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"The world has never been as complex, dynamic and uncertain as it is today and the pace of change will only increase." We hear this consistently, our continual problem is trying to make sense of it.

To attempt to keep up to date we all need to invest increasing time in acquiring a better understanding, a deeper knowledge of all the interconnected parts. Even if we are “time starved” we simply must try and keep moving along in this understanding.

As part of my job, advising others on all things swirling around innovation, I invest significant time in researching, learning and applying what I feel is important to others to understand or at least to raise their awareness.

The rich source of knowledge that comes from the consulting firms.

The emphasis has been on establishing a clear “thought leadership” approach to underpin the consulting expertise. As this is being published in more open ways, it is not just the client that is benefiting from this research or learning but the wider community.

Many of the bigger consulting companies highly value “thought leadership”. Many are presently actively trying to quantify the impact of this thought leadership. At the clients end in a recent survey of 400 CXO’s from www.sourceforconsulting.com found that half of these rarely read thought leadership, so that automatically halves the size of the ‘market’.  But yet….

Yet, critically, of the remaining ‘active’ consumers, between 50% and 65% are surprisingly passing material on, reading more from the same firm, and so on. They are inclined to browse deeper into the website of the firm and extend their reading. But crucially, about a quarter contacted the firm concerned and, in many cases, bought services from them. It does seem thought leadership really can have a direct commercial impact. But not all thought leadership is equal.

The really important sniff test is “so what?”

One of the best sources of consulting news that focuses a fair amount on the “thought leadership” part comes from the company I mentioned above (sourceforconsulting.com). They suggest “thought leadership has come to dominate the marketing activities of consulting firms, and with good cause: our research with clients finds consistent evidence that good thought leadership matters to them, too. It helps them to do their job, to identify where world-class capability exists in consulting firms, and even to shortlist the firms for their projects. So “thought leadership” is becoming a highly valued part of the consulting equation.

As they state: given this is, or is becoming, the primary marketing mechanism for consulting firms, there is little point in producing thought leadership that leaves the reader thinking, “hmmm, interesting”, before tucking the report away in a drawer, never to see the light of day again”.

In their research in 2014, the impact of thought leadership clearly demonstrated that one personal recommendation is much more likely to drive engagement with thought leadership than one email from a faceless firm – and much more likely to be the start of a conversation.

Then we have the consistency test: Sourceforconsulting found firms dividing into three groups: the consistently good (a very small number), the consistently bad (a slightly larger number) and the consistently inconsistent (the biggest group by far). So it does seem thought leadership has some real mileage to go to get better, more consistent and in tune with client needs and the consulting practices expertise.

One consulting firm that I feel is doing a very good job - Deloitte’s US division.

According to the Chairman and CEO of Deloitte Consulting LLP, Jim Moffatt:

"Deloitte is helping clients with their most complex challenges – how to grow globally; how to innovate; how to integrate technology and strategy; how to attract, develop and retain talent – so they can make bold decisions with confidence." I’d buy that so far on their quality of thought leadership.

Deloitte have set up different thinking tanks. An exceptional one is Deloitte University Press who publish some really good original articles, reports, and periodicals that provide insights for businesses, the public sector, and NGOs. They break down their topics into these:


I thought I’d spend a little time raising your interest, curiosity and learning on this.

Within the topics that Deloitte’s focus on, there is clearly a reasonable level of cross over but let me outline some very useful thinking by briefly summarizing the ‘hot spots’ from my perspective, which may differ from your own. I only touch on some points of possible interest:

  • Business Analytics covers Data Science and Analytics. It tackles artificial intelligence and cognitive analysis. It looks at connected learning and the network approach. One good link to explore is Digital Education 2.0: from content to connections.
  • Emerging Technologies discusses Why strategy, not technology, drives digital transformation, and also explores the value of smart devices, IoT and amplified intelligence. It covers the topic of crowdsourcing, crowdfunding and cloud solutions to scale quickly due to diminishing barriers occurring in our business world. Also trend sensing, ecosystems, experimentation and edge scaling are covered here, along with expotential organizations looking for disruption.
  • Innovation offers articles on “Beyond design thinking”, written by Larry Keeley, cofounder of Doblin, of ten types fame and now part of Deloitte. They also discuss minimum viable transformation, and separately, a really interesting Editorial piece on scale and innovation.
  • Risk and Security is a section that covers cyber security, global risks, choices of regulation and different governance models.
  • Sustainability spends significant mileage on smart mobility for many options within businesses, industries or regions of the world. It offers different thinking on options and alternatives on this sustainability question.
  • CFO focus is mostly about the transitions being undertaken in Executive transitions and offers thoughts around time, talent and relationships, making hard choices and letting go.
  • Growth covers a fair amount (at present) on consumer trends, the growth and options to be considered in their different focus industries.
  • Performance is hunting for that “superior business performance”, exploring this in the supply chain, value webs and platform management and in business relationships.
  • Social Impact looks at health, aging, alternative options, scarcity as a podcast, ‘smart’ options, commuting, ride sharing, transport options.
  • Finally Talent, here you have interesting topics like going rogue or connect passion with profession, learning, leadership, engagement, simplification and performance reinventing are nicely covered to stimulate our thinking.

In summary on Deloitte's investment in thought leadership.

Deloitte offers a diverse range of topics, depth in introducing and discussing these on a website that is modern, attractive to engage and look around, and offers numerous different filter options and sign up options. Of course we each have our own focal points but there is increasing value in appreciating different aspects of thought leadership in quality and depth of understanding.

Add the Deloitte consulting arms own web site that covers human capital, strategy, operations and technology, it really delivers in my opinion, a highly professional impression and selection of good research in depth, ease of navigation to draw you in to find what you are looking for and that all important feeling they can add value to you as a client or researcher.

I rate Deloitte as one of the best in this thought leadership space, many of the other bigger consultancies are real laggards in this, which I feel is a mistake in their client / reputation / marketing mix.

Thought leadership is really a very, very big, growing business.

Measuring its impact is not easy for the classic ROI yet, if you can measure the material read and then passed on; you have achieved something highly significant. The screening for value has been pre-edited so that it’s relevancy to the receiver is personally valued, sent by someone who really knows what concerns them – something even the most targeted mailings can’t achieve. If those people are in the position to buy, influence any consulting decision then that is worth millions but more importantly allows the conversations to be on a mutual platform for deepening the discussions. Do you agree?

For me it is not just the passing on but the amount of yellow markers I am applying to these. That is partly my litmus test of quality, interest and learning.

Thought leadership is important to demonstrate today so clients can help “size and fit” the thinking with their challenges. 

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Paul Hobcraft

Paul Hobcraft

Paul Hobcraft researches and works across innovation, looking to develop novel innovation solutions and frameworks where appropriate. He provides possible answers to many issues associated with innov