Who is the most influential person on the planet? I'll make it a little easier for you. It's out of Pope Benedict XVI, Barack Obama, Justin Bieber, Anna Wintour and Angela Merkel. We'll come back to that a little later.
Much of the information available today about individuals - and companies - via the internet is self-populated and self-perpetuated. It's easy to check most facts relating to a person's professional and educational experience, or a company's financial performance. But as a business leader, how can you reliably measure someone's real scope of future influence? How can you accurately predict a company's chances of success when given a new revenue stream opportunity?
If you think this isn't possible, read on - because it is possible.
New England-based financier, philanthropist and digital networking expert George Bickerstaff is Chairman and Founder of the Global Leaders (networking organization), Managing Director and Partner at investment firm MM Dillon & Co, Founder and Executive Chairman at Global Innovations (a firm dedicated to bringing to market innovations that make a difference), Founder and Managing Member of GWB LLC (funding for emerging sector start-ups) and a Board Director at Livwel Therapeutics, Inc.
Not just a highly successful businessperson, George is committed to giving back through his significant philanthropic and voluntary works with a number of USA and international charitable organizations, including the United Nations' mandated International Vaccine Institute, of which he is a member of the Board of Trustees and Chairman of the Strategic Planning Committee, and the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children, where he is a Board Member.
It was after a series of frustrating board meetings involving an international charitable organization that George was inspired to devise the PowerRank system.
"On this board were some of the world's greatest leaders - a queen, a first lady, several top businessmen and women, a head of state, people who have achieved great things in their other roles. But every time we got together, nothing got done," recalls George.
"I just could not figure out why we had the some of the world's best minds from diverse backgrounds and all committed to this very worthwhile cause and we simply couldn't achieve progress. Why?"
George came to the realisation that in order to form credible, productive groups, there needed to be a way to assess that people in those groups actually belong in the groups.
"PowerRank was devised as way to measure real influence. I found that in social media it's almost impossible to measure influence. If you go onto Facebook, Linkedin, or Google you may see a person's picture and their profile but you really have no idea if any of the information is correct.
"It was clear we needed a measurement or standard to quantitatively assess someone or a company, and their relevance. PowerRank is a proprietal system developed by myself with assistance from MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology], which uses algorithms and metrics to quantitatively rate a person or business' economic and political influence."
George and his team identified four major 'buckets' of influence through modelling and test data: economic influence, leadership influence, academic influence and networking influence. All the data was independently verified and obtained from third party sources to ensure credibility.
"Economic influence, for example, is how big is the company or the organization they currently manage or have managed? The head of General Electric has more influence than a guy or gal running the local hotdog stand. Or somebody running a big company or big country has more influence than someone running a little company or little country.
"But those simplistic high level examples. There are dozens of elements of data such as income, assets and revenue.
"Then there is leadership influence, which is determined by the person's position. Someone who is both the chairperson and the CEO is going to get more points than someone who is a department head. And this is all weighted and indexed.
"Academic background of the person is important. In this model, if someone has one degree they have a certain number of points and they get more points if they have a broader academic background. This is particularly important when assessing people in the education sector - they may not have been a chairperson of a company - but they may have been a Nobel prize winner.
"Networking influence is the size of their business and professional network. How influential and impactful they are?"
George says as well as realising they had found a way to accurately measure information previously regarded as impossible to segment and assess, a further revelation came when the PowerRank scores were aggregated.
"We were able to ascertain which were the strongest managed companies and which were the weakest. There is a direct correlation between strong companies and their long term success and their management teams and boards, and the weakest companies, their prospects and their management teams and boards.
"It sounds obvious, but to successfully compete in a market, business leaders have to have the proper skills to do so. But how are those skills accurately measured?
"The PowerRank score of the boards were high in those companies which tended to do well in good and bad times. The PowerRank score of the boards in lesser performing companies were particularly bad and these were the same companies that did not do well in the bad times."
But there is a small challenge - not everybody and very company is scoreable to begin with.
"If there is no data we can't score," says George, explaining that a lot of influential leaders are not scoreable because it's hard to find information on them. And privately held companies are not subject to the same disclosure rules that listed companies are.
"If we were going to measure we needed to measure to take into account all these complexities.
"And then another complication was what to do with a guy or gal or company that was in the Fortune 500 or Fortune 50 which looked good on paper but in fact which had lost money and destroyed wealth - as many companies have done in recent years, particularly in financial services and banking?"
"When most people assess these individuals or companies they don't look beyond the current balance sheet."
George says that as well as informing better business decisions, PowerRank enables individuals to see what has driven the success of top leaders so they can mirror it.
"If you take your PowerRank score and the score of a leader you really admire, you will be able to identify exactly where your strengths and weaknesses lie and you will know what you need to do to get a better score. For example, we found that many people who end up running big companies have participated in external boards. So, if you want to become the leader of a really big company, you need to be picking up the external leadership experience."
PowerRank is also useful when it comes to establishing fit between an organization and a potential hire.
"If an organization gets a PowerRank score of 90 and a potential executive has a Powerrank score of 50 - or vice versa which does happen - the chances are pretty good that it will not be a good fit.
"Companies can also use PowerRank for competitive analysis. If your competitors are a 70 and you are a 40, you're in trouble.
So, who is the most influential person in the world?
According Klout that is, the self-proclaimed social media influence ranking system. However, Klout has come under widespread criticism for the robustness of its methodology: it's easy to manipulate and obtain a high score, by, for example, posting lots of pictures of cute animals.
As of August 2012, Justin has 27 million Twitter followers. Not the highest number of followers - that's not President Obama, by the way, but Lady Gaga. But Justin is highly influential, if he were to tell his followers to drink Diet Coke - a pretty high percentage of them would drink Diet Coke.
"Klout is about how loud your voice is. PowerRank is about how big is your stick. 'Amplification' is the world Klout uses - who can take someone else's message - drink Diet Coke - and amplify it the most," says George. "What it doesn't measure is whether that person is saying anything worthwhile. So it's a very skewed measurement of the people. Justin Bieber is the most influential person in the world? I mean come on!"
So where will you score on PowerRank? Where will your organization score?
"We haven't begun marketing PowerRank proactively yet as we are still working through the final test phases of the reporting. In fact, I'd be delighted to partner with a company for this stage, so feel free to get in touch," says George.
To find out more visit: www.global-innovation.com