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World’s Most Influential Management Concepts Acknowledged in Ranking

Thinkers50 releases new ranking

Faculty attached to top business schools in North America and Europe make up all but one of the top 10 in the Thinkers50 2015.


The biennial ranking seeks to acknowledge the thinkers behind the world’s most influential management concepts and ideas today – namely, those with a strong impact on the business world and beyond, in their practical application among companies.    

Nine of those named to Thinkers50’s top 10 are business school faculty, of which two spots each are occupied by faculty from INSEAD and Rotman, with one place apiece taken up by representatives attached to Tuck and Columbia. However, Harvard Business School (of course) has three faculty members in the top 10, including those in first and second position.

‘Ideas truly do change the world’ says Harvard Business School professor  

In first place is strategy professor, Michael Porter, who previously topped this list in 2007. Best known for his work on management concepts referred to as ‘five forces analysis’ (looking at competitiveness) and, more recently, ‘shared value’ (reevaluating capitalism in the wake of 2008’s Crisis) Porter topped the ranking across its list of 10 criteria. Since the turn of the new millennium, there has been a home for his research at Harvard Business School’s Institute for Strategy & Competitiveness. Porter is also an MBA alumnus of the school.

“Management thinking and a new conception of how corporations relate to society is one of the most powerful tools we have in addressing society’s pressing challenges. Through creating shared value – which Mark Kramer and I have written about – I think we can create solutions to problems like healthcare, nutrition, the environment, education, and housing. Ideas truly do change the world, and management thinking unlocks value in every field, not just business,” Porter said at an event held in London this week.

In claiming top spot, Porter consigned another leading luminary at Harvard Business School, Clayton Christensen to second. Christensen, whose work on disruptive innovation has been so widely applied in management concepts that its influence has now begun to be called into question, topped the last two editions of the Thinkers50. Third place in the 2015 edition went to the INSEAD professors, W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne, authors of the bestselling book, Blue Ocean Strategy.

Diversity in the Thinkers50 2015

Among the list of 50 as a whole, 10 different nationalities are represented and 14 members of the list are newcomers – a record since Thinkers50 started in 2001. The list also contains 14 female thinkers and producers of management concepts – another new high, but one that still represents less than 30% of the total. Among the top 10, 40% are female – as they were in the last edition, in 2013.

“When you consider that women constitute half the world’s population, they are still under represented in the Thinkers50, but they are making impressive progress,” said Thinkers50 co-creator, Des Dearlove.


Aside from the award of first place to Harvard Business School’s Michael Porter, 10 additional individual awards supplemented the ranking, based on nominations being put before an advisory panel. McGill DesautelsHenry Mintzberg followed Charles Handy and Ikujiro Nonaka in picking up a lifetime achievement award from Thinkers50 (You can read Mintzberg’s thoughts on management education in a recent TopMBA.com debate). Elsewhere, Zhang Ruimin, CEO of home appliances firm Haier, was recognized in the ‘Ideas into Practice’ category and Rachel Botsman, who helmed an MBA course on the collaborative economy at Oxford Saïd, received the ‘Breakthrough Idea’ award for her work in this field.

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Written by Tim Dhoul

Tim is a writer with a background in consumer journalism and charity communications. He trained as a journalist in the UK and holds degrees in history (BA) and Latin American studies (MA).

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