Monthly Archives: July 2016

The New Thought Leadership: “We think. And therefore we solve.”

Thought leaders. Many of us would love to be one, but what exactly are they?

From my experience of helping many business and political leaders find their voice, a thought leader is someone who has the expertise and authority to be sought-after for their views. The very best of them use their thoughts and opinions to catapult themselves to the centre of a debate – and in so doing drive their organisations forward.

Watch out though. What we call “thought leadership”, like leadership itself, is changing rapidly. The “Henry V” style days of “I think and therefore I am (a thought leader)” are quickly disappearing. Instead we are hurtling towards something much more in keeping with the advance of the collaborative nature of society:

“We think. And therefore we solve.”

Today’s thought leaders shouldn’t expect to have the first, middle and last words on any subject at all. The once mighty leadership and management “gurus” of the past are on the run. They remain crucial catalysts because, as the name suggests, they are able to lead a conversation with their views. Their value lies in challenging others to think about the issues yet they, along with the once all powerful doctors and lawyers, will have to expect far more challenge than ever before – and thank goodness for that. They must be ready, willing and able to be improved by the colourful feedback they will receive from readers, viewers, voters, employees or customers, all of whom are rightly impatient for actions and solutions to give credence to all the wise words.

“We think. And therefore we solve.” 

Modern collaborative thought leadership has the potential to become a highly valuable and cathartic process for those we once put on a pedestal. Any expert who has written a book, a paper or even a blog will tell you that they enjoyed a far greater clarity of thought on a subject after they went through the process of having to justify their thoughts to critical friends, colleagues, or even their publisher.

So there is a new era emerging, one in which thought leaders don’t even try to pretend that they have all the answers – because we and they know that no one has. We rightly look to them for a sense of direction, but the best actively seek the knowledge of others in return.

We need thought leaders to tell us, with genuine confidence: “I think I get the big picture. To me that means X, Y and Z – but don’t hold back. Tell me if I’m wrong.”

So, tell me if I’m wrong! 🙂

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Merriborn Media is a business dedicated to developing clever content, engaged online communities and effective collaborative working and learning for clients. Both Merriborn Media and its founder Trevor Merriden were ranked in the Top 3 of social learning evangelists for 2016 in a recent major study.

Contempt for the audience is the real problem with plagiarism

Do you care that Melania Trump is accused of plagiarism when making a speech in support of her husband? Mrs Trump and her speechwriters may be squirming with embarrassment – and the political commentators may have received a gift of a news story – yet by itself this is a “here-today-gone-tomorrow” sort of affair. What’s far more worrying to me is what the story tells us a lot about the lack of originality of thought when creating fresh content, whether in politics, business or wider society.

If the allegations are true – and you can make up your own mind on that – then I’m  surprised that Mrs Trump’s speechwriter could be so naïve as to pick up paragraphs wholesale from the lips of an arch political rival. Yet I wouldn’t blame him or her per sefor looking at past “First-Lady-In-Waiting” speeches for inspiration.

That’s because Inspiration and plagiarism are very different things. There is nothing wrong at all with looking to others for inspiration. And in politics or business, there is nothing wrong either with taking a sneaky peek at what your rivals are up to – you wouldn’t last long if you didn’t. And there is nothing wrong even with borrowing parts of a good idea from elsewhere, as long as you give credit where it is due, and thenapplying it to particular needs or circumstances.

Applying it to particular needs or circumstances – that’s the key phrase here. The problem I have with any form of plagiarism is not only that it demonstrates poor levels of morality. It also shows us a self-defeating unwillingness to think about an issue in terms relevant to the reader, the voter, the employee or the customer.

In the process, plagiarism treats all readers, viewers and listeners with contempt. The needs of all are very different in 2016 from even a year ago – and the failure to recognise this tells us far more about why politicians are distrusted and why businesses go bust.

If you can’t put yourself in the shoes of those you are addressing and adapt what you say or write to show that you understand their particular needs at a particular point in time, then you cannot hope to succeed.

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Merriborn Media is a business dedicated to developing clever content, engaged online communities and effective collaborative working and learning for clients. Both Merriborn Media and its founder Trevor Merriden were ranked in the Top 3 of social learning evangelists for 2016 in a recent major study.