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Thought Leadership

Started by Scribbly, January 03, 2012, 08:54:37 AM

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Scribbly

So, I haven't been around for over a week - I wound up going home for Christmas and getting swept up in the traditional Holiday Drama. Two birthdays, grandmother in hospital (it is looking up now, thankfully, but it was touch and go) and actual Christmas day.

I love my family, for all their flaws. I love my father, in particular, because he's completely changed over the past five years. He used to be a contractor with a disdain for management, he then became a contracted consultant, and he now believes he knows everything about everything. He also loves jargon. Which, is what this is all about.

You see, he sat me down a couple of days after Christmas, when we were talking about my career, and he said, "Demolition Squid." Because my father always addresses me by internet pseudonym, "You're doing okay with this writing gig. I've always said you were a wordsmith." I wish that was hyperbole like the above, but my Dad genuinely loves the word 'wordsmith' and doesn't seem to want to call me a journalist or a writer. I can only imagine he thinks my laptop turns into a forge in my day to day business and I spend all day hunched over it with a hammer and a pen.

"But." He said, "You've got to push yourself. If you are going to make it, you need to set yourself up as an expert in Thought Leadership. Put together a few blog entries to start it off, and I'll set you up with a website."

I smiled and nodded, as I normally do when my Dad comes out with something like this, but as I was walking into work this morning, being blasted by sour-tasting rain that I've only experienced in London, I began dissecting the phrase in my head.

Thought Leadership is a business term used to point at people who have innovative ideas. The idea has arisen that you can cultivate thought leadership by pointing at original content and then explaining why it is original, as well as by employing creative people and leeching out their ideas. My father was saying that what I need to do, is throw up a blog and start babbling about business and management so that other people would look at it and think 'Wow, this guy has the capacity to think, we should listen to what he has to say.'

Just dissect the term a bit too. Thought Leadership. People who are Thought Leaders are the people that the industry wants to follow; the few people at the cutting and bleeding edge. If you are a Thought Leader, presumably you have Thought Followers. An obsession with Thought Leadership in your business implies that you delegate the original thinking and creativity to just a few, and then have the rest of your business follow suit.

How sinister is this? It sounds like something out of a dystopian future!  :lulz:

So, I've been thinking that maybe I should jump onto the Thought Leadership bandwagon. Not because I want to babble out things in the hope of being held up as a shining example of Right Thinking, but because I want to expose how ridiculous this notion is. I want to write about how this kind of thinking leads to a complete lack of communication. The words people use (Cultivating Content rather than copying or referencing, Thought Leadership rather than creative thinking) become obfuscating jargon, and people get wrapped up in hierarchies where they are worried about making sure they tow the line and don't upset the Thought Leaders with their pesky unsanctioned view of what's going on... even when the people closer to the ground floor generally have a better idea of what the reality is than the managers at the top.

Unfortunately, the first domain name I thought of (Herding Cats) is taken, but I'm sure I can come up with another. I don't think I can call myself a Thought Leader otherwise, can I?
I had an existential crisis and all I got was this stupid gender.

Pæs

I really like the idea of a satirical Thought Leader who wants to Lead Thoughts away from Thought Leadership.

I know people whose job is to create that obfuscating jargon, specifically related to journalism. Even their job titles and descriptions are ridiculously saturated with obscure buzzwords.
They have this incredible power to increase word-count at the same rate that they decrease the meaning of the text.

There was a conference for APN  leaders (APN is an Australasian media company) quite recently which was a great example of this.

Here's this room packed with journalists, most of them much more comfortable with old-school newsrooms with old-school journalism, and the serious bigwigs come on stage to share Their Vision, which is a spiel about forgetting about stories and embracing Content (and the associated Content Cultivation and Content Distribution Platforms and the Thought Leaders). He mixes his metaphors, first telling everyone that the company is a jumbo jet before asking everyone if they're going to be "on the train or off the train" and finishing by letting everyone know he hopes they'll be "coming aboard the helicopter". The entire point of the show is certainly to convince everyone that there are essential parts of the game that they don't understand, because they've been renamed.

Quote from: http://emjayo.tumblr.com"You are no longer journalists. You're newsos. You no longer produce copy. You make ra ra. We no longer publish newspapers. We publish newso ra ra flim flam. If you have any wazoos about the newso flim flam, make an appointment to speak with your new baba during newso designated meet-mongs."

He has a Jargon Generation Consultant, who had some words for the assembled newsos about the creativing process. Step by ridiculous step, he guides them through the difficult task of creative thinking with such clever tips as "take an existing idea and make it a little different" only so skillfully surrounded in not-words that it sounds like he's talking about something new. Something that they'll never understand and that they need him to add. With his creative consulting, this board of media leaders has approached the next level of their management chain with a battle plan for the future of the company.

They want to become a multifaceted entertainment platform.

Instead of applause, someone has the audacity to ask, "alright, how are we going to do that?"

He is informed that this is HIS job. These brilliant Thought Giants cannot be expected to deal with the banal nitty-gritty of everyday work on the ground floor.
Think how much work they had to put into coming up with a name for their new approach, instead of calling it "put the newspaper online, also".

Did he not SEE how many steps were involved in the creative process?

Scribbly

Quote from: Beardman Meow on January 03, 2012, 09:37:50 AM
I really like the idea of a satirical Thought Leader who wants to Lead Thoughts away from Thought Leadership.

I know people whose job is to create that obfuscating jargon, specifically related to journalism. Even their job titles and descriptions are ridiculously saturated with obscure buzzwords.
They have this incredible power to increase word-count at the same rate that they decrease the meaning of the text.

There was a conference for APN  leaders (APN is an Australasian media company) quite recently which was a great example of this.

Here's this room packed with journalists, most of them much more comfortable with old-school newsrooms with old-school journalism, and the serious bigwigs come on stage to share Their Vision, which is a spiel about forgetting about stories and embracing Content (and the associated Content Cultivation and Content Distribution Platforms and the Thought Leaders). He mixes his metaphors, first telling everyone that the company is a jumbo jet before asking everyone if they're going to be "on the train or off the train" and finishing by letting everyone know he hopes they'll be "coming aboard the helicopter". The entire point of the show is certainly to convince everyone that there are essential parts of the game that they don't understand, because they've been renamed.

Quote from: http://emjayo.tumblr.com"You are no longer journalists. You're newsos. You no longer produce copy. You make ra ra. We no longer publish newspapers. We publish newso ra ra flim flam. If you have any wazoos about the newso flim flam, make an appointment to speak with your new baba during newso designated meet-mongs."

He has a Jargon Generation Consultant, who had some words for the assembled newsos about the creativing process. Step by ridiculous step, he guides them through the difficult task of creative thinking with such clever tips as "take an existing idea and make it a little different" only so skillfully surrounded in not-words that it sounds like he's talking about something new. Something that they'll never understand and that they need him to add. With his creative consulting, this board of media leaders has approached the next level of their management chain with a battle plan for the future of the company.

They want to become a multifaceted entertainment platform.

Instead of applause, someone has the audacity to ask, "alright, how are we going to do that?"

He is informed that this is HIS job. These brilliant Thought Giants cannot be expected to deal with the banal nitty-gritty of everyday work on the ground floor.
Think how much work they had to put into coming up with a name for their new approach, instead of calling it "put the newspaper online, also".

Did he not SEE how many steps were involved in the creative process?

It really is amazing how this sort of thinking can infect a business. That jargon is much thicker than most I've heard, but even relatively clear jargon can chew up time and cause so much confusion. It extends beyond jargon, too, down to how data and information is presented becoming more important than the data itself.

Search Engine Optimisation is the worst for this in my work. SEO is basically trying to trick google into giving your pages a higher ranking than they deserve by using key phrases and presenting key words in certain ways (bolded, underlined etc).

The thing is, websites which actually have good content are picked up on the basis of the content. Google is constantly working to try and refine their processes to avoid sites which try to game the system, and you wind up in a cat and mouse situation where the actual information you are putting out there is less comprehensible to a reader but more comprehensible to a google bot... until they redefine the google bot away from the SEO techniques you've employed.

People who can work SEO magic are seen as kind of gurus who can magically wave their wand and give your site high priority with the internet, and therefore increase the amount of people visiting you. But even if you manage to claim a top ranking, if you aren't providing people with what they want, they'll just click on out of there anyway.
I had an existential crisis and all I got was this stupid gender.

Pæs

Suggested available domains: hurlingcats.com, hurtingcats.com
Or do those not quite communicate the same idea?

Pæs

Quote from: Demolition_Squid on January 03, 2012, 09:53:40 AM
It really is amazing how this sort of thinking can infect a business. That jargon is much thicker than most I've heard, but even relatively clear jargon can chew up time and cause so much confusion. It extends beyond jargon, too, down to how data and information is presented becoming more important than the data itself.

Search Engine Optimisation is the worst for this in my work. SEO is basically trying to trick google into giving your pages a higher ranking than they deserve by using key phrases and presenting key words in certain ways (bolded, underlined etc).

The thing is, websites which actually have good content are picked up on the basis of the content. Google is constantly working to try and refine their processes to avoid sites which try to game the system, and you wind up in a cat and mouse situation where the actual information you are putting out there is less comprehensible to a reader but more comprehensible to a google bot... until they redefine the google bot away from the SEO techniques you've employed.

People who can work SEO magic are seen as kind of gurus who can magically wave their wand and give your site high priority with the internet, and therefore increase the amount of people visiting you. But even if you manage to claim a top ranking, if you aren't providing people with what they want, they'll just click on out of there anyway.
The jargon in the quote was satire. I think it might have been someone making fun of the same meeting, even though they use the name of a rival company.

I read a great article in NewScientist about writing being tailored to appeal to algorithms. I'll try and find it again.

It's quite concerning, really. I wonder if we might be losing great pieces of writing, which might have massive appeal to humans but fail to convince algorithms of their usefulness?
Gets me thinking about Taleb's writing on silent evidence, on the lack of Phoenician writing being due to the fragility of their paper rather than their inability to produce it.

We've got these systems in place to map the internet and there are wizards who know how to make themselves look bigger on that map that they actually are.
Even if people who navigate to these places don't find what they need, the traffic is valuable to them. And if the website has something close to what they want, how likely is it that people are going to dig much deeper to find alternatives?

You've got to wonder what kind of treasures there are in the poorly charted areas.

Triple Zero

Quote from: Demolition_Squid on January 03, 2012, 08:54:37 AMThought Leadership is a business term used to point at people who have innovative ideas. The idea has arisen that you can cultivate thought leadership by pointing at original content and then explaining why it is original, as well as by employing creative people and leeching out their ideas. My father was saying that what I need to do, is throw up a blog and start babbling about business and management so that other people would look at it and think 'Wow, this guy has the capacity to think, we should listen to what he has to say.'

Just dissect the term a bit too. Thought Leadership. People who are Thought Leaders are the people that the industry wants to follow; the few people at the cutting and bleeding edge. If you are a Thought Leader, presumably you have Thought Followers. An obsession with Thought Leadership in your business implies that you delegate the original thinking and creativity to just a few, and then have the rest of your business follow suit.

How sinister is this?

I don't know if it's sinister, actually. Being a "Though Leader" is only sinister in contrast with the "Thought Followers" and only when you're taking unethical advantage of them, IMO.

Otherwise, I believe it's actually a rather interesting take on what it means to be a Discordian: The person that has the original ideas, the original content and is able to recognize other ideas and content as original when he comes across them.

I like how you connected it with "herding cats", because that's exactly what you get if you put a bunch of Thought Leaders or Discordians together.

It's a bit like the depiction of ancient Sumerian culture in Snow Crash, most of the people were Thought Followers, following instructions from clay tablets (Nam-shubs) like computer programs (describing how to plant crops, build houses, bake bread etc). A few of them (priests) were the ones who wrote these tablets, the Thought Leaders.
Ex-Soviet Bloc Sexual Attack Swede of Tomorrow™
e-prime disclaimer: let it seem fairly unclear I understand the apparent subjectivity of the above statements. maybe.

INFORMATION SO POWERFUL, YOU ACTUALLY NEED LESS.

The Good Reverend Roger

Good Lord.  That's what he talked about over the holidays?

You are a Saint, sir.  A fucking saint.  I'd have gone ballistic.
" It's just that Depeche Mode were a bunch of optimistic loveburgers."
- TGRR, shaming himself forever, 7/8/2017

"Billy, when I say that ethics is our number one priority and safety is also our number one priority, you should take that to mean exactly what I said. Also quality. That's our number one priority as well. Don't look at me that way, you're in the corporate world now and this is how it works."
- TGRR, raising the bar at work.

Scribbly

Quote from: Beardman Meow on January 03, 2012, 10:05:15 AM
Quote from: Demolition_Squid on January 03, 2012, 09:53:40 AM
It really is amazing how this sort of thinking can infect a business. That jargon is much thicker than most I've heard, but even relatively clear jargon can chew up time and cause so much confusion. It extends beyond jargon, too, down to how data and information is presented becoming more important than the data itself.

Search Engine Optimisation is the worst for this in my work. SEO is basically trying to trick google into giving your pages a higher ranking than they deserve by using key phrases and presenting key words in certain ways (bolded, underlined etc).

The thing is, websites which actually have good content are picked up on the basis of the content. Google is constantly working to try and refine their processes to avoid sites which try to game the system, and you wind up in a cat and mouse situation where the actual information you are putting out there is less comprehensible to a reader but more comprehensible to a google bot... until they redefine the google bot away from the SEO techniques you've employed.

People who can work SEO magic are seen as kind of gurus who can magically wave their wand and give your site high priority with the internet, and therefore increase the amount of people visiting you. But even if you manage to claim a top ranking, if you aren't providing people with what they want, they'll just click on out of there anyway.
The jargon in the quote was satire. I think it might have been someone making fun of the same meeting, even though they use the name of a rival company.

I read a great article in NewScientist about writing being tailored to appeal to algorithms. I'll try and find it again.

It's quite concerning, really. I wonder if we might be losing great pieces of writing, which might have massive appeal to humans but fail to convince algorithms of their usefulness?
Gets me thinking about Taleb's writing on silent evidence, on the lack of Phoenician writing being due to the fragility of their paper rather than their inability to produce it.

We've got these systems in place to map the internet and there are wizards who know how to make themselves look bigger on that map that they actually are.
Even if people who navigate to these places don't find what they need, the traffic is valuable to them. And if the website has something close to what they want, how likely is it that people are going to dig much deeper to find alternatives?

You've got to wonder what kind of treasures there are in the poorly charted areas.

Sort of forgot about this. Work has been pretty hellish this week. Amusingly, we're having to go back and analyse the first two year's content for SEO purposes and see what we want our keywords to be. I put on my robe and wizard hat. :wizard:

I'd like to read that article for sure. I've managed to hammer out two preliminary entries but I'm not very happy with either, so I'm going to keep working at that.

I'm still brainstorming site names too. I came up with 'Headless Leader' which I quite like, but hrm.

Quote from: Triple Zero on January 06, 2012, 08:42:52 PM
Quote from: Demolition_Squid on January 03, 2012, 08:54:37 AMThought Leadership is a business term used to point at people who have innovative ideas. The idea has arisen that you can cultivate thought leadership by pointing at original content and then explaining why it is original, as well as by employing creative people and leeching out their ideas. My father was saying that what I need to do, is throw up a blog and start babbling about business and management so that other people would look at it and think 'Wow, this guy has the capacity to think, we should listen to what he has to say.'

Just dissect the term a bit too. Thought Leadership. People who are Thought Leaders are the people that the industry wants to follow; the few people at the cutting and bleeding edge. If you are a Thought Leader, presumably you have Thought Followers. An obsession with Thought Leadership in your business implies that you delegate the original thinking and creativity to just a few, and then have the rest of your business follow suit.

How sinister is this?

I don't know if it's sinister, actually. Being a "Though Leader" is only sinister in contrast with the "Thought Followers" and only when you're taking unethical advantage of them, IMO.

Otherwise, I believe it's actually a rather interesting take on what it means to be a Discordian: The person that has the original ideas, the original content and is able to recognize other ideas and content as original when he comes across them.

I like how you connected it with "herding cats", because that's exactly what you get if you put a bunch of Thought Leaders or Discordians together.

It's a bit like the depiction of ancient Sumerian culture in Snow Crash, most of the people were Thought Followers, following instructions from clay tablets (Nam-shubs) like computer programs (describing how to plant crops, build houses, bake bread etc). A few of them (priests) were the ones who wrote these tablets, the Thought Leaders.

Hm. I hadn't thought of it that way.

I do tend to think that what has helped us advance is the ability of more people to become thought leaders, if we want to keep using that term. It used to be that you had to be in an elite to even have the opportunity to communicate. The opportunity is now far more widespread than it used to be, and I'm distrustful of the category or people who set themselves up as 'Thought Leaders' precisely because it seems like a callback to that kind of priesthood idea to me.

In as far as I have ever seen Discordianism as having any kind of 'purpose' I've seen it as being to encourage everyone to be a 'Thought Leader'. Think For Yourself, Schmuck! Pretty much embodies that message. I'd like to see more of it, but mostly what I get from these people is the message that you should give up on that, and leave it to the professionals. Bring in an outsider to tell you what your innovations should be; you don't need to worry then. Everyone play follow the leader, you know?

Quote from: The Good Reverend Roger on January 06, 2012, 08:44:28 PM
Good Lord.  That's what he talked about over the holidays?

You are a Saint, sir.  A fucking saint.  I'd have gone ballistic.

Yup.

Other major topics of conversation included why the Europeans are all lazy, why we should cut benefits so that people have an incentive to work, and endless, endless whining about a new high speed rail development that is going to tear up a lot of the local countryside.

It wasn't a very jolly Christmas.

Then again, I did get some good laughs. My Mum's christmas present to my Dad? A set of Banksy prints.  :lulz:
I had an existential crisis and all I got was this stupid gender.