The world’s top 50 thinkers: a myopic view

Earlier this week, a friend sent me a link to the 2011 results of The Thinkers 50: the self-proclaimed “definitive listing of the world’s top 50 business thinkers”.  As a Canadian, I should rejoice: two of my compatriots, Roger Martin and Dan Tapscott make the top ten and Montreal’s own Henry Mintzberg is listed at #30. I decided to take a closer look. I listed the first 25 names on a spreadsheet and looked for trends. I do not want to take away anything from the intellectual qualities or career achievements of these thinkers, but I find the list lacks diversity and breadth. Here’s why:

  • There is only one women in the top 10 (Renée Mauborgne at #2).
  • It is biased towards Anglo-Saxon countries: of the top 25, all except W. Chan Kim & Renée Mauborgne are based in the USA, the UK or Canada.
  • Publishing articles in Harvard Business Review seems to be a pre-requisite to achieve “guru” status (Harvard Business Review is one of the main sponsors of the list).
  • Most awardees are academics with limited actual business experience. In what other field but business do you expect non-practitioners to guide long-experienced professionals? Could a “thinker” give advice to a surgeon without having worked for years in the operating room himself?

A few “free thinkers” and experienced business people made it on the list. Seth Godin, for example, is a prolific writer and blogger. He is by-passing large publishing houses through the Domino Project. For the most part, unfortunately, the list lacks the innovativeness and diversity that should reflect our connected age.

Who are your favorite business thinkers?

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