ideas,’ says Thinkers50 cofounder Des Dearlove. ‘We have known him for more than a decade and have always admired and been inspired by his enthusiastic embrace of the latest management thinking and his willingness to put ideas to work first at Fujitsu and now at Shimizu. He puts collaboration and innovation at the heart of all his endeavours.’

Thinkers50 Distinguished Achievement Awards

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