Saturday, 2 August 2008

Is there an opposite to thought leadership? And would it be a bad thing?

Last week, a colleague proposed the possibility that - with every man and his dog creating a 'thought leadership' position - the real thought leaders might be doing just the opposite.

So what would this vacuum be called? 'I forgot' is the best answer so far.

And are you a 'thought leader' or an 'I forgot'?

Everything starts right with thought leadership programmes - 'we want to have something interesting to say to clients and prospects, ideally something that stands us apart from the competition'.

If only it stopped there as well. But too often, after this great start, people put the 'stand apart from the competition' before the 'interesting to clients and prospects' - which typically means taking an even more tangential/futuristic view on a subject. And so the thought leading position gets farther and farther away from where the majority of clients/prospects are fighting their day to day battles (and spending the majority of their budgets).

We did some research recently with people making buying decisions worth millions of pounds - and found that the people taking the decisions weren't necessarily in the c-suite, but departmental heads/programme directors - people with day jobs too big to worry about what might be possible in the future and all too concerned with what's happening today.

So maybe the really innovative thinking would be to stick to what worries these decision-makers - stories about what's going right and wrong, implementation pot-holes, war stories...

It suddenly makes the 'I forgot' position a whole lot more attractive.