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Thornton May

Contributing Futurist, World Bank

Thornton May is one of the premier ‘communicators’ in the information technology industry today. He combines a scholar’s passion for empirical research, an entrepreneur’s capacity for opportunity identification and a stand-up comic’s gift for storytelling to assisting executives figure out what comes after what comes next. He is a superior noticer and picks up on things that others overlook.

Mr. May is responsible for sculpting executive education IT curricula at four major business schools:

  • UCLA
  • UC-Berkeley
  • Arizona State
  • Ohio State

From 1997-2000, Mr. May was responsible for designing and delivering the information technology portion of the curriculum at the University of Amsterdam’s Controller’s Institute [special program for multinational Chief Financial Officers].

With James Robinson, III [former Chairman of American Express] Thornton founded the Director’s Institute [a program to improve Board Level technology decision making].

Thornton served on the Ph.D. review board at the University of Texas, Austin. Thornton serves on the Advisory Board at Comdex [largest trade show in the computer industry].

Thornton’s insights have appeared in the Harvard Business Review (on IT strategy); The Financial Times (on IT value creation); The Wall Street Journal (on the future of the computer industry); the M.I.T. Sloan Management Review (on the future of marketing), American Demographics (on the evolving demographics of Electronic Commerce), USA Today (on the future of the consumer electronics industry), and Business Week (on the future of CEO direct reports) and on National Public Radio (debating the future practice of strategy with Professor Michael Porter).

Thornton wrote the chapter INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY FOR PEOPLE IN SUITS appearing in the best selling MBA in a Box is viewed as one of the most powerful pieces of technology writing now in print. MBA In A Box showcases the thinking of business leaders like Peter Senge, Michael Milken, Robert Eccles, Bob Metcalfe, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Michael Porter, Adrian Slywotzsky, Jim Champy, Warren Bemis and George Conrades]. Thornton is a columnist at Computerworld, and served as an Advisor to the Founding Editors of Fast Company Magazine.

Thornton was responsible for ghost writing portions of the technology track for the recent World Economic Forum held in Davos Switzerland; and appears frequently before the Congress of the United States serving as an expert witness on large technology implementations.

Thornton’s research has been acknowledged in such seminal business books as Seth Godin’s “Permission Marketing”; Michael Schrage’s “Serious Play: How the World’s Best Companies Simulate to Innovate”; Moshe Rubenstein’s “The Minding Organization”; Bill Jensen’s “Simplicity”; and Jeff Williams’ “Renewable Advantage: Crafting Strategy Through Economic Time”. He wrote the Preface for George Geis’ “Digital Deals,” and Marc Farley’s “Building Storage Networks.”

He is the Non-Toxic Behaviors coach at Lawson Software.

Thornton has a Master of Science in Industrial Administration from Carnegie-Mellon University, and a Bachelor of Arts in Asian Studies from Dartmouth College.

He developed his Japanese language skills at the Center for Japanese Studies at the University of Michigan. He studied organizational design at Keio University in Tokyo.

Executive Endorsements:

“Thornton is in the top tier of business technology industry intellectuals. I personally think he is a genius. My definition….smarter than me and most everybody else…. always is out front on ideas and uses completely fresh perspectives on issues and challenges in business…and balances it all with razor sharp wit. Nobody ever goes away after an encounter with Thornton without being enriched.”
Barbra Cooper, CIO; Toyota USA

“Thornton May is the real deal. A daring intellectual in a business filled with fakes, Thornton encourages us–no he FORCES us–to sit up, pay attention and think hard about the real issues we face every day.”
Seth Godin, Author of Permission Marketing, and Founder Yoyodyne

“It’s not difficult for Thornton May to stay ahead of the curve, he helped build it”
Max Keiser, Vice-Chairman, Co-Founder; Hollywood Stock Exchange

“Thornton May is one of the brightest, most knowledgeable, and funniest consultants in the information technology industry. He spots trends well in advance of most of the pundits, and he’s extremely well-connected with a very impressive following.”
Barry Rosenbaum, Managing Partner; RSA Ventures

“Despite the claims of consultants, nobody has answers, but Thornton gives you all of the perspective you can handle. He’s the 360 consultant.”
Robert A. DiStefano, Managing Director of Vanguard’s Information Technology Division; The Vanguard Group

“Thornton May is an intellectual speed merchant. He can think faster than the few people who are smarter than he is, and he’s smarter than the few people who are faster than he is–and that’s a tough combination to top in any field.”
Alan Webber, Founding Editor; Fast Company

“Thornton has an instant recognition and respect factor with Computerworld readers — not because he can be funny and outrageous (which he can) but because what he says makes them think about things in a different light. His ideas on IT leadership and his perspective on industry trends have a ring of truth about them, drawn as they are from his own experiences working with senior business and technology executives. He’s also one of the liveliest speakers on the face of the earth, so it’s enormous fun to watch him in action with a room full of startled execs who expected another boring Powerpoint presentation. Around our newsroom, he’s known as the Robin Williams of IT!”
Maryfran Johnson, Editor-in-Chief; Computerworld Magazine

“Thornton May is a category-defying thinker about all things related to information technology, leadership and communications. He is a brilliant thinker, marvelous communicator, consultant and teacher. He single-handedly shepherds insights into the brains of the country’s top CIOs, who collectively owe him an unrepayable debt of gratitude. Playing with him is always one of the most enjoyable parts of my professional life.”
Andrew Zolli, author Catalogue of the Future & in-house Futurist at Popular Science Magazine

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