Thought Leadership – A Way Forward?
The fast pace in the current digital age means that businesses and business models are changing more rapidly than ever. Combine that with the current coronavirus pandemic and the need for rapid change and swift decision making and you have a recipe for ‘excitement’. Thought Leadership is most definitely required.
New technologies and innovations will quickly sweep away well established and seemingly solid business models within just a few months. There are plenty of examples, Blockbusters, and Kodak to name just two.
In the latter case, Kodak failed to adapt to the growth of digital photography and the decline of photographic film, and a company that had traded for more than 100 years was forced to file for bankruptcy.
Blockbuster, which had itself been a disruptive company that saw the growth in home video and DVD during the 1980s, failed to see the decline of video and DVD and the potential for streaming. It failed to adapt to change and fell by the wayside while players like Netflix dominate the same space today. In a cruel twist of fate, Blockbuster passed on the chance to buy Netflix in its early days.
To further underline the pace of disruption, just 12% of the Forbes 500 from 1955 still existed in 2015.
So how can businesses remain relevant to their customers in these circumstances? The answer is to do what Blockbuster and others failed to do and adopt innovation in order to survive.
The impetus and thought leadership behind this needs to come from the top. Senior staff must lead from the front, and encourage their teams to think progressively and kick start innovative thinking within the business.
This isn’t thought leadership as it’s often portrayed: featuring in guest blogs and conferences, but rather actually inspiring people within a business with innovative ideas and practical steps to turn these ideas into reality.
Thought leadership is a powerful way to inspire people both inside and outside of your company. Telling a credible story around a shift in your industry using real-life disruptive examples or builds authority and a consistent view across your organisation – driving innovative thinking and alignment.
The challenge for executives, CEOs, Marketing Directors, Directors of Strategy, etc is to remain up to date with trends in fast-moving industries when they already huge demands on their time, tight budgets, and competing priorities.
This has to be overcome for businesses and their executive teams though, as the ability to remain on top of events and how innovation and technological changes have the potential to affect their markets and clients is increasingly important.
The next stage is how executives can embrace thought leadership within their organisations and find and disseminate key information to help them stay on top of events.
1. Set a goal. Educate others.
Like any initiative, the first question to ask yourself is “why.” Why do you want to be a thought leader? Is it to get promoted, change careers, raise funds or boost brand awareness for the company?
2. Position yourself.
Personal positioning is very similar to corporate positioning. How do you want to describe yourself so that people know what you do? Ask yourself what you’d want to be known for and how you can support that image. This is actually branding as opposed to simply just advertising your position within the organisation.
3. Demonstrate credibility.
Similar to the corporate or product messaging process, ask yourself the tough questions. What makes you an expert and why should others care? Once you’ve identified your area of expertise and the value that you bring, the next step is to prove your expertise to build credibility.
Use examples and stories to support your claims and highlight your aims.
4. Build a story to humanise your brand.
Having a personal story will give your company a face and a human touch. People often love personal stories, which allow them to relate to your journey, challenges, and successes versus just hearing about a product and its features or functions. The stories you tell could be about you but they are more likely to relate to other businesses in your market niche. like the Blockbuster and Netflix examples above.
5. Be a resource.
Now that you know how you want to be perceived and have a narrative, think about how you are going to leverage tools to share tips, tricks, and best practices. Perhaps there is new research in your industry. Leverage that and use your know-how to add insight to the report. Always provide insights not just reports. Remember you are a thought leader not a follower.