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World Business Forum – Top 10 Speakers

The video above recaps the final day of this year’s World Business Forum in New York. In yesterday’s recap of Day one, I gave a detailed breakdown of each speaker presentation, but today I thought I’d do something a bit different…Since everyone seems to like a list, I decided to rank the top ten speakers from both days. So the list that follows is my ranking of the Top 10 Speakers from World Business Forum 2010 as well as my logic behind the rankings.

  1. Nando Parrado– Nando was the only speaker at the conference to receive a standing ovation, but this is not why I ranked him #1. Nando earned the top spot on the list because his presentation simply raised the bar to an entirely different level. He recounted the miracle of surviving 72 days after his plane crashed high in the Andes. After being unconscious for 3 days and being counted among the dead by other survivors, Nando awoke to find his mother, sister and a number of his rugby teammates had died. They had no food, water or winter clothing. At an elevation above 12,000 feet and with temperatures that reached -35 below zero, Nando not only survived the initial crash, but a broken skull, being buried by a subsequent avalanche, eating the flesh of the dead, and then hiking for 11 days covering 70 miles across the Andes in street clothes to get help. This was one of the longest human survival accounts in history and was later made into the book Miracle in the Andes and then into the movie Alive. As a result of Nando’s efforts 16 people were rescued after 72 days in the Andes. Nando is an exceptional human being whose philosophy can be boiled down into two of the quotes given in his presentation: “I fought so hard for life that I decided to have a life” & “life is success.” Nando’s presentation simply put things into perspective for a world sorely lacking perspective. Bravo Nando…
  2. Jack Welch– The former Chairman and CEO of GE reminded us of the value of candor. He spared us the business speak and rhetoric and said things that all leaders needed to hear. As with Nando, I could have listened to Jack all day long. Candor, clarity, humility, passion and a heart for service characterize Jack Welch. Jack’s belief for the need to “lead change before you have to” is a mantra for leaders to live by. We all need to learn from Jack by dropping the politically correct approach to leadership by just doing the right thing.
  3. A.G. Lafley– The former Chairman and CEO of Proctor & Gamble gave a clinic on innovation. I’ve never heard anyone speak so fluently on the topic of innovation. Just about every statement that passed his lips was quotable. I thought his most insightful and accurate comment was: “Great innovators constantly disrupt themselves – It’s better to attack yourself on the innovation front than allow your competitors to do it.”
  4. Joseph Grenny – Joe spoke about the need for, and power of influence. Most notably he did it very well. A great presenter and story-teller, Joe has complete command of his subject matter and gave the audience actionable instruction on how to create influence. My favorite quote from Joe was “creating influence is about creating a magical experience.” Just go away on ponder this thought for a while – How can you create magical experiences across constituencies and throughout the value chain? Get this right and you’ll make Joe proud.
  5. Martin Lindstrom – Not only was Martin the most animated and entertaining presenter, but after listening to Martin I quickly came to the conclusion that nobody understands how to connect with the mind of consumers better than he does. Whether constructing, deconstructing, or smashing brands, Martin’s understanding of branding goes far deeper than the tired noise you typically hear from brand agencies. My favorite quote from Martin was: “great brands are emotional bookmarks.”
  6. Renee Mauborgne – Co-author of Blue Ocean Strategy, Renee offered great insights on creating demand, most particularly on creating consumer demand where little or none previously existed. I love creative thinkers and her presentation focused like a laser beam on creativity of thought and approach. My favorite thought by Renee was: “Success rests on pushing the creativity frontier. Smart leaders spend more time on creativity than productivity.”
  7. Steve Levitt – Author of Freakanomics and Super Freakanomics, Steve was superb. I had to pinch myself as I thought I might have been dreaming – was I really witnessing an economist with a self-deprecating sense of humor? Not only did Steve keep the entire audience at Radio City Music Hall in stitches, he did it while making astute observations and keen insights on what it takes to be successful in business. My favorite quote by Steve was: “Great ideas invade people.”
  8. Vijay Govindarajan– Vijay is a Professor of International Business and the Founding Director of Tuck’s Center for Global Leadership at Dartmouth. A recognized expert on strategy and innovation he is also the author of seven books. What I particularly like about Vijay is that his observations are truly unique and insightful – no surface level thinking to be found here. If you’re looking for someone to challenge conventional thinking Vijay is a very good bet. My favorite quote from Vijay was: “Strategy is not about competing for the present, but competing for the future. It’s about understanding that non-linear change means anticipating & appealing to customer discontinuity.” Brilliant!
  9. James Cameron – I actually wasn’t expecting to like Jim…I knew he was driven and creative, but my sense of him was that his ego may be even larger than his considerable talent. His words left me questioning my initial impressions, and I actually found him to be a pleasant surprise. What impressed me the most about Jim was his depth of knowledge, his leadership savvy, and his general business acumen (his creativity is a given). My favorite quote by Jim was: “Why ask why in the moment – just solve the problem.”
  10. David Gergen– As a White House advisor for more than 30 years David advised both Republican and Democratic Presidents. While I don’t always agree with David, I think we probably agree on more than not. He possesses a wealth of information and experience on leadership and is probably the speaker that I’d most enjoy having dinner with. Since my son is an active duty EOD officer in the Air Force, the following quote by David really resonates with me: “Looking to hire great leaders – hire one of our veterans.”

So there you have it…my picks for the Top 10 Speakers at World Business Forum 2010. Jim Collins, Al Gore, Joseph Stiglitz, Charlene Li, Bill McDermott, Mavin Odum and Luca Majocchi didn’t make my cut – do you think they should have, and/or do you think my list should be reordered? Love to receive your thoughts.

In case your wondering, yes, both of the recap videos contain our original footage which was shot, produced and uploaded on the fly while attending the conference. We love video at N2growth…

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    October 8, 2010 at 1:39 am

    Mike, You've put together a solid list, a difficult one at that, due to so many great speakers that shared their insight with the audience. Although my list isn't the same… I can see why you chose the ones that you did. I have to admit that I am surprised you didn't include Jim Collins or Charlene Li. Personally, I'd plug them in somewhere in the #3 and #4 slots and remove Lafley and Grenny. These guys did a great job and obviously have the track record to prove it… I just didn't feel that they connected with the audience like Jim Collins and Charlene Li did, especially Charlene Li. She seems to dig right in on the emotional aspects of relationship building, both professionally and personally.

    Well, that's my input…(for whatever that's worth) and again, great list… definitely a tough one compile but a great one as it sits!




      October 8, 2010 at 6:45 am

      Hi Geoff

      Thanks for the comments and observations. The hard part about any top 10 list is that by its nature good people get left off. I must admit that one of the speakers I was most looking forward to hearing was Charlene Li. I just felt her presentation was too high-level and offered nothing new. While Jim's presentation was meatier, if you'd read his books, or heard him speak before it was just more of the same. These were actually the two speakers with the most potential that left me the most disappointed, but hey, maybe it was just me. With regard to Lafley, I thought he gave an absolute clinic on innovation insights as did Grenny with the topic of influence. At the end of the day, all that matters is what you take away from the presentations, not who made my list. I'm glad you took the time to share your insights, as it gives me perspective into what others are thinking. Thanks Geoff…


    Mike Singer

    October 8, 2010 at 5:27 pm


    Great video, and great meeting you and Tyer at WBF. Hope to cross paths again soon. Mike

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