The Most Influential Business Professors of 2023

A thought leader? It definitely has a nice ring to it. You can almost describe it. Jet-set life. Fat call fees. Interviews with all major companies. Consulting with powerful firms. Access to all the right circles and the adoration of all the right people.

Self-employment: control your time with a steady income to boot.


Ah, the business faculty can dream from their brownstones. For many, their research is relegated to dusty journals with random citations. It’s not easy being a business professor, watching companies make the same mistakes in their haste and arrogance—all the knowledge and none of the influence. Still, some ideas eventually break down. A book hits the bestseller list, a TED Talk goes viral, or a podcast resonates. In some cases, their research helps us understand how the world evolved. Other times, they package old truths in new ways. At their best, they reveal the symbiotic relationships behind disparate elements. In the process, they show us where to move, how to spend, when to move, and why it matters.

And these ideas inevitably inspire new models and markets that create better options and experiences.

Every two years, these thinkers are honored by the Thinkers50 organization, which recognizes the best management ideas. For the second time in a row, Thinkers50 ranked Harvard Business School’s Amy Edmondson as one of the top business thinkers. Wharton’s Adam Grant moved up four spots to second. Paul Polman and Andrew Winston, authors Net Positive: How Courageous Companies Thrive by Giving More Than They TakeIt debuted in the Top 10 at #3.


Des Dearlove

Thinkers50 was founded in 2001 by Des Dearlove and Stuart Crainer, two business professors who taught at IE Business School and Oxford University and collaborated at T.Financial Times management handbook. Since then, Thinkers50 has emerged as the ‘Oscars of Management Thinking’ The Financial Times. Held in odd-numbered years, the Thinkers50 accepts online nominations from the general public between May and July of those years. From there, nominations are reviewed by the Thinkers50 Advisory Panel. Although the process is democratic, it is not necessarily transparent. The panel, along with Dearlove and Crainer, compiles the rankings using a “proprietary methodology” to assess nominees’ contributions, measuring their impact both over the long term and over the past two years.

Broadly speaking, Thinkers50 rates business ideas on their Viability and Visibility. Viability is based on what Thinkers50 describes as the 4 R’s: Relevance, Rigour, Reach and Sustainability. In other words, they test the ideas of thought leaders against how applicable, comprehensive, and sustainable they are (with a print of the research behind them). When it comes to visibility, think academic citations and media coverage, public appearances and affiliations. If these thought leaders are rock stars, Visibility measures their power.

Stuart Crainer

This year, the “50 Thinkers Award” was celebrated at a gala held in London on November 5-6. Over the years, he has recognized thinkers and leaders such as Peter Drucker, Michael Porter, Clayton Christensen, CK Prahaiad, W. Chan Kim, and Renée Mauborgne and Amy Edmondson as the world’s most influential business voices. Among this year’s class, you’ll find business professors, CEOs, authors, executive coaches, consultants, engineers, doctors, lawyers and psychologists. As in the previous 2021 ranking, women outnumber men, this time by a margin of 29 to 27 (considered as a pair of 6 thinkers, e.g. Blue ocean strategy co-authors W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne). Among these 56 thought leaders, you’ll find 44 who teach full-time at business schools or work as adjunct or executive faculty. This includes 9 of the 13 thought leaders who filled the Thinkers50 in 2023.

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