Delving into a complex world: helping to keep pace

Complex World 1“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 for ourselves, we know all around us seems to constantly increase in its complexity but how are we keeping pace or at least trying too? I can’t check out of the human race just yet, can you afford too? If not then read on.

For me, I try to attempt to keep up to date by investing increasing time in acquiring a better understanding, a deeper knowledge of all the interconnected parts. 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.

Even if we are “time starved” we simply must try and keep moving along in this understanding and hopefully once in a while keeping ahead of the curve, or think we are!

There is one rich source of knowledge that comes from many of the larger consulting firms.

The emphasis from many of these leading consultancies has been on establishing a clear “thought leadership” approach to underpin their expertise and attract as a ‘go to’ resource. As this is being published in more open ways than ever before, it is not just the client that is benefiting from this research or learning but the wider community. I extract a lot of insights, value and confirmation from staying connected into these consultancies. Do you?

Many of the bigger consulting companies offer a highly valued “thought leadership” with significant research backing this up. Their access to board rooms and global scale does give them a significant edge but it is how they ‘translate’ this into client value becomes the determination of its value.

Many of these investing significantly into this area of insight are presently actively trying to quantify the impact of this thought leadership. Recently I read at the clients end, in a recent survey of 400 CXO’s from,  that they found that half of these rarely read thought leadership, so that automatically halves the size of the ‘market’.  But yet…and this is where it becomes potentially valuable…..

Critically, of the remaining ‘active’ consumers, between 50% and 65% are surprisingly passing material on, yes, passing this on as it resonates or is valuable to someone else within the organization currently working upon or wanting to understand this particular area a little more. This encourages reading more from the same firm, and so on, continuing to build trust and a resource source.

As this trust builds the potential client 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 ( 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 and it needs ‘calling out’

Firstly I picked up on a quote 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:


Last year they provided some exceptional reports and views in my opinion I thought I’d spend a little time raising your interest, curiosity and learning on this picking on some areas I found relevant to me.

Firstly, let’s give praise where praise is due.

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.

I would recommend Deloittes University Press and their updated collections archive to work through. It has recently been added I think from my recent searching*

Add the Deloitte consulting arms own website 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. I’d recommend you keep them on your radar as valuable to tap into and learn from.

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 not only can clients help “size and fit” the thinking with their challenges but for people like me enable me to provide a more comprehensive view of breaking trends, issues or thinking that many of my ‘time starved’ clients appreciate being introduced too. It helps me in being seen more as a trusted source of relevant and unbiased knowledge that helps them form a ‘greater’ opinion, hopefully with my ongoing help.


Publishing note:  This blog post was originally written on behalf of Hype and with their permission I have added to my own site as well.

One thought on “Delving into a complex world: helping to keep pace

  1. Pingback: Deeper read or quick summary- finding the time | Paul4innovating's Innovation Views

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