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Don Tapscott is one of two Canadians on Thinkers50’s list, which highlights some of the world’s top leaders in management, strategy and innovation. (THE TAPSCOTT GROUP)
Don Tapscott is one of two Canadians on Thinkers50’s list, which highlights some of the world’s top leaders in management, strategy and innovation. (THE TAPSCOTT GROUP)

Canada scores at business 'Oscars' Add to ...

Cast aside the steady stream of gloom on Rob Ford, BlackBerry and Senate scandals for a moment and consider the following: Canadians have become some of the most influential thinkers on the planet.

Two of the top four people on a list of the world’s top business minds are Canadians: Roger Martin and Don Tapscott. Richard Florida – an American who chose to call Toronto home, is also in the top 50. So is Montreal-born Sydney Finkelstein, who teaches at the Tuck School of Business in New Hampshire.

Dubbed the “Oscars of management thinking,” London-based Thinkers50 releases its list every two years, meant to highlight some of the world’s top leaders in management, strategy and innovation. Canada was singled out as the nation that punches well above its demographic weight in the world rankings.

“Bright minds attract other bright minds,” said Stuart Crainer, co-founder of the rankings and adjunct professor at Madrid-based IE Business School, adding that there is a “clustering phenomenon at work.”

On top of that, he said, Canadians appear “well tuned into key items on the business agenda such as global working and diversity.”

Both Roger Martin and Don Tapscott moved up this year’s rankings, and they, along with Richard Florida, are all part of the Martin Prosperity Institute and linked with University of Toronto. Not everyone climbed though; Canadian Malcolm Gladwell, author and New Yorker scribe, dropped out of the top-50 list this year.

It’s no accident Canada stands out. The country “gives people freedom to explore, wide open spaces, and open-minded, multicultural environment,” said Prof. Finkelstein, who still calls himself a proud Canadian citizen. There is a “long history of Canadians doing well in creative industries, often moving on to other places along the way,” particularly in music and academia.

Now, the trend of big, ambitious thinkers leaving the country for other opportunities seems to be reversing itself. Richard Florida, who came to Canada in 2007, sees this country as now “retaining its best and brightest and attracting top talent from the world over.” He estimates nine out of 10 of his international students want to stay in Toronto after graduation.

“Canada has lots of smart people and the world’s just recognizing that,” said Mr. Tapscott, adding that Toronto is fast becoming a hub for thinking on how to tackle some of the planet’s most intractable problems.

The man who coined the theory of disruptive innovation topped the list. Clayton Christensen, author of The Innovator’s Dilemma and Harvard Business School professor, was ranked No. 1 for the second time running. His work focuses on social innovation and why companies struggle when radical innovation enters their markets.

This year’s list was based on votes from 12,000 advisers from around the world, who assessed measures such as relevance of ideas, rigour of research and international outlook. The ranking began in 2001 and previous winners include management strategists C.K. Prahalad, Michael Porter and Peter Drucker.

There are still a disproportionate number of men and few visible minorities on this list. But that’s changing too. Women thinkers comprise four of the top 10 places, the best showing to date, with names like Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer and author of Lean In, Harvard’s Linda Hill and Liz Wiseman, former Oracle executive, dotting the list. Strategy and innovation experts from India and China are also now climbing the rankings.

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