Tuesday, April 20, 2010

In Memoriam: CK Prahalad

I was saddened to hear that CK Prahalad passed away on April 16th. He was one of the all-time great contributors to the field of strategic planning. CK Prahalad wrote or co-wrote some of the greatest business books of the last 50 years, including Competing for the Future and The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid. He co-wrote the most reprinted article in the history of the Harvard Business Review (“The Core Competence of the Corporation”) and was twice ranked the #1 Management Thinker in the World in global surveys by the Times of London.

I was fortunate to have had him as a professor when I got my MBA at the University of Michigan. It was only his second year as a professor, but even then you could sense his coming greatness. I remember there was a bit of a controversy during that time for CK, because the US government was considering revoking his work Visa to be in the United States. He needed to prove to the government that he had unique skills and giftedness and was not just taking a professor job away from an American. Looking back on CK’s long and fruitful career, it is almost laughable that anybody could have ever doubted his unique contributions.

I will never forget the advice he gave us students. He said that we were gifted with abilities and credentials. It bothered him when he saw people like that take the easy road and go work for some large and highly successful company. He said those companies don’t need you as much and they won’t challenge you as much. Instead, he implored us to go work for the smaller companies or the companies who were going through difficulties. Those are the places where you will stretch yourself and make greater contributions. He wanted us to prove our worth and make a difference.

CK took his own advice—he proved his worth and made a difference.

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