A marketing and PR company offered Techworld a 'thought leadership piece' from a client recently. We avidly looked inside, thinking of thoughts like those from Ludwig Wittgenstein or Bertrand Russell. However, really, we knew it was a doomed task. Marketing always over-promotes its ideas and here, in Techworld's company doctor department, we are always interested in any new corporate folie de grandeur. The first line of this piece read:
"In today’s increasingly competitive market place, businesses know that they need to be able to compete effectively ..."
Ah. Total absence of original thought alert. This is a prime example of verbal inflation. The meaning of the term 'thought leadership' is actually 'meaningless verbal flatulence.'
Max, a colleague, suggested it might be a wheeze one day to write such a piece as it would have been written by Wittgenstein.
1.0 The business is all that there is the case
1.1 The business is made up of money not ideas
He'd like to know exactly how much a) thought and b) leadership went into this piece.
Not a lot I fear.
Peter continued his line of thought:
7. Whereof one cannot deliver, thereof one must not promise.
Well, yes. Indeed.
Thought Leadership syndrome is similar to the emperor having no clothes. Anybody who points out this fact is likely to be given short shrift, particularly in the career progression department.
Ever keen to jump on niche bandwagons and develop their own identities, consultancies offer thought leadership services. Here is a quote from the TFPL website:-
"In the knowledge, information, library, records and content management business, TFPL have considerable experience and a strong reputation for facilitating the development of new understanding and new insights – for facilitating thought leadership."
TFPL even runs an 'an annual thought leadership event.'
This is a prime example of of a potential business cash drain. Stay in a five star hotel. Eat, drink, network, and listen to drivel.
There is even an International Thought Leadership Council. Honestly. I'm not making this up. There must be people somewhere who take this thought leadership idea seriously and pay cash money to pursue it and, hopefully, get it.
Even Wikipedia takes the idiot idea seriously:
"Thought leader is a buzzword or article of jargon used to describe a person who is recognized among his or her peers for innovative ideas and demonstrates the confidence to promote those ideas. The term can also be applied to companies, usually small businesses.
"According to commentators such as Elise Bauer, a distinguishing characteristic of a thought leader is 'the recognition from the outside world that the company deeply understands its business, the needs of its customers, and the broader marketplace in which it operates'."
For a business to think it has thought leadership and can thereby lead the thoughts of customers in the direction of seeing how obviously good it is to buy its products is a beguiling thing to think you have.
But actually it is like wearing copper bracelets and chanting 'hare hare, hare hare' - it is a marketing fantasy designed to flatter the credulous.