Smart shoppers know how to check expiration dates. When in the grocery store, you can look on the time/date stamps of various products to ensure that they are fresh before you buy them. Unfortunately, thought leadership doesn’t have an indicator to tell others when that new, fresh idea has grown old and stale.
In order to determine the ongoing impact and value of good thought leadership, it’s important to keep an eye on the thought leader. A strong thought leader is someone who doesn’t just come up with a good idea and then implement it over and over again. No, thought leaders are people who identify a good idea or strategy (whether it’s theirs or not). Great leaders are able to collaborate and execute upon a great thought, working within a team environment. These leaders are able to replicate their success by collaborating on new ideas and executing with new teams in different environments.
Thought leadership grows stale when the ego of the thought leader begins to overpower the new idea. Too often, thought leaders have great success with their first attempt at executing a new concept, product or service. From this success, they develop a strategy or process model that standardizes how this idea can be implemented elsewhere. As the thought leader, they begin to think that this great idea was solely their own and can be fashioned to work everywhere on everything. When this happens, you will often find the thought leader has built a kingdom (and a business) around their one, great idea. The newly crowned king will fight to the death to defend his idea against anyone or anything that opposes him (including innovations and opportunities for growth and change). When you only have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
At this point, the shelf life of a product or service is officially expired.
In technology circles, there is a product development concept for designing in your own obsolescence. Since technology moves so fast, it’s important to recognize that your features and functionality will be good for about a year and then you better have something new and different for your customers. Great thought leaders can take a page from this book to avoid expiring too soon. By acknowledging that a good thought can only be good for so long, leaders can adapt, grow and seek out new and better ways to do things.
If they fail to do so, they put everyone at risk of getting poisoned by a thought or plan that has gone bad.
And that just makes me sick.