Leadership is about self-awareness, recognizing your failings, and developing modesty, humility, and humanity.”

C.K. Prahalad

8:03 PM Saturday April 17, 2010
by Adi Ignatius

I first met C.K. Prahalad in July 2008. I was the deputy managing editor of Time magazine, and had organized a discussion in New York City to debate “creative capitalism” — Bill Gates’ idea for spreading the benefits of capitalism to the billions who have been left out.

When I’d asked Gates whom he most wanted with him on the panel, the answer had come back at once: C.K. Prahalad, the brilliant strategy thinker at the University of Michigan.

It’s little wonder why. C.K. had created a remarkable body of work, from his celebrated May 1990 HBR article (with Gary Hamel) that coined the term “core competencies,” to his groundbreaking 2004 book, The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, which identified how the world’s poor could be a valuable market. The Thinkers 50 List, published annually by the (U.K.) Times, more than once rated C.K. as the world’s most influential management thinker.

Beyond his scholarship, C.K. could be counted on in any discussion to provide wise, assured, and often blunt insight. During the talk on creative capitalism, C.K. found an opportunity to chide his hosts: “This movement will not go forward if the media does not play its part,” he said. “The stories from the poor countries need not be only stories of poverty and corruption.” (…)

I met C.K. for the final time just last month, in Boston. We sat at a restaurant in the Westin Copley Hotel, eating sandwiches and discussing our latest passions. C.K. had recently co-written an important piece for HBR on how sustainability has become the most important driver of business innovation. He had several projects in the pipeline including what turned out to be his final column for HBR, an explanation of why companies so often fail to deal with their most obvious challenges, which we’ll publish in our June issue.

C.K. also expressed enthusiasm about a book he was co-writing for HBR Press with HBR editor at large Anand Raman, on how some of the best management ideas these days are coming from India and the other emerging markets, and are reshaping management theory.

Published in: on April 18, 2010 at 7:27 am  Leave a Comment  
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