Thought Leadership Tip 5: Forward-thinking

Published: 30 October 2017

How do you see your business, your industry, in 10 or 20 years’ time?

We shouldn’t be in the business of making assertions with absolutely no evidence base at all. But an element of speculation can be productive where you’ve got the experience and expertise to demonstrate your opinion has weight.

Astronomers recently discovered two black holes spinning, crashing and merging together to form a mass 52 times the size of the Sun. The merge was so powerful that telescopes detected gravitational waves from this near-invisible cataclysm in a galaxy far, far away (an astrological first), but what they’re calling a “neutron star merger” actually occurred a staggering two billion years ago.

Looking into space, it turns out, can only mean staring at the past.

Here on earth, the future may as well be happening now; it comes at us faster than ever before. And, unlike astrologers, we have the luxury of being able to examine our present challenges and opportunities as they’re happening, so we can actively uncover its secrets.

But is it the job of thought leadership to gaze into the future?

Some believe it should be grounded only in what we can tangibly see; that too much future gazing should be off the tarots cards, so to speak. But thought leadership is all about having the courage to predict and shape what happens next. It’s about better controlling your own destiny before someone else does.

Of course, we shouldn’t be in the business of making assertions with absolutely no evidence base at all. But an element of speculation can be productive where you’ve got the experience and expertise to demonstrate your opinion has weight.

Start with a few big questions. How do you see your business, your industry, in 10 or 20 years’ time? What opportunities or problems can you expect to arise that have the potential to bring unimaginable change? Are these in any way, shape or form on your leadership’s radar?

Then, bring together a cross-section of people to uncover emerging trends and discuss how they’re relevant to you and your clients or customers. If you think you’ve discovered an untouched area, consider how you can learn more about it through listening and research, so you can educate the business in future strategies and communicate with your network and the wider public about how their existence could change and what they can do about it.

Failing to confront big and difficult changes up ahead only leads to the belief that things are much worse and more hopeless than they have ever been. Challenges become uniquely threatening instead of having a familiar set of questions at their root. Nothing works out as planned, and everything has unintentional consequences, but companies must be in the business of forming opinions about their potential futures in order to thoughtfully consider their options.

You do not lose your credibility by failing to accurately predict the future. You earn a reputation for trying to take care of what could happen ahead of time.

In the same way that the merger of two black holes created a new space and disrupted the energy around it, so too can thought leadership. To practise thought leadership is to find an area of white space relevant to your business and to try and change the behaviour within it.

Lao Lee
Trainee Consultant

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