Off Topic: Perusing Time’s Most Influential List

Time Magazine published its fifth annual list of the world’s 100 most influential people. So I decided to take a look at that list from two angles: popularity and inspiration.

Entertainers Win The Popularity Contest

As part of the story, Time let readers vote on who should be on the list. Here are the five people who received the highest ratings (with my commentary):

  1. Shigeru Miyamoto (video game designer; creator of the Nintendo Wii).
    My take: Video gaming is now a mainstream activity; we’ll see it continue to boom and show up in different places in our lives.
  2. Rain (25 year old Korean pop sensation)
    My take: A lot of Koreans must read Time’s Website; I’ve never heard of him.
  3. Stephen Colbert (Comedian, host of The Colbert Report)
    My take: Even in the face of global unrest, people still like to laugh (I am a huge fan of Colbert).
  4. Heidi Klum (Supermodel, host of Project Runway, and married to the singer Seal)
    My take: Project Runway is an incredibly creative and entertaining show. Or, as its many fans might call it, “Fierce!”
  5. Tyra Banks (Talk-show host, America’s Next Top Model mentor).
    My take: There will always be things in life that I just don’t understand.

The Best Stories Are Both Influential And Inspirational

The list of 100 people, which covered 5 categories, contained people who I would classify as both good and bad. I picked one person from each category that I felt provided a good story. 

  • Leaders & Revolutionaries: Dalai Lama. He remains calm and nonviolent even while fighting against China’s oppression of his people. There’s a lot to learn from a couple of his quotes in the article: “We <the human race> are the superior species on Earth but also the biggest troublemakers,” and “I don’t dislike the Chinese, only their actions.”
  • Heroes & Pioneers: Madeeha Hasan Odhaib. She built a business in Iraq sewing hospital sheets and flags and she now employs 100 women. While she might not have the most powerful resume on the list, I think she demonstrates how the world can become a much better place if everyone finds a way to make (even a small) difference.
  • Scientists & Thinkers: Larry Brilliant. As part of the World Health Organization, Brilliant was a key player in the eradication of smallpox. He has been appointed to lead, the philanthropic arm of Google. This move by Google is an example of an important trend called “The responsible company: Performing with purpose is the new challenge” that I highlighted from The Economist.
  • Artists & Entertainers: Miley Cyrus. Cyrus (a.ka. Hannah Montana) has a cult following (which includes my daughter with whom I went to see Cyrus in concert). What I like about Cyrus is her apparent good values; on and off the screen. While she’s taken a hit lately with some Vanity Fair photos, it’s critical for the entertainment industry to provide good role models. Hopefully she won’t turn into a disappointment like the Spears sisters (Jamie Lynn and Britney).
  • Builders & Titans: Indra Nooyi. As chairman and CEO of PepsiCo, Nooyi has been leading the company towards sustainability and social responsibility. As an example, she led the company’s move to healthier products; removing trans fats well before competitors. Here’s how Howard Schultz who authored Nooyi’s description described her management style: She welcomes hearing from people who disagree with her, but she is single-minded about following the path she believes is best for her company and its shareholders.

The bottom line: When it comes to getting the popular vote, entertainment rocks. But nothing beats a good inspirational story.

Written by 

I am an experience management transformist, helping organizations improve business results by engaging the hearts and minds of their customers, employees, and partners. My "job" is Head of the Qualtrics XM Institute. The Institute is still being established, but our goal is to help organizations around the world thrive by mastering Experience Management (XM). As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. Prior to joining Qualtrics, I was managing partner of Temkin Group (leading CX research, advisory, and training firm), co-founder and chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (, and a VP at Forrester Research. I'm a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Check out my LinkedIn profile:

3 thoughts on “Off Topic: Perusing Time’s Most Influential List”

  1. Agreed that Miley Cyrus is a very talented singer and performer. She does adhere to a (mostly) squeeky-clean image (per Disney) and I can respect that her celebrity isn’t based upon immoral antics captured by the media.

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