A Follower's Guide to Thought Leaders

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The secret to Thought Leadership is not supply; it's Demand.

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A Follower's Guide to Thought Leaders

  1. 1. A Follower’s Guide to Thought Leadership An archestra notebook. © 2013 Malcolm Ryder / archestra
  2. 2. But first, these messages… (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia) Parkinson's law is the adage which states that "work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion". Information overload “The resulting abundance of – and desire for more (and/or higher quality) – information has come to be perceived in some circles, paradoxically, as the source of as much productivity loss as gain.”[17] Information Overload can lead to “information anxiety,” which is the gap between the information we understand and the information that we think that we must understand. (NOT From Wikipedia, but free anyway) One of the ironies of having the web is that a needle in the haystack is a lot easier to find – but there are now thousands of needles, the size of the haystack is astronomically larger, and increasingly the haystack is itself made up of needles. So, the problem now is… Which Needle?
  3. 3. Sometimes, an idea is just an idea Sometimes a language has an expression that does not even exist in other languages. But within a given language, the more common problem is that synonyms wipe out the clarity of distinctions. In American English, people will often say that one word has different meanings in different contexts. But more often our problem is that we use different words as if their differences don’t matter. Luckily, it is possible to rediscover their practical distinctions, by comparing many circumstances of use to each other, and noting what is usually absent in one that is usually present in the other. In that way, we were able to expose the differences shown below. Net: all thoughts are ideas, but not all ideas are thoughts. As a result, sometimes the best idea may never be acknowledged, while other ideas still get to be celebrated. IDEA An intellectual creation and observation. Problem: lots and lots of these simply go unnoticed THOUGHT An idea as formed for communication and re-use. Problem: mismatches between opportunity and skill are common CONCEPT A pairing of a thought and a situation. Problem: this is easily restricted by habits and preferences Meanwhile, in the Not Leader camp, we see that these issues have not been solved… © 2013 Malcolm Ryder / archestra
  4. 4. A Brief Anti-History of “Thought” Leadership Since the 1990’s, we’ve spent a lot of time talking and asking about thought leadership. But all of it depends on the same thing: handling IDEAS. Handling ideas is not rocket science. Mostly, we’re busy telling ideas or using them, with ourselves, or with others. An awful lot of the time we are busy telling ideas to ourselves, and using the ones we prefer. When we involve other people, things can get pretty elaborate, but it’s hard to come up with anything that isn’t covered by either giving them ideas or explaining ideas to them. That said, there are four basic major opportunities to “lead” the handling of ideas; yet only certain ones get broadly acknowledged under “thought leadership”. Hmmm… TELLING HANDLING IDEAS USING With SELF THINKING MAKING With OTHERS EXPLAINING SUPPLYING Four options. Equal importance, but, for some reason, not equal airtime… © 2013 Malcolm Ryder / archestra
  5. 5. Idea Leaders It’s tough being an Idea leader. For many people who try, being a top handler of ideas risks being on a fairly insecure, or at least testy, path. TELLING USING With SELF THINKING MAKING With OTHERS EXPLAINING SUPPLYING SURVIVAL RATES: Absolutely dismal: laid off, no tenure, burned at the stake, robbed, disgraced… you’ve seen it. Much better than the above: but how much fun is it perpetrating information overload and dealing with your critics? And… it could get worse. Because…
  6. 6. So, who wants to Lead? Although there are four basic opportunities to handle ideas, there are just three basic kinds of leaders to worry about. You find them hanging out in certain places, in a variety of roles… But the roles don’t make them leaders. Having a role is necessary but insufficient... WHAT? HOW? INNOVATORS Make new ideas Inventors: propose Analysts: validate TEACHERS Show how ideas make sense Designers: arrange Performers: demonstrate PROMOTERS Be a share point for ideas Curators: collect Presenters: distribute Studios, Labs Research Libraries, Stores © 2013 Malcolm Ryder / archestra
  7. 7. Sounds Like A Job For Marketing Assuming the IDEA people are doing their thing, there are also just three basic tricks to helping them survive. You find these being done by a variety of roles, too… They are busy working the market for “concepts”... SURVIVAL. Fame, even. HOW? AGENTS Represent the thinker or idea IDEA branding (packaging) BROKERS Match ideas to occasions THOUGHT branding (scope, purpose) SPONSORS Commission production & supply CONCEPT branding (identity, credit) Intelligence, Insight Markets Value, Access © 2013 Malcolm Ryder / archestra
  8. 8. Knowledge as a Product Innovators who have Agents get a lot closer to emerging from the research community as candidate contributors in the market for concepts. Teachers and Brokers (e.g., schools, publishers, the Media) create the channels in which contributions flow to recommended consideration and positions. Promoters and Sponsors are a strong combination for generating the availability of thoughts for groups that already have a situation in common. The most successful contributors here get known as Leaders. Their most important function here is not to “originate” ideas, but to communicate and rate them, as thoughts in a highvisibility location for audiences. That is, leaders rise to the occasion…
  9. 9. Where Did This All Come From, Anyway? In the 1990’s, an Editor at a magazine from a prestigious Consulting firm interviewed a person who the editor decided had business ideas that merited attention, and designated that person a “thought leader”. Today, such interviews would be published on the web, with the same goal of cultivating attention to the meritorious ideas held by a selected person. Top questions for ersatz Thought Leaders: • How do I get picked, by someone I want to pick me? • What makes the idea(s) that I have rewarding? • Who’s going to notice, and why? If you can spot someone’s agent, broker and sponsor, you might be looking at a thought leader in the making.
  10. 10. The Big Draw: Intelligence and Insights Thoughts are readily recognizable by type. Some thoughts are the leading products in the marketplace of concepts. Because of leadership and the mechanisms that support it, they stand out in an ocean of research, especially with relevance to the situations that motivate us to increase or fortify our knowledge holdings. TYPE OF VALUE DISCOVERIES USAGE PRODUCT MANAGEMENT IDEA branding (packaging) MODELS THOUGHT branding (scope, purpose) INSTRUCTION ADVICE CONCEPT branding (identity, credit)
  11. 11. Why we want thought leaders What if we didn’t have thought leaders like this? We would still have Experts, Critics, Editors, Curators, and Consultants – and they are in abundant supply almost everywhere. It’s not that the top people in these groups are not leaders; instead, some of them operate additionally and publicly, with more or less success, beyond those roles. The question is, what are they doing additionally, that gives us something we don’t already have? Despite the name, thought “Leadership” is not only something “pulling” audiences along. Instead it’s actually something being “pulled by” audiences – namely, it’s meeting audience demand. Without thought leaders, there are plenty of great thinkers and plenty of potentially great concepts, but they are harder to choose and more difficult to follow in the timeframes and circumstances that we increasingly prefer. In effect, through the impact of branding and publicity, certain persons become focal points heightening the availability and recognition of significant concepts, when we need them.
  12. 12. How To Follow Thought Leaders The top benefit of thought leaders is that they make the impossibly large world of ideas manageable by us. A lot of this comes about through successful branding. And that empowers us to shop. But does this mean that brand loyalty is a requirement for being a good follower? Isn’t it a “given” that if knowledge is not changing then it is failing? The answer is, the most important changes in knowledge are the ones that change your own knowledge. This means that the thought leaders that matter the most are the ones that can give you something you don’t already have. That “thing” should be ideas, but also, it could be an example of how to act as a thought leader if you decide to switch sides. A thought leader’s best follower is a new follower. “A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another. If the consumer (whether it’s a business, a buyer, a voter or a donor) doesn’t pay a premium, make a selection or spread the word, then no brand value exists for that consumer.” – Seth Godin, Thought Leader

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