Keen to stay ahead of the curve, or at least to know what curve they’re falling behind, our clients often want to know what the latest trends are in thought leadership. And they’re usually relieved to hear that, from our vantage point–looking across all the content created by all the firms we follow, the pace of change appears surprisingly slow.
It’s somewhat ironic that while working on content designed to deliver cutting-edge thinking, firms are slow to leverage cutting-edge thinking in the way they create and deliver that content. But it would be wrong to assume nothing is changing. In the words of science-fiction writer William Gibson, “The future is here–it’s just not very evenly distributed.” Here are some examples of the future, from the world of thought leadership, that we expect to become at least a little more evenly distributed in 2019:
- Innovative approaches to research. If firms do carry out primary research, they’re still very likely to use a survey. However, all too often surveys provide statistics that confirm what executives already know, or don’t care about. In contrast, some creators of thought leadership have developed an innovative approach to highlighting an issue or supporting a solution. We first spotted a good example back in 2015 when BearingPoint researchers called customer service departments to understand if they were able to answer questions about connected car technologies–see Upgrade customer services, or risk falling behind. And we’ve seen other good examples in the interim–Accenture, Deloitte, and McKinsey immediately come to mind. 2019 could be the year when alternatives to the standard survey become the norm.
- Data and analytics capabilities applied to thought leadership. Despite firms’ abilities to leverage all kinds of clever approaches to helping their clients get more from their data, very few thought leadership teams go beyond the basic analysis techniques that have been available for decades. Deloitte was the first firm we saw leverage more sophisticated data and analytics approaches, back in 2015–see Accountability quantified: What 26 years of GAO reports can teach us about government management. Deloitte continues to apply its data & analytics capabilities to thought leadership; we hope to see more firms follow in their footsteps in 2019.
- Leveraging research across a variety of formats. Our research with buyers of consulting services* highlights a variety of format preferences. For example, there are those who love videos and those who never watch them, those who read content on their mobile and those who prefer to print out a traditional-looking report. Despite this array of client preferences, the majority of thought leadership is presented in just one take-it-or-leave-it format. Accenture was one of the first firms, with its Technology Vision, to come to our attention in terms of presenting its research in a variety of formats. The firm–see Technology Vision 2018–continues to provide an array of options including video, a 20-minute short report, an audiobook, a 10-minute SlideShare, and the 45-minute full report. While it's clearly more work to present content in numerous formats, it's also clear that this is the best way of ensuring that the work that has already been done is used by your target audience. While perhaps not offering quite so many options as Accenture, we do think the majority of leading firms will consistently offer a few different options for each piece of research by the end of 2019.