Business growth can be enabled in many ways, yet most corporations still focus on the most traditional ways – whether sales, new products, new markets, new brands, mergers and acquisitions, etc. What many corporations don’t seem to value and/or understand is the power of knowledge sharing. Let’s face it, we are all being challenged to deal with change management in every aspect of our business and no one has all of the answers that the 21t century global market has presented us with. As such, this represents a unique opportunity for corporations and their leaders to cross pollinate knowledge with clients and strategic partners to enable growth and innovation through the power of thought leadership.
Thought leadership is clearly a different type of growth strategy for corporations. Consulting and service companies – such as McKinsey, PwC, Deloitte, IBM and others – have been at the forefront of thought leadership. Corporations must now begin to assess, package and share their own best practices, knowledge-sets, case studies and highly skilled and talented leaders to serve as value-added resources to fuel business growth.
null It requires an organization to share what it is known for — the hallmark of its brand reputation — by being transparent about its best practices and sharing them with clients. It requires its leadership to let go of the past and focus on the present for the betterment of its future and that of its clients. It requires a corporation to think differently about industry standards and accept that the traditional ways of doing things may no longer be as relevant as they once were – and collaborate with clients to solve for the future together. Thought leadership is about introducing new ways of thinking that will reinvent industries and significantly impact business models, the marketplace, employees, consumers and the workplace.
Today’s corporate leaders must be potent pioneers — blazing new paths few would go down and having the courage to see them all the way through to the end. To be a pioneer, you need to trust yourself enough to share the unique ways that you think as a thought leader, continually testing your constructively disruptive ideas and ideals. Beyond business growth, thought leadership can fuel growth and opportunities for employee engagement and infuse excitement back into a workplace culture. Employees want their executives to be more vocal in sharing their perspectives about the future. They want leaders that are proactive about informing them of what’s upon the horizon so they can prepare themselves for what’s next and contribute in more meaningful and purposeful ways. Employees have grown tired of the next PowerPoint presentation and want to know more about their executive leaders – who they are as people and what really drives their thinking. Employees want their leaders to know that they are just as aware of change management requirements for growth as their leaders. Employees want more cross pollination of sharing since everyone sees the business through a different lens – and this is when diversity of thought can be a breakthrough.
It’s time for corporations to showcase their executives as thought leaders that can strengthen client and supply chain relationships by discovering new ways to make things better in order to grow better together. Diversity of thought is undervalued and misunderstood because people just want to hear themselves talk about what they believe are the right solutions – rather than being more open-minded to embrace new perspectives, regardless of hierarchy or rank. This is why there are so many self-proclaimed thought leaders inside of corporations who are not being taken seriously enough and who associate themselves with leeches and loafers rather than lifters and leaders. These are the leaders that are too disruptive and make it difficult for change management to happen with the required clarity and alignment of thought.
Strategic growth requires a deep understanding of what a company is great at doing and identifying those developmental areas that will allow – it to optimally flourish. Yes, you can hire consultants to solve your problems – but they should now play an even more hands-on facilitation role where they can help you connect the dots, see them more clearly and understand the opportunities for growth within each interconnection point – as you seek to build more holistic relationships with your clients who share your vision, best practices and strategic plans for your future. In a world fueled with change, high-touch, high-trust and highly collaborative relationships are in order. Be more strategic and collaborative about how you engage in the process of change and the role that knowledge sharing plays.
As you begin to use thought leadership as a strategy for business growth and innovation, here are seven questions that will get you started as your organization continues its transformation process during this time of change management.
1. What Do You Solve For?
Know what your organization can solve for most effectively and showcase your solution-sets. The changing landscape of the marketplace has made it more difficult for organizations to identify what they are great at solving for – both internally with their employees and externally with clients and supply chain partners.
You have existing clients and business development prospects that can greatly benefit from the competencies and capabilities that you can offer. Allow thought leadership to overcome the traps associated with the dangers of complacency that can lead to the commoditization of your business. Stop being order takers and allow thought leadership to provide a value-added component to your business model that strengthens your marketplace reputation and makes your client relationships more profitable.
2. Who Are the Game Changers?
Those leaders in your organization that are applying new ways of thinking to propel growth, innovation and opportunity are the game changers. They are the ones that intimately know the mechanics involved with each line of business, trends, recent challenges, competitive pressures and where the growth opportunities exist. Game changers represent those in your innovation lab that champion ideas and fuel new thinking.
They are not afraid to change the conversation as corporate entrepreneurs and constructive disruptors that seek to change paradigms, challenge the status quo and enhance existing business models and client relationships.
3. What Are the Most Impactful Best Practices?
Existing best practices are the protocols and methods used to operate more efficiently and effectively. These operating methodologies and frameworks transcend time and new marketplace demands.
Based on your clients, lines of business and industry change management requirements – how can your best practices fuel growth for your business when shared and implemented with your clients. Talking about your best practices is a conversation you should be well-prepared to have, making it less likely you’ll be blindsided because you didn’t think through all the issues. You might even own a subject matter that could reinvent your industry.
4. Where Are the Subject Matter Experts (SME)?
Identify the experts of your business and those people that have witnessed transformation over the years and have implemented proven solutions. Don’t get them confused with the game changers; these are the ones that touch the business and every aspect of it, every day. They are the leaders that have lived the long history of client relationships and know their counterparts in the industry you serve. They have become experts as a result of their experience and in many cases are known as the thought leaders in your company.
Subject matter experts are the go-to knowledge resource and they are the ones that can guide growth strategies and provide the best recommendations for implementation. They know where the traps exist and what has historically worked and not worked in the past – and the present.
5. What Are the Innovative Breakthroughs?
Identify the innovative breakthroughs that made your organization stronger and that allow you to serve your clients better. What are the new technologies introduced and strategic investments made that your business and your clients have benefited from?
Many times there are breakthroughs in an organization that are not viewed as such – but that your clients and industry would benefit from. Always be mindful of the new ways you are thinking and how you are moving the business forward. Don’t assume that others wouldn’t see it as an innovation. Leverage every innovation for the betterment of your organization, its people, brand and client relations. You don’t always need to compare yourself to innovators like Google, Samsung and Apple. Breakthroughs come in all shapes and sizes. The key is that your breakthrough can be measured and shared with your clients to propel growth and opportunity.
6. Where Do the Real Relationships Exist?
Assess the relationships that are demonstrating real value and that stimulate growth, innovation and opportunity. Like breakthroughs, the best relationships come in different shapes and sizes. Some relationships are cost centers, others are profit centers.
Not all client relationships are fully optimized because it takes time to see beyond the most obvious opportunities. It’s difficult to explore the opportunities for abundance with clients when your portfolio of products and services may only represent the surface of what your corporation is fully capable of delivering.
The key is to know which relationships are adding value to your brand, products, services and people. Evaluate your supply chain and the strategic partnerships embedded throughout the chain. Once you have identified them, share your success stories, the best practices they helped you create, the impact on employee morale, a new client relationship, the new ways you approached and set-forth the standard for building relationships and the role they play to fuel growth of your business.
7. What Are the Desired Outcomes?
Explore your current revenue streams and the parts of your business that generate the desired outcomes after you have identified the aforementioned points 1 – 6. Corporate growth strategies are about driving real measureable and sustainable results that impact the bottom line. The investment in corporate growth can be costly and risky. This is why it is so important to discover new ways to capture growth through strategic knowledge sharing / thought leadership that makes your corporation stand out from the crowd.
Thought leadership allows you and your clients to broaden each other’s observations of what’s possible to cultivate expansive innovation – and through this process create greater strategic focus to determine the most probable opportunities to seize the greatest potential in the relationship. The result: you realize the power that is inherent by sharing the momentum of the success and significance that you are both capable of creating with one another.
Remember this: we are transitioning from a knowledge based to a wisdom based economy. It’s no longer about what you know – but what you do with what you know. In the wisdom based economy, it’s always about trust, transparency and collaboration. A client relationship is about adding value in everything you do and how you do it. Everyone wants to grow during this time of uncertainty where many are reinventing themselves to find their footing – you must position your organization and its leaders as catalysts for growth through thought leadership.
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