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Business gurus

Ever since Frank Gilbreth, regarded as the first management consultant, began studying how to make work more efficient more than a century ago, businesspeople have been obsessed with learning from each other and understanding the trends that will challenge their companies in the years ahead. From Peter Drucker to Sheryl Sandberg, business authors have topped the bestseller lists and sold out conference halls for decades, but which gurus are most relevant for HR practitioners? We raided the business bookshelf in earnest. Who are the Middle East’s most important business thinkers? Find out at

Lynda Gratton

Daniel Pink

Gary Hamel

Who is she? Professor of management practice at London Business School (LBS), where she specialises in HR strategy. She joined LBS in 1989, founded the ‘Hot Spots’ movement to bring academic research to managers’ attention, and leads the Future of Work Research Consortium.

Who is he? A former chief speechwriter for ex-US vice president Al Gore, Pink used the experience of leaving his job in 1997 as the basis for his first book, Free Agent Nation: the future of working for yourself (2001). He has been described as a ‘capturer of the business zeitgeist’.

What does she say? Gratton’s central premise is that, while companies have the power to simultaneously change the world for the better and make bigger profits, they can only do so by fully engaging their people. Her first book, Living Strategy: putting people at the heart of corporate purpose (2000), exemplified this theme, and Hot Spots (2007) developed it. Her 2011 title, The Shift: the future of work is already here, earned her 12th position in the Thinkers50 list of the world’s most influential living management thinkers. Her most recent book, The Key: how corporations succeed by solving the world’s toughest problems (2014), looks at the impact of the changing world on corporate practices, processes and leadership.

What does he say? In A Whole New Mind: why rightbrainers will rule the future (2005) Pink argued that we had already moved beyond the ‘knowledge age’ to the ‘conceptual age’, where emotion, intuition and creativity are what differentiate people and organisations. But it was Drive: the surprising truth about what motivates us (2009) that saw him explode into the global consciousness. He demonstrated that intrinsic, internal motivation (the desire to do a good job) is far more powerful than the traditional external motivators of fear, money and rewards. And in To Sell is Human: the surprising truth about moving others (2013), Pink examines the art and science of selling in a world where, he says, everyone is ‘in sales’.

Who is he? One of the world’s most influential thinkers on strategy, leadership and innovation, Hamel has been on the faculty of London Business School for more than 30 years. His most recent initiative is The Management Innovation eXchange, which aims to reinvent management by using open innovation.

Why does it matter? The best companies understand the link between engaged employees and business success, she says, and, in an increasingly competitive, complex and challenging world, Gratton’s work is a constant reminder not to stretch employees to the limit. 26

People Management Middle East

Why does it matter? Most companies know there is no correlation between individual pay and company performance, yet continue to award performance-related pay. Those who embrace Pink’s message could improve individual and organisational performance – and save a lot of money in the process.

What does he say? Companies need to innovate continually and harness the power of their people if they are to remain competitive in a world where adaptability and creativity drive business success. Competing for the Future (1994, with CK Prahalad) offered a blueprint for competing today while also preparing for tomorrow, and Leading the Revolution (2000) proposed a radical new innovation agenda and a strategy to harness the imagination of every employee. In his most recent bestseller, What Matters Now (2012), he urged readers to rethink the fundamental assumptions they have about management, arguing that values, innovation, adaptability, passion and ideology are the ‘make or break’ issues that will determine an organisation’s success. Why does it matter? The world has changed beyond recognition since management theory was first conceived, but too many companies still manage according to the same old rules. Hamel wants to shake us out of our cosy way of thinking.

People Management Middle East: Issue 2  

The CIPD magazine for the Middle East

People Management Middle East: Issue 2  

The CIPD magazine for the Middle East