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To select the top 50 business pioneers of all time, from all around the world, was a Herculean task.

Our judges had to decide whether to recognise the person who first had an idea or the one who made a business out of exploiting it.

Another difficulty was how we treated political visionaries who created the business climate that enabled innovation to thrive.

You can see our answers to these questions in the pages of this special report. Michael Skapinker, the associate editor at the FT who chaired our distinguished judging panel, explains how the judges agonised over how to refine a long list inspired by hundreds of nominations from our readers and journalists around the world. But making fine judgments lies at the heart of FT journalism.

This magazine, which is accompanied by online articles and videos examining specific themes, follows the success of The Fifty Ideas That Shaped Business Today. Then, as on this occasion, we grouped the 50 by sector, from technology to finance. Who was left off our list is also telling. The introduction to each section, by an FT specialist writer, examines the circumstances in which pioneers either succeeded in leaving their mark on history or narrowly failed to do so.

The list of 50 is dominated by men, and by Americans and western Europeans. The judges tried to be as inclusive as possible. They were also determined that every individual should earn his or her place purely on merit. Articles on the dominance of the western business model, and on the role of women, explain how rapidly the landscape is changing.

Our selection represents a snapshot at a point in time. In a year or two, the individuals identified by the judges as people to watch might make the final cut. And other pioneers might also stake their claim to be included on the list.

We at the FT will continue to throw a spotlight on such individuals — and we welcome your contribution to a continuing debate.

Lionel Barber

FT Editor




Michael Skapinker

Michael Skapinker, who chaired the judging panel, is an FT columnist who writes about business and society, and is an associate editor. Born in South Africa, he began his journalistic career in Greece and joined the FT in London in 1986. Since then he has held many positions, including management editor, FT Weekend editor and editor of FT Special Reports. His weekly column has earned him numerous awards including Business Commentator of the Year at the 2012 Editorial Intelligence Comment Awards.

Jannik Lindbæk

Jannik Lindbæk Jr, vice-president of corporate communications at Statoil, the Norway-based international energy company, is responsible for media relations and internal communications. Before joining Statoil in 2010, he was senior vice-president of corporate communications at Aker Solutions and director of communications at Microsoft Norway. He has a degree in political science from the University of Bergen and an MSc from the London School of Economics.

Jaideep Prabhu

Jaideep Prabhu is professor of marketing and Jawaharlal Nehru professor of Indian business and enterprise at Judge Business School, University of Cambridge. He has held positions at Cambridge, Imperial College London, Tilburg University and the University of California, Los Angeles. His research interests are in marketing, innovation, strategy and international business. In particular, he studies various cross-national issues concerning the antecedents and consequences of innovation.

Jessica Spungin

Jessica Spungin is an adjunct associate professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at London Business School. She also works as an independent consultant advising senior executives on the interface between getting strategy and effective organisation. Before this she spent 15 years at McKinsey, the consultancy, and was a partner in its London and Johannesburg offices. She led McKinsey’s organisation practice in Europe.

Heather McGregor

Heather McGregor is the chief executive and principal shareholder of executive search firm Taylor Bennett. A former investment banker, she has an MBA from London Business School and a PhD from the University of Hong Kong. She was one of the group of women who helped Helena Morrissey start the 30% Club in 2010 to lobby for more women on boards. She writes the Mrs Moneypenny column in the appointments section of the FT.

John Gapper

John Gapper is the FT’s chief business commentator and an associate editor. He writes a weekly column about business trends and strategy, as well as writing leaders and other articles. He has worked for the FT since 1987, covering labour relations, banking and the media. In 1991-92, he was a Harkness Fellow of the Commonwealth Fund of New York, and studied US education and training at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

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