The Worlds most Influential Business Thinkers 2015

November 18, 2015

1. Michael Porter

Photo by Bloomberg News.


Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter is the most influential business thinker in the world, according to Thinkers50, a just-released ranking put out every other year by a consulting firm run by Stuart Crainer and Des Dearlove, British business consultants, authors and coaches. The list, which Crainer and Dearlove inaugurated in 2001, has been called the Oscars of management thinking. The 50 names were revealed this evening at a black tie event in London sponsored by companies like Japan’s Fujitsu

Thinkers50 calls Porter, 68, “the father of modern business strategy.” Regarded as an expert on competitiveness, he has consulted with dozens of corporations and a number of national governments including the U.K. “His Five Forces Framework was the definitive approach for decades and is still taught in every business school in the world,” says the Thinkers50 awards announcement. Porter’s theory posits that there are five forces that determine the competitive intensity and attractiveness of an industry. The forces include the threat of substitute products or services, the threat of established rivals and the threat of new entrants. He has also articulated, along with management consultant Mark Kramer, the concept of “shared value,” which says companies can boost profits while addressing social problems. Porter was seventh on the list last year.

The second of three Harvard Business School professors on the list is widely revered best-selling author Clayton Christensen, 63, who topped the Thinkers50 ranking in 2011 and 2013. This year he’s in second place. His 1997 book The Innovator’s Dilemmais considered his classic work. It introduces the idea of disruptive innovation and explains why management practices that make companies industry leaders also make it tough for companies to develop the kinds of disruptive technologies that upstarts may use to take over markets. Christensen, who survived a heart attack, cancer and a stroke in the space of three years, also wrote How Will You Measure Your Life, about how people can create meaning in their personal lives.

W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne, a pair of professors from INSEAD, take third place. INSEAD is a business school with campuses in Fontainebleau, France; Singapore and Abu Dhabi. Kim and Mauborne are both based in France. They wrote the blockbuster bestseller, Blue Ocean Strategy, which says organizations should focus on “blue ocean” spaces in the marketplace that are free of competitors. Says Thinkers50, their book “has been embraced by companies, not-for-profits and national governments around the world, including Malaysia, which has a national Blue Ocean Strategy.”

To put together the ranking, Crainer and Dearlove first survey votes cast by the public on the Thinkers50 website. Some 20,000 people cast votes this year. Voters can suggest new names or voice support for people who have been on the list in the past. Then Crainer and Dearlove evaluate all the nominees with help from a team of advisers who include people from IE Business School in Madrid, where the two are adjunct professors. Mohi Ahmed, a senior director of innovation at Fujitsu, Harvard Business Review editor-in-chief Adi Ignatius, and author and consultant Deepa Prahalad, whose late father, C.K. Prahalad, topped the list in 2007 and 2009, are also advisors.

Crainer, Dearlove and their advisors use the following criteria to compile the ranking:

1. Relevance of ideas

2. Rigor of research

3. Presentation of ideas

4. Accessibility/dissemination of ideas

5. International outlook

6. Originality of ideas

7. Impact of ideas

8. Practicality of ideas

9. Business sense

10. Power to inspire


By Susan Adams.