ideas for the future

and January 22, 2018

Since we started in 2001, our aim at Thinkers50 has been simple: to scan, rank, and share the very best in management thinking.

The ideas and thinkers we feature at Thinkers50 are changing the world. They influence how companies and organizations are managed and led. They change how individuals practice management and leadership. Think of Roger Martin’s work on design thinking, Rita McGrath on the end of competitive advantage, Clay Christensen on the realities of disruptive innovation, Don Tapscott on the blockchain revolution, or Nilofer Merchant on onlyness.

These ideas enable organizations and individuals to perform more effectively, responsibly, and successfully. There is no barrier to the power of ideas.

This was a point made by Harvard Business School’s Michael Porter in his acceptance speech on topping Thinkers50 in 2015. “Ideas truly do change the world. I have seen that with my own eyes all throughout my career,” said Professor Porter. “I also believe that management thinking unlocks value in every field not just business. We all understand that management thinking allows markets to work better in delivering value to customers. We have also learned that management thinking and deeply understanding competition at the grassroots level reveal the true sources of competitiveness and what really leads to economic development. This is starting to permeate its way through our economic development thinking. Based on my recent work, management thinking unlocks value in healthcare. Medical science is not the constraint in healthcare today, it is the ability to think strategically, to organize, to measure the right way, to create new kinds of delivery systems. I also think management thinking and a new conception of how corporations relate to society
is one of the most powerful tools we have in the world to address society’s
pressing challenges.”

Ideas are the route to tomorrow’s competitiveness. Take the concept of the sharing economy. Back in 2015, we celebrated the work of Robin Chase at Zipcar and the ideas of Rachel Botsman, which were setting the agenda in this field. Now, the idea is a global reality. Putting the sharing economy to work is the Chinese bike-sharing startup ofo—shortlisted for our Ideas into Practice Award in 2017. It began life two years ago with its founders pooling private savings of ¥150,000 ($21,800). Dai Wei, the 26-year-old entrepreneur, named the firm ofo as the letters look like a bike. Its value was recently calculated as more than $3 billion. Over six million of the company’s bright yellow bikes can be found in more than 150 Chinese cities, and are now moving into London and Singapore with a planned expansion to twenty countries, including Japan, Spain, France, Netherland, Germany, and the Philippines.

The fuel for economic growth is the ideas which form the basis for new technologies and companies. But then, to scale, develop, deliver, and succeed in the long term with these ideas requires management and leadership knowledge. For companies, organizations of all kinds, cities, regions, and nations, ideas are the route to a better world.

In this issue of The Smart Manager, we celebrate six outstanding thinkers and their contribution to making the world a better place. All were shortlisted for the 2017 Thinkers50 Awards.

They are:

Nilofer Merchant: The highest climber on this year’s ranking was Merchant. She is a Silicon Valley-based ex-Apple executive, and author of 11 Rules for Creating Value in the #SocialEra. Her latest book is The Power of Onlyness: Make Your Wild Ideas Mighty Enough to Dent the World. Explains Merchant, “Onlyness recognizes that each of us is standing in a spot only one stands in, a spot that no one else occupies. It is a function of history and experiences, visions and hopes. That unique point of view is the genesis of new ideas, the ones that challenge the status quo, or improve upon the existing condition. Thus, original ideas come from onlyness. And it’s not that everyone will have ideas to contribute, but anyone can.”

Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez: Champion of the idea of the CEO as project manager and winner of the Ideas into Practice award, Nieto-Rodriguez is director of the Program Management Office at the pharmaceuticals company GlaxoSmithKline Vaccines and former chair of the Project Management Institute. He was head of post-merger integration at Fortis Bank, leading the largest takeover in financial service history: the acquisition of ABN AMRO. He is the author of The Focused Organization and creator of the Hierarchy of Purpose concept.

Susan David: Winner of the Breakthrough Idea Award, David is the creator of the concept of emotional agility. She is on the faculty of Harvard Medical School, and is co-founder of the Institute of Coaching at McLean Hospital. She is the author of Emotional Agility, which Harvard Business Review rated as one of its Management Ideas of the Year.

Deborah Rowland: With a double first in archaeology and anthropology from Cambridge University, Rowland is the co-author of Sustaining Change: Leadership That Works and author of Still Moving. She has personally led change in major global organizations including Shell, Gucci Group, BBC Worldwide, and PepsiCo holding both Group HR and VP of Organizational and Management Development roles. She is a member of the Archbishop’s Review Group into leadership development in the Church of England and worked with the German company RWE on a three-year journey to transform a large, traditional energy company into a company fit for the new world of decentralized and decarbonized energy supply.

Mark Esposito and Terence Tse: The duo are the creators of the DRIVE Framework, a means of making sense of the trends and ideas shaping the future. Esposito teaches at Harvard University’s Division of Continuing Education and is a senior professor at Grenoble Graduate School of Business in France and a fellow at the Judge Business School at Cambridge University. Tse is an associate professor of finance at the London campus of ESCP Europe Business School and head of Competitiveness Studies at the i7 Institute for Innovation and Competitiveness. They are authors of DRIVE: Understanding How the Future Unfolds.

José Esteves: Shortlisted for the Digital Thinking Award, Esteves is a Professor of Information Systems at Spain’s IE Business School, Esteves’ work is at the forefront of understanding how technology impacts lives—from hacking to e-government and cyber attacks. He is co-author of Value in a Digital World.

What is striking about the thinkers and their ideas is that they have never been more global or diverse. The shortlists for the 2017 Thinkers50 Awards included business experts from throughout the world, including China, India, Korea, Spain, France, Italy, Turkey, Canada, the UK, and the US. The shortlists also include more women—30—than ever before.

For too long, business thinking could be characterized as male, pale, and stale. That is no longer the case. As management becomes more global, too, and people move around the world, it is increasingly difficult to pinpoint exactly which country a thinker comes from. The increasingly global nature of management ideas gives the world an opportunity to create a better future.