the 405 club, thought leadership

Becoming relevant in your field

I was asked today how I ‘keep up’ in terms of staying ahead on trends, thought leadership, emerging technologies, etc.  Staying relevant (or fighting for relevance as I was six months ago when I returned from mat leave) is very time consuming.

For the moment, I dedicate 14 hours a week to keeping fresh – every night, every day of the week from 7 – 9pm just on new business startup, reading, engaging and learning.  (yes.. my house is a mess and I have scrapbooks that have no photos in them).

Admittedly, it is a tough practice for anyone in a profession moving a the speed of light and if you are like me – unsupported by those comfy subscriptions to Forresters, e-marketer or Jupiter, etc, then it can be a real challenge (thank god for twitter).

Okay – so how I keep up:

– twitter – following people I respect both local and international.

– following choice bloggers like Charlene Li (formerly Forrester) and George Colony from Forresters because I can’t get Forrester reports right now but can still follow their blogs

– read business books – which are not immediate sources of emerging tech or trends but give me strategies or structure or approaches to business

– volunteer and on the job training

– meet-ups, conferences, networking

and podcasts.

I wrote a piece for the 405 club, an amazing blog and NYC and now 50 states official unemployed network, on Fighting to be Relevant:

With the brain learning enthusiam of a mother coming off maternity leave, I fell into itunes to feed my commuter time and discovered a great deal of information available in podcast/videocast form.   After listening to many duds, I found some great podcasts.  Among my favorite podcasts are the University channel within iTunes.  I’ve been listening to Stanford’s Social Entrepreneurship podcasts as well as the Harvard ideacast channel. (See my favorite – an interview with Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia on the Stanford section).  I sprinkled in the daily news like the Wall Street Journal morning reviews  – a paper I can ill afford in the worst of times.   For entertainment, I watched/ listened to the Onion News Network and  Shill – a podcast about PR and social media featuring a great deal of swearing and whisky drinking (no ‘e’ – apparently they drink Scottish whisky).

here to read the whole post

thought leadership

Defining thought leadership and what makes it so.

I was invited to a thinking ‘salon’, as it was described, to play intellectual ping pong with ten very impressive people – among them a leadership coach, a brand fixer, an former CEO of a catalog company, a social (csr) entrepreneur, an ex-naval officer now in academia, a sharp accountant and fellow marketers.    I was participating on my tippy toes – reaching up to discuss philosophically and intelligently on what is thought leadership and what makes it so.

Sound boring?  Not at all.  In fact, it gave two hours to dissect an overused term whose deliverable (thought leadership) is critical to business and everyday life.  The analysis of which leaves me clearer on what is required of thought leaders.

[Incidentily, I was invited by Rick Wolfe of Poststone.  I learned long ago never to turn down anything Rick organizes; he is a master at facilitation and marketing savant well known in marketing circles.]

I started my conversation by admitting that I used to own the title “subject matter expert” [in e-marketing, branding, strategy at IBM] with thought leadership being among the deliverables that I had to produce.  I loved that title until I had kids and learned how much there was to learn about life in general and ever since I’ve been utterly convinced that noone owns an ‘expert’ title.   I cringe now when I hear the s.m.e.  title.

More importantly, I questioned ‘thought leadership’ since

a) in this age of social wisdom, I see less individual thought leadership and more collective thought leaders and

b) in our interconnected society, I often think I have an original idea and if I google it, I find that it is not original at all.

As it turns out, the group collectively agreed that being original or first to market with an idea does not necessarily constitute thought leadership.   That thought leadership needs to also result in impact.  That the leadership of the thought includes relevancy, application, resources, action and impact.  There was also talk that thought leadership is a special thing and a special person who synthesizes in a special way.   I added that thought leadership can be unintentional – an idea or meme that catches like wild fire.

I have a number of books to follow up on – as always seems the case when I go to these intellectual debates.  They are  “Brief History of Nearly Everything”, “The Gift”, “The Singularity is Near” and probably something on Obama would be good too.