Thinkers50 2021
Distinguished Achievement Awards

Identifying, ranking, and recognizing the very best in management thinking

About the Shortlists

Every two years we announce the shortlists for the Thinkers50 Distinguished Achievement Awards.  The shortlists identify eight thinkers in each of our award categories who have made an exceptional contribution over the last two years.

Every time we go through this process we are amazed at the sheer range of brilliant ideas, thinking and best practice which is out in the world. It is simply a matter of uncovering the individuals and organizations and celebrating their brilliance!

And we think there are brilliant thinkers aplenty in our 2021 shortlists.  As always, they are a truly global mix.

Our belief at Thinkers50 has always been that ideas can – and must be – a force for good in the world.  Fresh thinking drives the world forward and allows us to tackle some of the huge problems we now face.  Early in the development of Thinkers50 we were inspired by the late CK Prahalad.  CK’s book The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid brought his considerable intellect to bear on an apparently intractable problem.  It changed perceptions and created opportunities for some of the poorest people on earth.

We believe that CK’s inspiration connects with many of the shortlisted thinkers of 2021. They are activists who want to make the world a better place whether that is through better understanding of technology, improving the quality of leadership in organizations, or broadening understanding of exciting concepts such as cooperative advantage.  They are the thinkers the future demands.

We hope you take this as an invitation to learn more about the people we are celebrating in the 2021 Thinkers50 Distinguished Achievement Awards.

Stuart Crainer and Des Dearlove,
Thinkers50 co-founders

2021 Distinguished Achievement Awards Shortlisted Nominees

One new shortlist will be released every Monday until all ten have been announced.



Leadership Shortlist

Teams, corporations, and organisations of every kind demand and require leadership. Yet the nature of leadership and how we understand the role of the leader is constantly evolving and being reappraised. The T50 Leadership Award acknowledges thinkers who shed powerful and original new light onto this perennial and yet classic subject.

  • Todd Cherches
  • Kirstin Ferguson
  • Frances Frei & Anne Morriss
  • Steve Goldbach & Geoff Tuff
  • Morela Hernandez
  • Hubert Joly
  • Oleg Konovalov
  • Alyson Meister, Brianna Caza & Wei Zheng

Learn more about these nominees



Radar Shortlist

The T50 Radar Award will identify the new thinker who has emerged over the last two years with the potential to change the world of theory and practice.

  • Ruth Gotian
  • Laura Huang
  • Jackson Lu
  • Nina Montgomery
  • Kaisa Snellman
  • Dashun Wang
  • Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg
  • Kai D. Wright

Learn more about these nominees



Digital Thinking Shortlist

Digital technology has transformed the world. It has also changed the way we work and even the way we understand ourselves as human beings. Which thinker’s research and insights shed the most original and valuable light on the new digital reality of business? The T50 Digital Thinking Award celebrates the thinker who has done the most to transform the digital revolution into useful management insights.

  • Sinan Aral
  • Matt Beane
  • François Candelon
  • David De Cremer
  • Kate Darling
  • Erica Dhawan
  • Ashley Galina Dudarenok
  • Amy Webb

Learn more about these nominees



Talent Shortlist

in partnership with Executive Networks

In ancient Greece the talent was a unit of currency. Today, human talent has become the global currency, with organisations competing for the very best people from around the world. With changing attitudes toward work and new generations entering the workforce, the challenge now is to better understand how talented individuals work best and how they can be effectively trained, attracted, motivated and employed. The T50 Talent Award recognises the thinker who has done the most to advance our understanding of the changing talent landscape.

  • Sheree Atcheson
  • Dorie Clark
  • Erin Meyer & Reed Hastings
  • Tsedal Neeley
  • Lindsey Pollak
  • Laura Morgan Roberts
  • Michelle Weise
  • Ben Whitter

Learn more about these nominees



Breakthrough Idea Shortlist

dedicated to the legacy of CK Prahalad

The T50 Breakthrough Idea Award celebrates a eureka moment in management thinking. It is given to a thinker whose radical ideas and insights have the potential to change the way we think about business forever. From Taylorism to The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, new ideas have challenged what we know about the business world. Where will the next management breakthrough come from?

  • Elizabeth Altman for Ecosystems in Businesses and Organizations
  • Todd Bridgman & Stephen Cummings for Sustainable Management
  • Leon Prieto & Simone Phipps for Cooperative Advantage
  • Navi Radjou for Conscious Business
  • Megan Reitz & John Higgins for Employee Activism
  • Christian Sarkar for The Wicked 7
  • Sandra J. Sucher & Shalene Gupta for The Power of Trust
  • Andrew Winston & Paul Polman for Net Positive

Learn more about these nominees



Innovation Shortlist

in partnership with Fujitsu

If necessity is the mother of invention, then innovation is its nurturing father. The word innovate comes from the Latin to “make new.” The need for innovation has never been more pressing—in society as well as in organisations. The T50 Innovation Award recognises the thinker who has contributed the most to our understanding of innovation in every sphere over the last two years.

  • 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

Learn more about these nominees



Strategy Shortlist

in partnership with Brightline

Where are you going and how do you intend to get there? This question lives at the heart of management and leadership. Strategy is arguably the intellectual and inspirational lifeblood of every organisation. The T50 Strategy Award celebrates the very best of strategic thinking. If you were running a corporation, to whom would you turn for strategic advice?

  • 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

Learn more about these nominees



Ideas into Practice Shortlist

There is nothing so practical as a great idea. At Thinkers50 we value practical thinking that makes a valuable contribution in the real world. Equally, we admire organisations that are open to new ideas no matter what their source. The T50 Ideas into Practice Award celebrates the individual whose ideas have successfully led organisational change, putting new ideas to work.

  • NK Chaudhary & Jaipur Rugs for their commitment to values-led growth
  • Subir Chowdhury for his work in quality and the relationship between literature and leadership
  • Piyush Gupta and DBS Bank with Robin Speculand for organizational transformation
  • Dambisa Moyo for How Boards Work
  • Marlon Parker for RLabs
  • Louise van Rhyn for Symphonia & Partners for Possibility
  • Luz Rello Sanchez for her campaigning work as founder of Change Dyslexia
  • Gabriela Teasdale for the Transformation Begins with Me initiative in Paraguay

Learn more about these nominees

Winners to be announced at Thinkers50 Awards Gala 2021

Join us for two days of celebrating 20 years of identifying, ranking, and sharing extraordinary management and business thinking on 15-16 November 2021. Learn more and apply for your tickets.

Thinkers50 2021

More Information

Stay tuned as we release more information about the event. Subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on social media.


If you would like to explore a potential partnership, we would love to hear from you. Contact Thinkers50 co-founders Stuart and Des.