While many business people aspire to be seen as thought leaders, only a few truly have the unique combination of characteristics to justify this title. Each of the following entrepreneurs, inventors, and innovators profiled in this article possess the blend of ingenuity and tactical brilliance that place them in this elite category.
1. Derek Yach
Appalled by the vastly unequal access to medical care he witnessed in the apartheid-era South Africa of his youth, Derek Yach decided to make it his life’s mission to advance the cause of preventative medicine. From his tenure at the World Health Organization (WHO) combating tobacco usage to his work with PepsiCo leading the development of a more healthful product portfolio, Dr. Yach has become the de facto spokesperson for increasing lifelong wellbeing. During his latest tenure as Chief Health Officer of the Vitality Group, he and his team helped pioneer a gamified program for their corporate clients designed to increase profits by extending employee lifespans.
2. Dave Scott
Dave Scott was a paradox– a serious marketing executive by day and a standup comedian by night. Fortunately, he eventually decided to merge his two sides, resulting in the founding of a venture that is poised to transform the entertainment industry. Laugh.ly is a streaming service that offers unlimited comedy performances by monthly subscription, opening the recording industry’s final frontier to the digital economy. By taking a counterintuitive approach to a legacy medium, Dave Scott and his investors will undoubtedly soon be laughing all the way to the bank. The Beta version of Laugh.ly goes live on June 29.
3. Pip Coburn
Pip Coburn, principal of Coburn Ventures, has always had an uncanny knack for predicting financial trends. Today he is among the most widely consulted experts on change, technology, and investing. He regularly appears on CNBC, Bloomberg, The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, Fortune, and the MIT Tech Review. He is also the author of the book The Change Function: Why Some Technologies Take Off and Others Crash and Burn. In order to ensure that he is perpetually on the cusp of what is new and innovative, Coburn focuses on activities that expose him to the widest possible range of ideas. He regularly hosts salons; open office hours; lunches; and book clubs for technologists, entrepreneurs, inventors, and designers. Pip Coburn’s model is worth emulating for anyone looking to generate the steady flow of breakthroughs and insights needed to continually adapt to our rapidly changing world.
4. John Ruhlin
John Ruhlin’s signature concept of “Giftology” had humble beginnings. As a college student looking to make a bit of extra money, he signed on as a sales rep for Cutco knives. Before long, he was the company’s #1 distributor in its entire sixty-year history. Ruhlin attributes all of this success to his mastery of the art of strategic gift giving. Today in his own consulting practice and new book Giftology, Ruhlin teaches other to think about how gifts contribute to a recipient’s life and how to walk the line between selflessness and reciprocity to grow value on all sides. Giftology hit shelves on June 20.
5. Piers Fawkes
About a decade ago, writer-entrepreneur Piers Fawkes went to a Manhattan party and noticed a woman who stood out from the crowd. He struck up a conversation and learned that she was on the verge of launching a new electronic publication called a blog. The woman’s name was Arianna Huffington, and the rest is history. For his part, Fawkes went on to found PSFK, one of the first blogs that explored the spaces between marketing, technology, health, and retail. PSFK now boasts a million readers a month and has expanded into consulting, forecasting, and event production. One can only assume that the next young upstart with big dreams will soon be bragging about how they met the Piers Fawkes at a New York bash.