With the rapid expansion of science and technology during the past decade, it can be hard to keep up with the names and terms created to keep track of everything. What is much hard to track, however, is the breadth of new concepts, strategies, and ideas that come along with such rapid innovative progress. Not only do we need to worry about names like BlueTooth, Spotify, TiVo, and the like, but entire new fields of industry and production have been created, such as video streaming, internet marketing, and WiFi.
All of these inventions and technologies came within the last decade, but a decade before that came the phrase Thought Leadership, coined by Joel Kurtzman, a high-ranking executive for Booz & Co, and editor-in-chief of strategy+business magazine. He later expanded on his initial posits of Though Leadership in his 2010 book Common Purpose, where he discussed and clarified what he identifies Thought Leadership to be, and what is not.
Kurtzman focused his discussion on three main points, as follows:
1. Thought Leaders are those who invest time and interest in learning new, innovative ideas on their own accord
Part of Kurtzman’s daily job with Booz & Co was to travel the world consulting mid- to high-level executives as to how to grow and improve the sectors of responsibility and jurisdiction within the company. Of all the questions he could ask, he always began conversations with the question, “What are you reading right now?” This consistently took executives back by the simplicity of the question, but wound up being a telling indicator as to whether individuals he was interviewing were in fact successful and effective thought leaders, because it showed a natural inclination towards new learning and application.
2. For Thought Leadership to occur inside an organization, a culture needs to be present that encourages idea generation and development
Just about everyone he asked seemed to be in staunch agreement that good ideas were…well, good…and that said ideas were important to the growth and stability of a company. Kurtzman could get just about anyone to say that. However, getting executives to actually put money behind that, or employees to dedicate time to idea generation, turned out to be much more difficult to procure. Much of his time was spent instructing those he consulted as to how to authentically develop idea-friendly cultures that didn’t punish company members for putting resources away from their normal duties towards the creation and implementation of new ideas.
3. Ideas from Thought Leadership aren’t worth their salt if they aren’t eventually distributed and spread
Now having discussed generation and development, implementation became key for Kurtzman. Fundamentally speaking, the worth of an idea was and always will be zero if said ideas aren’t spread or disseminated. Regardless of industry, from hotel management to cabinet refinishing to consultation strategy, taking new innovative strides is essential to any long-term success. Booz & Co’s most noteworthy example of this was the aforementioned strategy+business magazine, a publication spearheaded by Kurtzman and paid for out-of-pocket with the express intention of spreading their ideas, and gather similar innovations from peer organizations. These three primary principles encompass the ‘bread and butter’ ideas that have made Thought Leadership such a vital strategy in today’s fast-paced, innovation-driven economy.
Written by Clif, freelance writer for Cabinet Coatings of America