C.K. Prahalad: A Great Thinker and Humanitarian


April 22, 2010

by Marshall Goldsmith

C.K. Prahalad: A Great Thinker and Humanitarian

The late management consultant and author is remembered by Marshall Goldsmith for his generosity to his peers.

In the 2009 Thinkers 50 listing, Dr. C.K. Prahalad was ranked as the most influential business thinker in the world. I believe that this recognition—one of many he received over the course of his amazing career—was completely justified. He was not only a best-selling author; he was one of the world’s most highly sought-after management consultants. His work influenced millions of readers and countless major corporations.

Along with being a great thinker and consultant, C.K. was a humanitarian—in the best sense of the word. He didn’t just have grand ideas about saving the world that would never get implemented. He actually got things done. He realized that for corporations to make lasting change that benefited the world, they also had to benefit their shareholders. In The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, he showed how companies could provide inexpensive, beneficial products for low-income people—and still make money for their shareholders.

One of C.K.’s passions was helping other thinkers develop. Each of his major books was co-authored with a different person. He was never threatened by his professional peers but always went out of his way to help them become better.

Supporting Entrepreneurship

C.K. was a great champion of entrenepreneurs; among the causes he gave his time and energy to was The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE), one of the world’s largest organizations that support entrepreneurs and the development of the entrepreneurial spirit. He frequently spoke at their conferences and events.

Along with being a great professional and humanitarian, C.K. Prahalad was a wonderful family person. His eyes would always light up around his wife, children, and especially his grandchildren.

Along with his great intelligence, he had a dry wit and good sense of humor. When we went to the Del Mar race track, he “entrusted” me with $20 of his money to “invest” on one race. My selection (the heavy favorite) finished in the money. When I proudly gave C.K. $22, he calculated the return that his 10% gain in the past few minutes would have had over an entire year. He concluded that I was an investment genius!

C.K. lived in my neighborhood, Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. I had dinner with him and his wife just one month before his passing. The week before his death, he sent me a very kind e-mail concerning my work as an executive coach. His death was a complete shock.

C.K. Prahalad lived a life that mattered. I feel very blessed to have known him. He will be missed.