Something has been bothering me about thought leadership for a little while now. It has turned into a content marketing cliche. Its importance has become inflated.
Ideas-Led Growth: Going Beyond Thought Leadership
In reality, thought leadership content is simply one tool among many to do something bigger, which is to advocate for change and rally people around it. We need a better term to describe those bigger aspirations and that higher impact. That concept is what I call "ideas-led growth."
Thought leadership sits inside ideas-led growth as a valuable mechanism for communicating ideas publicly. When it's done well (clearly written and developed with audience impact in mind), it can legitimately create change. It influences the way people see their challenges, understand their situation and opportunities, and imagine better outcomes for themselves. That can, in turn, help prime the pump for a buying decision at the micro-level and for moving an industry forward at the macro level.
How Ideas Lead Growth
The potential created with thought leadership is exactly why expanding the concept matters. Thought leadership articulates a point of view that stands at the center of a large-scale idea about what better means. For example, an idea about an asset class can promote services to support that asset class, educate employees, fuel market leadership, and even influence industry factors such as regulatory issues.
An idea for better motivates change. It drives innovation and conviction. It drives organizational change, industry evolution, and commercial success. It achieves growth.
What Defines an Ideas-Led Organization
Achieving more in a market defined by competition means establishing a leadership position. An ideas-led organization goes further:
- Has leaders who openly and persuasively advocate for better
- Creates internal alignment around what better means
- Establishes market leadership by making better possible for its clients
- Drives its industry forward by raising the stakes for why better is better
- Achieves continuous creative evolution that advances the definition and value of better
The Virtuous Cycle of Ideas-Led Growth
Ideas-led growth is a virtuous cycle of execution, with marketing and communication at the vanguard for making better happen by making it visible to as large and as relevant an audience as possible.
It’s both a mindset and a method. And I call it GRACE for the five parts of that virtuous cycle.
You start the process by generating new ideas and insights. They don’t have to change the world. They just have to matter within your specific context. Some of my clients achieve this on very specialized topics. The starting point is to survey the landscape to understand what’s missing and how your ideas go beyond the status quo.
Ideas are just the beginning. You also have to reorient what you do and how you do it. If your idea is about making something better (most ideas should be), you first have to make sure it brings about internal change. Ideas become the driving force for marketing, sales, product development, and every public-facing aspect of your business.
Acting on what you say means putting your thought leadership into practice. Tech leaders will create a proof of concept, or service providers a client success story. Yes, thought leadership and position papers are part of the process, but you have to build something credible first.
You have to share your idea to make it happen. That means writing, speaking, sharing with others. Traditional thought leadership content creation gets stuck somewhere in the middle of this part. But, in reality, it’s only one element. It can be formal or informal, even just in important conversations that get your idea across.
Yesterday’s ideas can become old news. You want to build on a foundation. Business leaders do this by building new products or features on top of their ideas, new ideas on top of existing products, messages that express new realities, and realities that manifest new messages. It has to be a continual process or renewal from within ideas, or you fall behind.
A Critical Pivot
For all these reasons, I'm moving away beyond just thought leadership. Instead, the goal is to help clients create and sustain ideas-led growth. In other words, the focus will be on the way in which ideas become the driving force behind growth, revenue growth, capabilities growth, and possibilities growth.
I believe in this concept so much that I'm making it the center of everything my company does. Over the next few weeks, we'll be retiring the name Syncresis for our public-facing activities, with new digital properties and handles. We'll be launching new products that help clients master ideas-led growth. We'll be sharing tools financial innovators and any builders of better can use. And to begin that process, I'm also changing the name of this newsletter to Ideas-Led Growth.
Practicing What I Preach (or What’s Better About Ideas-Led Growth)
Ideas-Led Growth is my idea for better, for helping clean up the attentional wreckage left behind by content marketing and the destructive absurdities of replacing meaning with content. I want to start building new things again. Tired of squatting on other people's content properties. Looking for a more welcoming place than a frozen wasteland snowed under by too much pointless content. It’s simple. Better is possible.
Get on the Idea Sled with me and let's see where we can go!
Three Grace Notes
"Our senses dulled, our attention lost to the world, we created, in our inward turning, a quiet cave wherein a new layer of Earth could first shape itself and come to life. But surely it’s time now to hatch this new stratum, to waken our senses from their screen-dazzled swoon, and so to offer this power back to the more-than-human terrain." — David Abrams, Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology
"'Content providers.' What a phrase! Could any expression register devastation of the human spirit more completely than that casual little generic? Could meaning suffer a more complete evacuation? Not since we landed on the moon and found nothing has our cultural unconscious encountered so traumatic a void." —Thomas de Zengotita, Mediated: How the Media Shapes Your World and the Way You Live in It
"If, of course, one wants to be a publicist for something; if you believe you are a philosopher first and Nietzsche second; if you think the gift of prophecy has been given you; then, by all means, write your bad poems, your insufferable fictions, enjoy the fame that easy ideas often offer, ride the flatulent winds of change, fly like the latest fad to the nearest dead tree; but do not try to count the seasons of your oblivion." — William Gass, Life Sentences: Literary Judgments and Accounts
Note: The links above are affiliate links. I'm using them in lieu of paid subscription tiers or digital tip jars. Seems like a much more graceful way to generate financial support while sharing more thinking and writing that can guide thought leadership.