Posted by: Adam Deane | 06/07/2011

Thought Leadership

Though LeaderThere’s a lot of hype lately around “Thought Leadership”

The definition of a thought leader nowadays is quite simple: “Anyone who needs a great marketing title to sell a book”

The quest for an important title in life is part of our human shortcomings, and what is better than a self appointed title?

I dislike the title “Thought Leadership”. It sounds cheesy.
I do like the title “Thought Provoker”.

Controversial opinions are thought provoking. You don’t have to agree with someone’s opinion. You just need an incentive to re-evaluate yours.
People in our field are grown up and educated. We don’t need “leaders” to follow. We can make our own assessments and decisions, but we’d like “food for thought”.

There is a thin line between being stimulating and being irritating.
You learn quite a lot by being provocative. (usually the hard way…)
I think it was Mark Twain that said: A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way.

I’d like to share 3 thought provoking sources that I enjoy: TED, RSA and Dilbert

TED is a non-profit organisation devoted to spreading ideas
TED represents the new age of discussing ideas: through 10 minute video lectures on Youtube. Short, thought provoking ideas using witty humour and great one-liners

My favourite video: Steve Jobs: How to live before you die.
Some of my other favourite quotes from TED:

“Creativity starts when you cut a zero off the budget” Jamie Learner

“Curiosity is the most powerful thing you own. Don’t put limitations on yourself. Other people will do that for you.” James Cameron

“You can’t wake a person who is pretending to sleep” Jason Clay

“I believe that creativity should be treated with the same respect as Maths, English and Science” Sir Ken Robinson

My next recommendation for thought provoking is RSA
RSA Animate is interesting, thought provoking, entertaining and innovative. But it is also a cult, a religion, and as such you must be aware of its ability to draw you in, be part of the elite group that “gets” the message.
So my caution to you is: Enjoy the intelligent debate and witty humour. Be provoked to think. Be provoked to innovate, but do not follow their advice blindly.
RSA use a combination of great lectures and fantastic animations. Here are two of them.

Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us

Changing Education Paradigms

My last, and favourite thought provoking source is Dilbert
In our society, telling someone that “their baby is ugly” – is unacceptable.
Yet saying the same thing using humour, wityness and a comic – is highly praised.
Dilbert is the god of using humour to relay a stinging point. I also enjoy using the same technique in my blog.
“You can go a long way with a smile. You can go a lot farther with a smile and a gun”

Most of you are familiar with the daily Dilbert cartoon.
But behind the scenes, Dilbert’s creator Adam Scott has an additional personal blog. Funny, witty.. and very provocative

He has an opinion on everything and is not afraid to voice it:
How to tax the rich
Men’s rights (he needed to delete this post from his blog)

His latest posts on Men and Women has created controversy and uproar.
He is controversial and expresses it using wit and humour.

Controversial opinions are thought provoking. You don’t have to agree with someone’s opinion. You just need an incentive to re-evaluate yours.


  1. TED and Dilbert are great! Will check on RSA, didn’t know about them till this post. Thanks!

  2. TED and Dilbert are great! Didn’t know about RSA until this post. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Thanks for sharing the resources!

  4. Thought Leadership…. thoughts are easier words, which in turn are easier than actions. So it is far easier to keep coming up with unimplementable ideas branded as thought leadership. That is why Chris Taylor’s blog BPM for Real is so popular.

    I remember reading a harsh (but fair) comment about analysts who are engines of new ideas

    “Analysts are rather like eunuchs in a brothel. They come to work each day and see it being done, they spend time talking to those who do it, they know all about the approaches and techniques, but no longer able to do it.”

    Maybe for the sake our clients we should be talking about Thought Recycling. Making sure that Thoughts That Work are brought to everyone’s attention.

  5. Thought Leader? If they create food for thought, it must be a Thought Feeder!

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