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Top innovators to watch in 2021

The compelling ideas from these top thinkers could shape our future.


Celebrating the formidable minds engaged in some of the world’s biggest ideas and concepts, Thinkers50 has released its annual global ranking of the thinkers to watch this year.

From the Moroccan-born dean of a South Korean business school and the Danish campaigners for diversity to the Russian expert on digital trends in China and two Trinidadian thinkers championing ‘cooperative advantage’, some of the world’s most intriguing minds are exploring the biggest ideas.

Recognising people who will make an impact with their campaigns, ideas and research, award-winning leadership expert and non-executive director Kirstin Ferguson is the only Australian to make the list.

The director on four corporate boards believes that despite what it might say on our business cards, everyone is a leader – we are all role models to others.

As the creator of a viral social media movement #CelebratingWomen, Kirstin unexpectedly fuelled a virtual motion after becoming fed up with the denigration of women online. The award-winning co-author of Women Kind celebrated two women every day for a year on her social platforms, leading to a movement of women supporting women.

Kirstin’s efforts have been described by Thinkers50 as “a fearless champion of women supporting each other in the workplace”.

With great ideas often defying limiting perspectives and prejudices, the London-based company highlighted 30 of the top thinkers to watch in 2021. These are the minds that could change our world’s future.

6 of the inspiring thinkers

Colleen Cunningham. Image: Thinkers50

Colleen Cunningham

The Assistant Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at London Business School has been examining the challenges and advantages of commercialising new-to-world inventions while “shedding new light on big companies buying upstarts to kill them”.

Ashley Galina Dudarenok

The Russian-born China marketing expert explores the ideas around Chinese social media marketing, making her a “guru on digital marketing and fast-evolving trends in China”.

Timnit Gebru

Born in Ethiopia, the Stanford graduate has been undertaking groundbreaking research on US demographics, car owners and racial biases in facial recognition software where she aspires to create a fair and life-enhancing tech future. T50 simply states: “the world needs Timnit Gebru”.

Matthew Gitsham

Paving the way to a greener, more sustainable future, the global expert on CEOs is exploring the implications of sustainability for business leadership.

Luz Rello Sanchez

The Assistant Professor at IE Business School is focusing on emergent technologies for dyslexia, becoming a “tireless champion for dyslexics”.

Fred Swaniker

The Ghanaian entrepreneur is pioneering the way to inspire young African leaders through reimagining education – and with 60 per cent of Africa’s population under 25, the entrepreneur sees this as its greatest asset.

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