Tag Archives: growth

Thought Leadership Builds Firm Value

Thought Leadership Builds Firm ValueConsulting firms sell expertise, and their currency is trust. Large consultancies like Boston Consulting Group, Bain, McKinsey, Deloitte, Accenture and others make their money from being a trusted advisor to companies around the world. Why do companies trust them?

One reason is that companies always value an external perspective, and there is a large army of alumni from these firms in organizations around the world guiding their leadership to choose their former employer as that external perspective or that extra pair of hands needed in tackling a large strategic challenge.

But there are also several other considerations that factor into an organizations choice of a trusted advisor, including:

  1. Previous experience
  2. Industry expertise
  3. Area of practice specialty (Strategy, HR, Innovation, Finance, M&A, Technology, etc.)
  4. Personal relationships
  5. Thought leadership

The resulting client work creates staffing plans within consultancies to provide billable hours for project execution. And, while most consulting firms spring to life and find early success because of the strength of their thought leadership, in general, over time most consulting firms tend to under-invest in thought leadership and as a consequence they find themselves vulnerable to new entrants nibbling around the edges of their core business and see their growth slow and eventually turn negative. Thought leadership generates the initial creation and success of the firm and leads to millions of dollars, or potentially even billions of dollars, of revenue for the consulting firm, but despite this fact, most consultancies under-invest in thought leadership.

Part of the reason for the inevitable decline in the firm’s thought leadership investments occurs because thought leadership is rarely anyone’s primary focus inside most consulting firms. Thought leadership is usually seen as the responsibility of the partners and principals of the firm AFTER they meet their revenue goals. How frequently are these people likely to have the time or energy to create the kind of quality and revolutionary thought leadership that leads to the sustaining or expansionary growth that every firm desires?

What we end up with is a level of thought leadership inside most firms that in the best case leads to a maintenance of the firm’s existing business, and in the worst case either no new thought leadership is created, or that which is created, is insufficient to maintain the firm’s current level of business.

A successful partner in most firms keeps their people busy and possibly creates some growth in billable hours for the firm, but rarely will you find that partners are able to create thought leadership capable of creating whole new lines of business. Not through any fault of their own, but because they simply don’t have the time to do it all.

To make things worse, the world is changing…

It used to be that information was scarce and external knowledge was valued by the client.

Now information is freely available and knowledge can thus be created within the client.

An increasing number of companies are therefore relying on their employees to educate themselves, while also creating their own internal consultancies, and relying less on external consultancies as a result.

At the same time, companies are becoming less open to being sold consulting services and instead more focused on becoming buyers of consulting services. And where do companies turn when they seek to be educated buyers of consulting services?

To the thought leadership they can find online from the different consulting firms in their consideration set. This is part of the reason for the rising importance of inbound marketing and content marketing as part of the marketing mix in all industries, but consulting firms are struggling to identify and provide the content necessary to help them maintain (and possibly extend) their success in this new environment.

And, even with all of these changes, most traditional consulting firms still hire traditional consultants and fail to hire people with established social media visibility, great content creation skills, the ability to get published, and the ability to help traditional consultants create both sustaining and revolutionary thought leadership. Firms are still hiring round pegs for their round holes to generate thousands of dollars a year in revenue and ignoring the square pegs with these skills that could generate millions of dollars in new revenue per year for the firm.

Marketing and advertising agencies operate in a similar client-firm ecosystem, but their value proposition is more tilted towards selling creativity and execution. In these industries we’ve seen huge consolidation driven by the need to acquire the new thought leadership, creativity and execution necessary to keep their existing clients, and we’re starting to see the same dynamics in the business consulting market.

The value of thought leadership and employees capable of creating and facilitating the execution of a great content marketing strategy driven by thought leadership, cannot be underestimated.

If anyone doubts the value boost of a thought leader to a firm, even outside the consulting market, ask yourself:

How much did Steve Jobs add to the value of Apple?

How much value did Jack Welch add to the value of GE?

How much value does Elon Musk bring to Tesla Motors?

Great thought leaders and thought leadership add a tremendous amount of value to the brand equity and the value of the firm, so why don’t consulting firms pay more attention to attracting or cultivating great internal thought leaders and thought leadership facilitators within their firms?

How much is a thought leader worth to you?

Do you need one?

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Whither Innovation in Indiana?

Whither Innovation in Indiana?Now that I’ve got your attention, let’s talk about homosexuality and whether it has any impact on innovation. There probably are two no more polarizing topics in the United States than homosexuality and abortion. But the truth is that if both sides of the political and religious spectrum focused on the golden rule, there would be less corruption, we’d all be a lot happier, probably have more innovation, and our politics would be more productive.

Today we have another great case study for how short people’s attention spans have gotten, how the government can help or hinder innovation, how little investigative journalism still remains in the United States, and how easily people are swayed by a soundbite that runs contrary to (or in support of) their own personal religious or political beliefs.

But this article isn’t going to be some diatribe in support or opposition to Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) legislation (referred to by the media as an anti-gay law) because I freely admit I don’t fully understand all of the implications of a similar federal law and whether federal protections for gays apply to the state law.

Instead I’d like to focus briefly on what this controversy brings to mind for me in regards to the efforts of hard-working folks attempting to stimulate innovation in Indiana (and elsewhere).

Point #1: People Must Feel Safe to Innovate

If we take Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs as gospel (okay, maybe that’s dangerous word choice), then safety is one of the most important needs for people, and in order to innovate people must feel safe. True innovation usually requires taking risks and doing things in a new way, and if people feel that trying something new or even just being different has a high price, then people won’t step out of their comfort zone and push the boundaries of conventional wisdom. So if we are truly trying to do everything we can to inspire innovation in our region, shouldn’t we also try to do everything we can to make it feel like a place where it is safe to be different and where that difference is potentially even celebrated?

Point #2: Diversity is Important (to a point)

We all look at the same situation through different eyes and a different history of experiences, values and beliefs. This diversity can help create different idea fragments that can be connected together to create revolutionary new ideas with the potential to become innovations. But at the same time, having some shared experiences helps to make it easier to communicate and to have a higher level of trust (assuming those experiences were good ones). So if we are truly trying to do everything we can to inspire innovation in our region, shouldn’t we also do everything we can to make different groups of people look to our region as a good place to move to so we have a diverse talent pool?

Conclusion: If Culture Trumps Strategy, Environment Trumps Startups

The world is changing. It used to be that companies started and grew in the community where they were founded, hiring increasing numbers of people from the surrounding areas and attracting others from elsewhere. Now, an increasing number of companies (especially digital ones) are moving to more distributed models where they create satellite offices where the talent is rather than trying to attract all of the talent to a single location.

Economically this is meaning that it is becoming less important that the next Facebook starts in your town than it is for the next Facebook to want to have an office in your town. This means that for cities, counties, states and countries, the greater economic impact is likely to be made not from trying to encourage lots of startups, but instead from trying to create an environment that young, talented people choose to live in.

And when you create a place that is attractive for smart, creative people to move to, you know what, you’re likely to end up not just with more growing digital companies seeking a presence, but also a larger number of startups than if you started with the goal of specifically trying to encourage startups.

Does your region focus on creating startups as the primary goal or on making itself an attractive place for a young, diverse and talented population to live?

Does this uproar help Indiana establish its as an attractive place to be, or work against that perception?

I’ll let you decide!

P.S. If you’re curious, here are The Metro Areas With the Largest, and Smallest, Gay Populations (for what it’s worth, Indianapolis isn’t on either list)

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Eight I’s of Infinite Innovation – PDF Version

Eight I's of Infinite Innovation - PDF VersionIn the wake of my hugely popular article on Innovation Excellence I’ve decided to make it available as a PDF.

Download the Eight I’s of Infinite Innovation PDF now

Some authors talk about successful innovation being the sum of idea plus execution, others talk about the importance of insight and its role in driving the creation of ideas that will be meaningful to customers, and even fewer about the role of inspiration in uncovering potential insight. But innovation is all about value and each of the definitions, frameworks, and models out there only tell part of the story of successful innovation.

To achieve sustainable success at innovation, you must work to embed a repeatable process and way of thinking within your organization, and this is why it is important to have a simple common language and guiding framework of infinite innovation that all employees can easily grasp. If innovation becomes too complex, or seems too difficult then people will stop pursuing it, or supporting it.

Some organizations try to achieve this simplicity, or to make the pursuit of innovation seem more attainable, by viewing innovation as a project-driven activity. But, a project approach to innovation will prevent it from ever becoming a way of life in your organization. Instead you must work to position innovation as something infinite, a pillar of the organization, something with its own quest for excellence – a professional practice to be committed to.

So, if we take a lot of the best practices of innovation excellence and mix them together with a few new ingredients, the result is a simple framework organizations can use to guide their sustainable pursuit of innovation – the Eight I’s of Infinite Innovation. This new framework anchors what is a very collaborative process. Here is the framework and some of the many points organizations must consider during each stage of the continuous process…

To continue reading, download the PDF

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Innovation Quotes of the Day – April 18, 2012

“Sometimes the hardest thing in life is to know which bridge to cross and which to burn.”

– From the movie ‘The International’

“Incremental innovations can often be explained to customers, but disruptive innovations often require you to educate them on how they will fit into their life.”

– Braden Kelley

“Acquire with the intention to retain, and retain with the intention to grow.”

– Lester Wunderman

What are some of your favorite innovation quotes?

Add one or more to the comments, listing the quote and who said it, and I’ll share the best of the submissions as future innovation quotes of the day!

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