Announcing the Thinkers50 2023 Innovation Award Shortlist


If necessity is the mother of invention, then innovation is its nurturing father. The word innovate comes from the Latin to “make new”. It has never been more pressing – in society as well as in organisations. The Thinkers50 Innovation Award recognises the thinker who has contributed the most to our understanding of innovation over the last two years.  

Previous recipients of the Thinkers50 Innovation Award include Clay Christensen, Navi Radjou, Linda Hill, and Scott Anthony. 

This year’s recipient will be announced at the Thinkers50 Awards Gala in November, along with the recipients of all nine Distinguished Achievement Awards and the new Thinkers50 Ranking. Join us!

The shortlisted thinkers for the 2023 Thinkers50 Innovation Award are (in alphabetical order):

1. Ben Bensaou
for Built to Innovate

Professor of technology management, Asian business and comparative management, and former dean of executive education at INSEAD, Ben Bensaou has also been a visiting associate professor at Harvard Business School, a senior fellow at the Wharton School of Management, and a visiting scholar the Haas School of Business at the University of California Berkeley. Ben’s work looks at how to build, maintain, and accelerate a company’s collective innovating capabilities. His 2021 book, Built to Innovate: Essential Practices to Wire Innovation into Your Company’s DNA (McGraw-Hill), explains how successful organisations bake innovation into their cultures. By employing specific innovative practices and defining specific innovative roles for each level of the organisation, Ben argues, companies can democratise innovation and create a successful innovation engine to work in parallel with their day-to-day strategy execution engine.


2. Julia Binder
for her work on sustainable entrepreneurs

As professor of sustainable innovation and business transformation at IMD, Julia Binder’s research explores the processes, strategies, and mechanisms that allow entrepreneurs and managers to combine economic, social, and environmental impact in their businesses. As director of IMD’s Center for Sustainable and Inclusive Business, she aims to help business leaders find radical and innovative solutions to some of the biggest challenges of our time. Rather than viewing companies as a hindrance to sustainability, Julia argues that seizing their size and scale for positive impact will be decisive in halting environmental degradation and reducing social inequalities. Sustainable entrepreneurs, she says, join forces with all possible stakeholders to co-create, co-execute, and co-impact for a sustainable future, rather than narrowing their focus on competitive advantage and profit maximization.


3. Sheena S. Iyengar
for Think Bigger

An expert in the science of choice and decision making, Sheena S. Iyengar is the inaugural S.T. Lee professor of business in the Management Division at Columbia Business School. Her latest book, Think Bigger: How to Innovate (Columbia Business School Publishing, 2023), asks the timeless question, “How can I get my best ideas?” By debunking some of the popular concepts surrounding creativity, including brainstorming, Think Bigger provides a step-by-step framework for entrepreneurs, leaders, innovators – and everyone – to think more effectively and grow their ideas. As a roadmap for innovation and guide to creative thinking, Think Bigger lays the groundwork for addressing some of the world’s most pressing problems. Sheena’s previous book, The Art of Choosing (Twelve, 2010), received the Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year 2010 award. Her TED Talks have collectively received almost four million views.


4. Jennifer Kenny
for The Innovation Mindset

Jennifer Kenny is a master of innovation practices and author of The Innovation Mindset: A Proven Method to Fuel Performance and Results (Page Two, 2023). Focusing on practices that drive innovation across an entire business ecosystem, The Innovation Mindset argues that ‘human innovation’ is the missing link for enhancing individual and team innovation capacity. The book outlines Jennifer’s Six Step Practice Model, which starts with uncovering the innovative drive within yourself and then harnessing it to build a cooperative ecosystem designed to unleash new discoveries. Jennifer’s work builds on the disciplines of systems and design thinking, language action design, and human coordination. She has developed programmes including Mastering the Innovation Mindset™, Mastering Innovation Leadership™, and Mastering Regenerative Leadership™. Jennifer has held senior positions with Accenture, Booz Allen and Gartner and was CIO at Stanford Research Institute. She is a Partner in NOW Partners.


5. W. Chan Kim & Renée Mauborgne
for Beyond Disruption 

Authors of the ground-breaking Blue Ocean Strategy (HBR Press, 2005), W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne are professors of strategy and co-directors of the Blue Ocean Strategy Institute at INSEAD. Their 2023 book, Beyond Disruption: Innovate and Achieve Growth without Displacing Industries, Companies, or Jobs (HBR Press), redefines and expands the existing view of innovation by introducing a new approach: nondisruptive creation. Just as Blue Ocean Strategy redefined the essence of strategy as creating not competing, Beyond Disruption provides a powerful new blueprint for how innovators and businesses can avoid destruction and create both economic and social value. By outlining strategies that can trigger nondisruptive creation, Chan and Renée deliver the tools for tackling new sets of challenges not addressed by existing industries, and for companies to grow whilst also being a force for good.


6. Perry Klebahn and Jeremy Utley
for Ideaflow

Perry Klebahn is adjunct professor, director of executive education, and co-founder of the faculty at Stanford. Jeremy Utley is the former director of’s executive education and is now adjunct professor at Stanford’s School of Engineering. He co-taught several celebrated courses at Stanford, including Leading Disruptive Innovation, LaunchPad, and Transformative Design. Co-founder of the Atlas Snowshoe Company, Perry was head of sales and marketing at Patagonia before becoming CEO of Timbuk2. Perry and Jeremy are the authors of Ideaflow: The Only Business Metric That Matters (Portfolio, 2022), which demonstrates how to establish daily creativity practice to unleash innovation within individuals and organisations. Innovation, they argue, is not event; it’s a practice. Ideaflow offers a tried and tested framework to boost the flow of ideas and breakthrough results to solve business problems.


7. Atif Rafiq
for Decision Sprint

A former Silicon Valley entrepreneur, Atif Rafiq’s career has taken him through digital native companies such as Amazon, Yahoo!, and AOL, and into C-suite roles at McDonald’s, Volvo, and MGM Resorts. He was the first chief digital officer in the history of the Fortune 500 and rose to president level in the Fortune 300. With a following of half a million on LinkedIn, where he is a Top Voice, Atif’s newsletter, Re:wire, has over 100,000 subscribers. His 2023 book, Decision Sprint: The New Way to Innovate Into the Unknown and Move from Strategy to Action (McGraw Hill), presents a practical model for accelerating team-based problem solving. A roadmap for turning ideas into action, in Decision Sprint Atif debunks the belief that speed and accuracy need to be mutually exclusive and shows how business can move faster and smarter on their most important ideas.


8. Behnam Tabrizi
for Going on Offense

Behnam Tabriziis a world-renowned expert in Transformation and Innovation, a best-selling author, and an award-winning teacher, scholar, and global advisor. He has served on the teaching faculty of Organizational Transformation at Stanford University and its executive programs for the past 25 years. He is the author of ten books on leading innovation and transformation and has served as an advisor to many large global companies, the U.S. President, and governmental agencies. Dr. Tabrizi has helped thousands of CEOs and leaders in high-tech (Including Apple, Google, Amazon, Tesla, and Microsoft), banking and finance, retail, healthcare, etc., plan, mobilize, and implement transformational initiatives with unprecedented results. His latest book, Going on Offense: A Leader’s Playbook for Perpetual Innovation, a #2 WSJ bestseller, was featured in HBR (twice), Fast Company (twice), and Fortune. His book, The Inside-Out Effect: A Practical Guide to Transformational Leadership, is an international bestseller. His Rapid Transformation book, published by HBS Press, was picked by getAbstract, covering 25,000 books, as the #1 book on leadership. Dr. Tabrizi has served on the boards of Clever Sense (sold to Google), WebMBO (merged with Realm Corp.), and Catapult Ventures, and has served on the doctoral faculty at the Harvard Business School.


Recipients will be announced at the Thinkers50 Awards Gala 2023 on 5-6 November 2023.

Share this article:

Subscribe to our newsletter to keep up to date with the latest and greatest ideas in business, management, and thought leadership.

*mandatory field

Thinkers50 will use the information you provide on this form to be in touch with you and to provide news, updates, and marketing. Please confirm that you agree to have us contact you by clicking below:

You can change your mind at any time by clicking the unsubscribe link in the footer of any email you receive from us, or by contacting us at . We will treat your information with respect. For more information about our privacy practices please visit our website. By clicking below, you agree that we may process your information in accordance with these terms.

We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By clicking below to subscribe, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing. Learn more about Mailchimp's privacy practices here.

Privacy Policy Update

Thinkers50 Limited has updated its Privacy Policy on 28 March 2024 with several amendments and additions to the previous version, to fully incorporate to the text information required by current applicable date protection regulation. Processing of the personal data of Thinkers50’s customers, potential customers and other stakeholders has not been changed essentially, but the texts have been clarified and amended to give more detailed information of the processing activities.

Thinkers50 Awards Gala 2023

Join us in celebration of the best in business and management thinking.