The Lifetime Achievement Award was introduced in 2011. It has been given to broadly accomplished thinkers every 2 years since.

Recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Award gain automatic entry into the Thinkers50 Hall of Fame.

2021 Lifetime Achievement Award Winner

Richard D’Aveni

Richard A. D’Aveni

‘The Lifetime Achievement Award is given to someone who has had a long-term impact on the way people think about and practice management,’ explains Thinkers50 co-founder Stuart Crainer. ‘Richard D’Aveni has been a fixture in the Thinkers50 ranking for over a decade and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2020.’

Adds Thinkers50 co-founder Des Dearlove: ‘Richard D’Aveni is an original strategic thinker, who produced one of the only genuinely new theories of strategy in a century. Throughout his career, D’Aveni has consistently championed the idea of using short term strategic moves to create temporary competitive advantage and keep rivals off balance. Very few management thinkers coin a new theory as D’Aveni did in his 1994 seminal book, Hypercompetition.’

The press release announcing D’Aveni’s selection for this award in 2021 is here.

Books by Richard D’Aveni

Richard A. D’Aveni

2019 Lifetime Achievement Award Winner

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. She has a distinctive and compelling take on what it takes to manage, and her ongoing work continues to be required reading for all who work in and lead organizations.

Formerly editor of the Harvard Business Review, Kanter co-founded the Harvard University-wide Advanced Leadership Initiative, guiding its planning from 2005 to its launch in 2008 and serving as Founding Chair and Director from 2008-2018 as it became a growing international model for a new stage of higher education. Before joining the Harvard Business School faculty, she held tenured professorships at Yale University and Brandeis University and was a Fellow at Harvard Law School, simultaneously holding a Guggenheim Fellowship. Her Ph.D. is from the University of Michigan which also awarded her an honourary degree (one of 24 she has now received).

Kanter has truly translated ideas into action and has been engaged in policy and advocacy on major societal issues, including corporate social responsibility, innovation policy, economic development, transportation, national service, and the future of cities.

The press release announcing Kanter’s selection for this award in 2019 is here.

Books by Rosabeth Moss Kanter

2017 Lifetime Achievement Award Winner

Tom Peters

Born in Baltimore in 1942, Tom Peters is a civil engineering graduate of Cornell University, and earned an MBA and a Ph.D. in business at Stanford. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1966–1970, made two deployments to Vietnam and “survived a tour in the Pentagon”. He was a White House drug-abuse advisor in 1973–1974, and then worked at McKinsey & Co. from 1974–1981, becoming a partner in 1979 and co-founding McKinsey’s Organization Effectiveness practice. In 1981, he founded Skunkworks Inc. and The Tom Peters Company.

“The Lifetime Achievement Award is given to someone who has had a long-term impact on the way people think about and practice management,” explains Thinkers50 co-founder Des Dearlove. “Tom Peters has done that and much more. Charismatic, passionate, and insightful, Tom virtually invented the modern thought leadership industry. He co-authored In Search of Excellence, which helped create the business book industry – and had a serious impact on how managers managed and how we viewed organizations. His intellectual energy and curiosity continue. Even now, Tom’s speeches are a restless tour de force. His perspectives have moved with reality. He is a keen tweeter, voracious reader, and endlessly enthusiastic. And, smart. Very smart.”

The press release announcing Peters’s selection for this award in 2017 is here.

Books by Tom Peters

Watch Tom Peter’s acceptance speech at the 2019 gala.

2017 Lifetime Achievement Award Winner

Michael Porter

Currently the Bishop William Lawrence University Professor at Harvard Business School, Professor Porter has authored 19 books and over 125 articles on strategy, competition and the health care delivery. He has served as a counselor on strategy to the governments of many nations, to leading international corporations, and to non-profit organizations. Professor Porter leads the Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness at Harvard Business School, founded to support his work. His research on economic development in America’s inner cities led to the founding of The Initiative for a Competitive Inner City, a non-profit initiative to catalyze inner-city business development, where he serves as Chairman. With Mark Kramer, he co-founded both FSG and The Center for Effective Philanthropy.

Professor Porter has topped the Thinkers50 ranking of the world’s leading business thinkers on two occasions (2005 and 2015) and has helped shape the management agenda throughout his distinguished career. In the 1980s he developed his five forces framework – now taught on every business course in the world. Then he looked at the competitiveness of regions and entire nations. More recently, he has provided new insights into healthcare systems and has championed the idea of shared value.

The press release announcing Porter’s selection for this award in 2017 is here.

Books by Michael Porter

2015 Lifetime Achievement Award Winner

Henry Mintzberg

Henry Mintzberg graduated in Mechanical Engineering from McGill University in Montreal in 1961. He worked in Operational Research at the Canadian National Railways, and then received a masters and doctorate from the MIT Sloan School of Management in Boston. In 1968, he returned to McGill, where he joined what is now the Desautels Faculty of Management where he is the Cleghorn Professor of Management Studies.

“The Lifetime Achievement Award is given to someone who has had a long-term impact on the way people think about and practice management,” explains Thinkers50 co-founder Des Dearlove. “Henry Mintzberg has done that and much more. He has been an intellectual trailblazer from his very first book – The Nature of Managerial Work – to his work on strategy and his pioneering executive education programs.”

The press release announcing Mintzberg’s selection for this award in 2015 is here.

Books by Henry Mintzberg

2013 Lifetime Achievement Award Winner

Ikujiro Nonaka

Ikujiro Nonaka accepts the award and discusses his career.


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.”

Ikujiro Nonaka was inducted into the Thinkers50 Hall of Fame in 2013. The press release related to his 2013 Thinkers50 awards is here.

Books by Ikujiro Nonaka

2011 Lifetime Achievement Award Winner

Charles Handy

Charles Handy receives the Lifetime Achievement Award, 2011

Charles Handy receives the Lifetime Achievement Award, 2011

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.

Charles Handy receives the Lifetime Achievement Award, 2011

Charles Handy receives the Lifetime Achievement Award, 2011