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Hall of Fame

Saluting Distinguished Management Thinkers and Their Contributions

The business world is fickle and has a short memory. And this is especially true in the world of business ideas. Brilliant tools and techniques are put to work and then taken for granted as they are incorporated into business life. The quest for newness and differentiation means that curious business leaders are quickly onto the next big idea. This is reflected in the Thinkers50 ranking whose emphasis is on the thinkers making an impact today.

This relentless curiosity is a good thing. But, it means that the names of the giants of thinking who originated the most innovative business ideas and inspired best practice are often overlooked or forgotten.

At the Thinkers50 our mission is to identify, rank, and share the best management ideas. As part of this mission we salute the distinguished thinkers whose contributions to management thinking have made it what it is today.

We welcome the thinkers inducted into the Thinkers50 Hall of Fame, whose names and legacies are added to the ranks of those who have arrived here before them. They are distinguished thinkers who have all made a lasting and vital impact on how organizations are led and managed. They are the giants upon whose shoulders managers and leaders stand.

Hall of Fame members are not eligible for future Thinkers50 rankings, but we continue to celebrate and refer to their work.

2019 Hall of Fame Inductees

Clay Christensen

The Harvard Business School professor has been named as the world’s leading management thinker on two occasions by Thinkers50 (2011 and 2013). Originator of the innovator’s dilemma and co-author of The Prosperity Paradox.

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Bill Fischer

New York-born professor at IMD in Switzerland. Previously president and dean of the China Europe International Business School in Shanghai. Co-author of Virtuoso Teams, The Idea Hunter, and Reinventing Giants.

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Vijay Govindarajan

The Coxe Distinguished Professor at the Tuck School of Business, Dartmouth College. Born in India, he is known for his work in the field of innovation. Co-author of Reverse Innovation and author of The Three Box Solution and Ten Rules for Strategic Innovators.

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Hermann Simon

German founder and honorary chairman of Simon-Kucher & Partners. Author of more than 35 books including Hidden ChampionsPower PricingManage for Profit, and Hidden Champions of the 21st Century.

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Don Tapscott

Canadian visionary on emerging technology. Co-author of The Digital EconomyThe Blockchain RevolutionWikinomics, and Digital Capital. Co-founder of the Blockchain Research Institute.

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Chris Zook

Advisory partner at Bain & Company, where he co-led its Global Strategy Practice for 20 years. Best known for his work on growth. Author of Profit from the CoreBeyond the Core, and The Founder’s Mentality.

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2018 Hall of Fame Inductees

Peter Drucker

Peter Drucker (1909-2005) was an American management consultant, educator, and author, whose writings contributed to the philosophical and practical foundations of the modern corporation. He was also a leader in the development of management education, and he invented the concept known as “management by objectives.” Described as “the founder of modern management,” he is one of the best-known and most widely influential thinkers and writers on management theory and practice.

Marshall Goldsmith

Marshall Goldsmith is a world-class executive educator, coach, and author. He has been a pioneer in helping successful leaders achieve positive, lasting change in behavior. His clients have included 150 major CEOs. He has also written or edited 35 books. In his most recent undertaking, Marshall has launched “100 Coaches,” a project designed to pass on his knowledge to the next generation. Participation is free, but all agree that they too will “pay it forward.”

Michael Porter

Michael Porter is an economist, researcher, author, advisor, speaker and teacher. Throughout his career at Harvard Business School, he has brought economic theory and strategy concepts to bear on many of the toughest problems facing corporations, economies and societies, including market competition and company strategy, economic development, the environment, and health care. His research is widely recognized in governments, corporations, NGOs, and academic circles around the globe.

C.K. Prahalad

C.K. Prahalad (1941-2010) was one of the world’s most influential business thinkers and a teacher at the University of Michigan’s Ross School where he was Distinguished University Professor of Corporate Strategy. His impact on business and business education includes creation of the “Base of the Pyramid” concept, changing the world’s view of India’s economic potential. He also co-authored “The Core Competence of the Corporation,” a watershed article in the field of strategic management.

2017 Hall of Fame Inductees

Daniel Goleman

Author, psychologist, and science journalist, Daniel Goleman is best known as the champion of Emotional Intelligence. Among the most influential management thinkers in recent decades, Goleman previously wrote for The New York Times, specializing in psychology and brain sciences. His most recent books are Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes your Mind, Brain and Body (with Richard J Davidson, 2018) and Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence (2013).

John P. Kotter

John Kotter is a world-recognized expert on change management and leadership. He is the Konosuke Matsushita emeritus professor of leadership at Harvard Business School, and co-founder of consultancy Kotter International. His books include A Force for Change (1990), Leading Change (1996), Buy In: Saving Your Good Idea from Being Shot Down (with Lorne Whitehead, 2010), Accelerate: Building Strategic Agility for a Faster-Moving World (2014) and, most recently, That’s Not How We Do It Here! (2016).

Nirmalya Kumar

Nirmalya Kumar is Lee Kong Chian Professor of Marketing at Singapore Management University & Distinguished Fellow, Emerging Markets Institute at INSEAD. He is also the author of Private Label Strategy and India Inside, among others. His most recent book is Thinking Smart: How to Master Work, Life and Everything In Between (2018). A keen collector of the work of Indian artist Jamini Roy, Kumar is said to have the largest collection of Roy paintings outside of India.

Jeff Pfeffer

Jeffrey Pfeffer is the Thomas D. Dee II professor of behavior at Stanford University Graduate School of Business. He is well known for his work on resource dependence theory and on evidence-based management. His latest book is Dying for a Paycheck: How Moden Manegement Harms Employee Health and Company Performance – and What We Can Do About It (2018).

Doug Ready

Doug Ready is the founder and CEO of the International Consortium for Executive Development Research and senior lecturer at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. His articles in the Harvard Business Review  have set the agenda for talent, leadership and strategic change over the last two decades. His recent work looks at the hallmarks of a game-changing talent strategy.

Fons Trompenaars

The Dutchman Fons Trompenaars is the author of the award winning Riding the Waves of Culture, Understanding Cultural Diversity in Business (with Charles Hampden-Turner, 1994). The bestseller helped put issues of culture centre stage as business globalized. He has refined his tools and techniques in a succession of books.

Dave Ulrich

Dave Ulrich, Rensis Likert Professor at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, has published over 30 books that have shaped the fields of leadership to deliver results, of organizations to build capabilities, and of human resources to create value. Ulrich is the known as the “father of modern HR.”

2015 Hall of Fame Inductees

Edgar H Schein

Ed Schein (b. 1928) joined MIT in 1956 and initially worked under the influence of Douglas McGregor.   He has remained there ever since, making a notable mark in the field of organizational development especially in the areas of organizational culture and careers. He received a PhD in social psychology from Harvard, and a Masters in psychology from Stanford.

The dynamics of groups and Schein’s experience of the effects of brainwashing in the Korean War led to a developing interest in corporate culture, a term which Schein is widely credited with inventing. His work on corporate culture culminated in the 1985 book Organizational Culture and Leadership.

His more recent books include: Organizational Culture and Leadership, 4th ed (2010); Humble Inquiry: the gentle art of asking instead of telling” (2013); and Career Anchors, 4th ed, with J. VanMaanen (2013).

Schein’s model of organizational culture originated in the 1980s. In 2004, he identified three distinct levels in organizational cultures: artifacts and behaviours; espoused values; and assumptions.

Schein’s subsequent work on culture identified three cultures of management, which he labels “the key to organizational learning in the 21st century”.   The three cultures are the operator culture (‘an internal culture based on operational success’); the engineering culture (created by ‘the designers and technocrats who drive the core technologies of the organization’) and the executive culture formed by executive management, the CEO and immediate subordinates.

Schein has also been a long time commentator on the now fashionable subject of careers. He originated key phrases such as the psychological contract – the unspoken bond between employee and employer – and careers anchors. Schein proposed that once mature we have a single ‘career anchor’, which is the underlying career value that we could not surrender. ‘Over the last 25 years, because of dual careers and social changes the emphasis of careers has shifted’, he says. ‘The career is no longer over arching. It is probably healthy because it makes people more independent. Lifestyle has become the increasingly important career anchor.’

His many awards and honours include: Lifetime Achievement Award in Workplace Learning and Performance from the American Society of Training and Development (2000). Distinguished Scholar-Practitioner Award of the Academy of Management, 2009; and Life Time Achievement Award from the International Leadership Association, 2012.


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Edward E. Lawler III

Edward E. Lawler III is one of Human Resource’s leading global theorists. Lawler has been charting HR’s twists and turns for nearly forty years. Thanks to demographics, the rise in importance of intellectual capital, and the changing nature of business, how companies attract, retain, motivate and manage people has risen to the top of the executive agenda. Once relegated to the margins as a “soft” subject, Human Resources (HR) is now regarded as a core business function.

He is the Distinguished Professor of Business at the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California and the founder and director of USC’s Center for Effective Organizations.

Lawler is the author of 45 books and more than 350 articles which range from studies on compensation to employee participation to the right organizational structure for the 21st Century. His bestsellers include High Involvement Management (1986) and Corporate Boards (2001), co-authored with Jay Conger and David Finegold.

His recent books include Rewarding Excellence (2000), Corporate Boards: New Strategies for Adding Value at the Top (2001), Organizing for High Performance (2001), Treat People Right (2003), Human Resources Business Process Outsourcing (2004), Built to Change: How to Achieve Sustained Organizational Effectiveness (2006), America at Work (2006), The New American Workplace (2006), Talent: Making People Your Competitive Advantage (2008), Management Reset: Organizing for Sustainable Effectiveness (2011), Effective Human Resource Management: A Global Analysis (2012), The Agility Factor (2014), Corporate Stewardship (2015), and Global Trends in Human Resource Management (2015).

BusinessWeek named Lawler as one of the top six gurus in the field of management, and Human Resource Executive called him one of HR’s most influential people. Workforce magazine identified him as one of the twenty-five visionaries who have shaped today’s workplace over the past century.

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Andrew Kakabadse

Now based at Henley Business School in the UK, Andrew Kakabadse is one of the world’s leading experts on top teams, boardroom effectiveness, and governance practice. His top team database covers 17 nations and his board studies span 14 countries. His most recent book is Leadership Intelligence: the 5Qs for Thriving as a Leader (with Ali Qassim Jawad, 2019), which identifies five leadership intelligences that leaders need to simlutaneously employ in order to achieve transformational change.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter

Change, leadership and responsible capitalism have been themes throughout the work of Rosabeth Moss Kanter, the Ernest L. Arbuckle Professor at Harvard Business School and Chair and Director of the Harvard University Advanced Leadership Initiative. Formerly editor of the Harvard Business Review, Kanter’s books include The Change Masters (1983), When Giants Learn to Dance (1989), SuperCorp (2009), Move (2015) and Think Outside the Building (2020).

Richard Rumelt

Shortlisted for the 2013 Thinkers50 Strategy Award, Richard Rumelt is the Harry and Elsa Kunin Chair in Business and Society at UCLA Anderson School of Management. Rumelt has been described as the “strategist’s strategist.” His 2011 book is Good Strategy/Bad Strategy helps readers recognise and avoid the elements of bad strategy – business buzz-speak, motivational slogans – and adopt good, action-orientated strategies.

Ram Charan

Ram Charan (bn 1939) is a prolific business consultant, speaker, and writer. He is the author of 15 business books, including the best-selling Execution (with Larry Bossidy and Charles Burck), and is the self-styled confidant to some of America’s leading CEOs.

His other books include The Leadership Pipeline: How to Build the Leadership-Powered Company (with Stephen Drotter and James Noel) which was updated in 2011; Leadership in the Era of Economic Uncertainty; What The CEO Wants You To Know; and Every Business Is A Growth Business (with Noel Tichy); The Talent Masters: Why Smart Leaders Put People Before Numbers, (co-authored with Bill Conaty); and The Attacker’s Advantage: Turning Uncertainty into Breakthrough Opportunities.

Growing up in northern India, Charan worked in his family’s shoe shop. He later studied and taught at Harvard Business School, where he was awarded an MBA (1965) and a doctorate (1967).

Now in his seventies, Charan remains famously peripatetic. He only purchased his first apartment – in Dallas, Texas – aged 67 (although he is believed to spend very little time there). He was named Global Indian of the Year for 2010 by the Economic Times of India. The American Society for Training & Development (ASTD) presented him with its Champion of Workplace Learning and Performance Award in the same year.

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2013 Hall of Fame Inductees

Ikujiro Nonaka

The recipient of the Thinkers50 2013 Lifetime Acheivement 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.

He went to the University of California, at Berkeley, and worked, in particularly, with David Teece.  His best known work is in the area of knowledge management. He is co-author (with Hirotaka Takeuchi) of The Knowledge-Creating Company.

“I see management as a way of life,” says Nonaka. “Instead of simply chasing numbers, wise leaders focus on shaping the future together with others considering shared contexts and the common good. Such leaders can judge goodness and set good goals; they can grasp the essence and perceive reality as it is; they create shared contexts or dynamic ba; articulate and communicate the essence as a story; exercise political power to realize such a story; and foster practical wisdom (phronesis) in others to continue their transformation journey.”

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Warren Bennis

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”.

After the war Bennis was an undergraduate at Antioch College studying under Douglas McGregor, creator of the motivational Theories X and Y.  Later, Bennis followed McGregor to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he received his PhD in economics and social science. He went on to join the school’s faculty and was chairman of the Organization Studies Department.

From being an early student of group dynamics in the 1950s; Bennis became a futurologist in the 1960s.   His work – particularly The Temporary Society (1968) – explored new organizational forms. Since the 1980s he has become best known for his work on leadership – at best in Leaders: The Strategies for Taking Charge (1985) based on research examining the lives of 90 of America’s best known leaders from McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc to Neil Armstrong.

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Howard Gardner

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).

The author of over 25 books and numerous papers, Gardner is probably best known in the business world for his book Five Minds for the Future (2007) – the five minds are disciplined, synthesizing, creative, respectful, and ethical. He sees the radically changed technological and information environment as demanding new cognitive abilities “… that will command a premium in the years ahead.”

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Charles Handy

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).

It was in 1989, with the publication of The Age of Unreason that his thinking made a great leap forwards.  Handy foresaw a future of “discontinuous change”.  Like many of Handy’s phrases, this has now entered the management mainstream. His other bestselling books include The Empty Raincoat, Beyond Certainty and The Elephant and the Flea.  He has also written books with his wife, the photographer Elizabeth Handy, and appeared regularly on BBC Radio 4’s Thought for the Day.

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Robert Kaplan and David Norton

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.

Kaplan and Norton first brought the balanced scorecard to the attention of the managerial masses in their Harvard Business Review article, “The Balanced Scorecard—Measures that Drive Performance” (1992). Since then, they have written numerous books together focusing on aspects of the concept.

Kaplan is Baker Foundation Professor at Harvard Business School. Norton is the founder and director of The Palladium Group, the US based organizational strategy consultants. As well as the Balanced Scorecard, Kaplan co-developed the concept of activity based costing, and has applied this approach to health care with his Harvard colleague, Michael Porter.

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Philip Kotler

Modern marketing was basically laid out by Philip Kotler in his seminal 1967 book, Marketing Management.  Now, one of Kotler’s favourite ties bears the title of his magnum opus.

The push to look at marketing came from being taught by Milton Friedman and Paul Samulelson at Chicago.  “I concluded that if those two great minds couldn’t agree on economic issues, I probably wasn’t going to make a difference in that field,” he observed. “At the same time, I was attracted to very tangible problems that economists don’t deal with, such as: how much do you spend on advertising? What’s a sensibly-sized salesforce? How do you really set prices intelligently? I got into the mindset of a market.”

Kotler has dominated marketing over the last four decades and remains an energized force on marketing’s behalf, traveling the world continually. Along the way he has pushed the frontiers of where marketing can make a difference.

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Henry Mintzberg

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).

In between these important books, Mintzberg staked out his unique take on strategy in landmark articles on “crafting strategy” and the book The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning (1994).  Serious stuff, leavened with humanity. Along the way, Mintzberg has been a persistent though constructive critic of business school education, most notably in Managers not MBAs (2004).

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Tom Peters

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.

Peters went on to write, Liberation Management (1992), which set the managerial agenda for the 1990s. Peters’ most recent book is The Little BIG Things: 163 Ways to Pursue EXCELLENCE (2010). Even now, Peters’ speeches are a restless tour de force.  His views have moved with reality. He is a keen tweeter, voracious reader, and endlessly enthusiastic. And, smart.

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Kenichi Ohmae

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.

Ohmae is a concert-level flautist, a former McKinsey consultant, politician, entrepreneur and hyperactive intellect.  He is also a MIT-trained nuclear physicist and, in 2011, coordinated a report into the Fukushima nuclear accident and has gone onto become a member of The “Nuclear Reform Monitoring Committee” of Tokyo Electric Power Company.

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Chris Argyris

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.

Read more about his life and contribution in our blog post, Chris Argyris (1923-2013): An Appreciation

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