10 Thinkers That Executives Actually Listen To

michael porter

Photo: By World Economic Forum on Flickr

When CEOs like Jeff Bezos name their favourite books, they’ll often cite authors like Jim Collins, who wrote the business school classic, Good To Great, or Malcolm Gladwell and Michael Porter, known as the father of modern corporate strategy. These guys all made the “Top 50 Business Thinkers” list, put out annually by The Thinkers50 and facilitated by consultancy Crainer Dearlove.

To make the list, the person must be known for “originality, practicality, presentation style, ability to communicate through writing, followers’ loyalty, business sense, international outlook, rigour of research, impact, and ‘the elusive guru factor.'” We’ve highlighted the top 10 names, as determined by online voting and panelists.

10. Malcolm Gladwell

Award-winning New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell was named one of Time's most influential people in 2005 after publishing The Tipping Point, which looks at how small things make a huge difference, and Blink, which considers how split-second decisions and perceptions affect our worldview -- through a phenomenon he calls 'thin slicing.'

Outliers, another a bestseller, discusses why some people become hugely successful, and others don't.

Source: The Thinkers50

9. Don Tapscott

Don Tapscott is 'one of the world's leading authorities on innovation, media, globalization and the economic and social impact of technology on business and society,' according to Thinkers50.

He wrote one of the first books about how the Internet would completely change business, called The Digital Economy, in 1995. He also wrote the Paradigm Shift, and a ton of other management books, including Growing Up Digital, Digital Capital, The Naked Corporation and Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything, which was the top management book in the U.S. in 2007.

He teaches at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto and his latest work is Macrowikinomics: Rebooting Business.

Source: The Thinkers50

8. Marcus Buckingham

If you've ever used a 'StrengthsFinder' personal assessment tool, you can thank Marcus Buckingham. He wrote Now, Discover Your Strengths and First, Break All the Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers Do Differently, and other self-help books.

He helped revolutionise the idea of focusing on strengths -- and not trying to be something you're not.

His latest book is StandOut.

Source: The Thinkers50

7. Marshall Goldsmith

Marshall Goldsmith created the '360-degree feedback' technique -- which helps teams and corporations become more transparent, and ultimately, more effective.

He's written several books, including The Leader of the Future and MOJO: How to Get It, How to Keep It, and How to Get It Back If You Lose It -- which is based on 'the moment when we do something that's purposeful, powerful, and positive and the rest of the world recognises it' (via Thinkers50).

He's an executive coach with Marshall Goldsmith Group and teaches at the top business schools in the world, including Dartmouth's Tuck.

Source: The Thinkers50

6. Roger Martin

Roger Martin is best known for his book, The Opposable Mind: How Successful Leaders Win Through Integrative Thinking -- which looks at how integrative thinking can solve complex problems.

He's also advocated for companies to focus on design in The Design of Business, and contrasted the 'real' and 'expectations' markets that led to the 2008 crash in Fixing the Game: Bubbles, Crashes and What Capitalism can Learn from the NFL.

He's dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, Canada.

Source: The Thinkers50

5. Michael Porter

4. Jim Collins

Jim Collins wrote the classic business school book, Good to Great and its follow-up, Great by Choice.

He founded a management laboratory in Boulder and taught at Stanford Business School for years.

He also wrote How the Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In, which 'identifies five sequential stages of decline which if understood can help managers avoid decline.'

Source: The Thinkers50

3. Vijay Govindarajan

2. W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne

'W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne are professors of strategy and management at INSEAD, and co-directors of the INSEAD Blue Ocean Strategy Institute in Fontainebleau, France. They are the authors of the worldwide bestselling strategy book Blue Ocean Strategy' (via Thinkers50).

Their thesis is essentially that most companies are competing in overcrowded industries -- which is why it's better to innovate than compete.

Source: The Thinkers50

1. Clayton Christensen

Clayton Christensen's The Innovator's Dilemma is on every entrepreneur's reading list (as are many of his other books on innovation, including last year's The Innovators' DNA).

He teaches at Harvard Business School, founded the consultancy Innosight and the non-profit think tank Innosight Institute, which looks at solving huge societal problems related to education and healthcare. And according to Thinkers50:

Christensen has advised the executives of many of the world's major corporations. They generate tens of billions of dollars in revenues every year from product and service innovations that were inspired by his research.

Source: The Thinkers50

Wondering who else is on the list?

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