Growing a business in the 21st century presents new challenges that cannot be overcome by traditional areas of focus. Increased sales, new products, new markets, new brands, and mergers and acquisitions still have their place as part of an overall growth strategy. But these tactical elements should be guided by an overarching strategy that is born of thought leadership.
What is thought leadership?
Based on a definition of "thought leader" outlined in Forbes, I would describe thought leadership, in the context of business growth, as follows:
The ability to collaborate with customers and strategic partners to identify trends, common themes and patterns within a particular industry or market to help identify new opportunities for growth.
Thought leadership is an innovative approach to business growth. As such, it’s essential that you start by answering questions that spur innovation in developing your 21st century growth strategy. Here are some ideas to get you started:
What problems can you solve?
Answering this question is really a two-part process. First, identify what problems you can currently solve. Then, identify what future problems you can address and solve. Pondering this question enables you to overcome complacency and forces you to seriously think in future terms — a must for strategic planning of any kind.
Who are the Game Changers?
Game changers are those who are continually coming up with new ideas for growing the business. It doesn’t matter so much whether their ideas seem feasible at their inception. What matters is that they’re not afraid to disrupt the status quo with new ideas. Working on the first question will help you identify the game changers within your organization.
How can you make your Best Practices even better?
Best practices are what enable you to operate more efficiently and effectively. But the development of best practices is traditionally limited to internal experts. By sharing your best practices information with your customers and other stakeholders, you open up a potential treasure trove of new ideas on how to make your best practices even better.
Who are your Business Experts?
Experts in your business are those individuals who have been with you long enough to have been involved in implementing new initiatives. They have productive client relationships, and are recognized as experts in the industry and market you serve. Don't confuse business experts with game changers, although experts can also be games changers, and vice versa.
In the past few decades we’ve been transitioning to an information based economy. But information by itself isn’t enough to be successful long term. It’s not what you know that matters. It’s discovering what you know, and acting wisely on that information that matters. Pondering the questions above is the critical first step in the process.