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Lifetime Achievement Awards

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

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

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

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

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