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Thought Leadership for Executive Teams: Who is Thinking about your Thinking?

By Ed Bernacki |

Many executives and writers like to consider themselves "thought leaders."

What qualifies someone to be a thought leader? The term is now a cliché as few people actually consider what it means. I am launching a series of "thought leadership" letters by telling you exactly what "thoughts" I believe you should lead. You can use these letters to prompt your thinking.

We are coming out of a global recession caused by a lack of thought leadership. We need to ask some difficult questions to shape the future of our organizations. If we want people to be thought leaders, what thoughts should they lead to grow our capacity to innovate? This means we must think about our thinking!

What does it mean to "think about the thinking"?

We use our expertise and experience to solve problems and make decisions, and we do so using many assumptions. Some are explicit while others are implicit based on knowledge and wisdom collected over many years. We can benefit by reviewing these assumptions by thinking about our thinking. These Idea Factory letters will explore five thoughts over the next two months:

  1. Focus on problem solving to improve corporate performance
    There is much research that finds executives are far less effective when solving problems then they think. In fact, we tend to get the definition of the problems we face wrong the first time. Instead of creating a culture of innovation, this leads to a culture of acceptable mediocrity.
  2. Service organizations must create an equivalent concept to manufacturers' R&D
    If manufacturers invest in R&D for their new ideas, processes and products that lead to tomorrow's profits, where do the service sectors invest for their ideas that lead to tomorrow's profits? The answer for far too many is...they don't!
  3. Seeing cognitive style to improve organizational decision making
    Do people think alike in our organizations? No. Yet do our management approaches allow for people to think and work in ways most suited to their style of thinking? Most strategies and policies are based on the assumption that everyone thinks alike.
  4. Success dictates an equal focus on people leadership and idea leadership
    Our approaches to managing people are sophisticated yet how sophisticated are our approaches to managing new ideas in our organizations? A major study that looked at, "what makes innovative organizations innovative" found that the key internal capacity is having "well defined idea management processes". What are your idea management processes? Hint: it's not software.
  5. "Idea flows" must be managed like the way we manage "cash flows"
    We plan the flow of cash in our organizations over a year or longer. How can we use these insights to help us manage the flow of ideas we need over a year to meet the challenges of an organization?

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