March 18-20, 2019

Winning with Digital


Thornton May

Thornton May

  • Futurist & Co-Founder
  • The Digital Value Institute

Thornton May is a futurist, author and educator. At Dartmouth College, Keio University [Tokyo] and the Center for Japanese Studies at the University of Michigan, Thornton studied Japanese technology policies and practices during the Meiji Restoration [1868 through 1912], post-World War II and 1970s. Living in Tokyo Thornton worked at a series of global Japanese companies assisting managing “emerging technology” investments.

Thornton was hired by noted futurist Alvin Toffler [Future Shock, Third Wave, Power Shift and Revolutionary Wealth] to assist the “technology futures” program for Toffler Associates. Toffler Associates designed and delivered the strategic plans for South Korea [President Kim Dae-jung] and Singapore [Minister of Finance Lew Kuan Yew]. These plans specified the technology investments necessary to sustain economic dominance in the twenty-first century.

Thornton returned to America to lead technology research at the Nolan Norton Institute. His research team is credited for coining the phrase “Chief Information Officer” in 1981. Thornton pioneered the multi-client research program designed to discover strategic and operating insights associated with emerging technologies.

His work as a futurist and anthropologist position him as part Paul Revere [the one to sound the alarm] and part Arnold Toynbee/Edward Gibbon [the one who explains what has happened/what is happening].

Thornton has taught at four major universities, written columns on technology for multiple leading publications [25 plus years at Computerworld], advises major organizations and government agencies on how to think differently about technology, all the while conducting seminal anthropological field research into technology-use behaviors of the various tribes comprising modern society.

Thornton began his career as an anthropologist studying tribal behavior in the modern Japanese corporation. He received a bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College, a master’s degree from Carnegie Mellon University, and did post-graduate work in Japanese Studies at the University of Michigan. At five feet, seven inches, he played professional basketball in Japan.

Thornton brings a scholar's patience for empirical research, a second-to-none gift for storytelling and a stand-up comedian’s sense of humor to his audiences. His book, The New Know: Innovation Powered by Analytics examines the intersection of the analytic and executive tribes.

The editors at eWeek honored Thornton, including him on their list of ‘Top 100 Most Influential People in IT.’ The editors at Fast Company labeled him ‘one of the top 50 brains in technology today.’ Thornton is a founding member of the Internet of Things World Forum.