Thoughts about thinkers

Thinkers. I don’t know what to say about thinkers except that they don’t sound much like do-ers. Four of the recipients on the global Thinkers50 Awards are Canadian, with Roger Martin ranked third and Don Tapscott fourth. Martin, dean of the Rotman School of Management, has been on the Research In Motion/BlackBerry board of directors for six years during which time the company nearly imploded. I understand that Martin led discussions on strategy at board retreats held at Langdon Hall, a Relais et Chateaux destination close to Waterloo. I guess no one listened.

I’ve never met Sydney Finkelstein, a Canadian who teaches at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, who also made the list, but I have worked closely with Don Tapscott. Don and I signed a contract with McGraw-Hill to be co-authors of The Digital Economy, published in 1996. We were each supposed to write half the book with me focusing on case studies and Don on the big picture. As the months passed, his contribution was slim to non-existent. I finally sat him down in his office, picked up a piece of chalk, and wrote on his blackboard, “Read the Riot Act.” I told him he had to start producing 2,000 words a week or we wouldn’t meet our deadline.

Don got busy and ended up liking everything so much that he decided he wanted the book all to himself. He bought me off so I no longer appeared as a co-author. Which was fine with me, the book was mostly about his ideas on networked intelligence anyway. Plus I continued to receive half the royalties on every book sold. The cheques are still coming.

As for Richard Florida, the American-born “Canadian” on Thinkers50, his big idea seems to be that Toronto should be a cultural, financial, trade, and thought centre. Doesn’t that sound a lot like Florence way back in the fifteenth century when the guilds and the Medicis ruled and the Renaissance bloomed? Just a thought.

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