Business catchphrases are Born, live useful lives, and
then wither into buzzwordiness. When it comes into being, if
the catchphrase captures a concept in a clever way, it’s instantly
popular. Those in the know, or those who want to be thought
of as being in the know, use the new catchphrase with an insider’s glee. Thinking outside the box originated around 50 years ago
and became the catchphrase for exploring innovative or unexpected solutions. It’s had a long life for a buzzword. But now…
RIP. Thinking outside the box has become so clichéd, overused, and
misused as to have lost its meaning. The ideas behind the phrase
are still vital, but the phrase itself now belongs to Dilbert-land.
Before the same thing happens to thought leadership, we should
try to understand what it truly means and how — or if — it’s a worthy goal for everyone. Thought leadership can consist of material
on your website, articles you publish, presentations at conferences,
and the services and products you offer clients. The advantages to
being a thought leader are distinct. You get a good rep. Those in
your field turn to you for advice and insights. Potential employees,
partners, and clients want to be associated with you.
Even with those advantages, thought leadership probably isn’t
for everyone. It takes considerable time and effort to achieve, and
it requires you, or your organization, to be out front on initiatives.
And, when you’re in the front, you’re the first to take fire. There’s
nothing wrong with deciding not to invest the time and effort
required to become a thought leader. And that’s the first truth
of thought leadership: Doing it right requires a considerable and
sometimes risky investment.
The second truth of thought leadership is that you have to
be accurate and authoritative in what you say. Thought leaders
don’t come out with pronouncements based on a quick look at
Wikipedia. Nothing will undermine you more quickly than using
incorrect or old data. As an example of doing it right, our Interior
Design 2015/2016 Outlook and State of the Industry is based on
a compilation of multiple sources: data collected from national
databases and national surveys, focused discussions from interior
design leaders, and an analysis of various trend reports spanning
the interior design industry worldwide.
The third truth is that thought leadership must offer
something jazzy. Let’s define that as one or more of the following:
new, unique, bold, decisive. Restating or repackaging what’s
already out there can be useful, but that doesn’t make you a leader.
And neither does offering on-the-one-hand, on-the-other-hand
arguments, which might be safe but aren’t leadership. You have
to add value.
ASID took a chance on leadership in 2014 with our Clinton
Global Initiative America (CGI America) commitment to action.
We are working with other organizations, now numbering 15,
to develop ASID Protocols for Health and Wellness in Design.
Commitments at CGI America are projects or programs that are
new, specific, and measurable. ASID partner organizations contribute knowledge, capacity, and financial resources to achieve
positive outcomes for people, communities, and the broader
economy. Because of this commitment, we are on our way to
creating more than 100 hours of web-based education content
by the fall of 2017.
We also think that the magazine you’re now reading is part
and parcel of the Society’s thought leadership. Other publications in our field show beautiful pictures of designed spaces
and design products, but ICON is unique in its devotion to covering the ideas of design. For example, this issue’s cover story
reveals the good and the bad of crowdsourcing, an idea that
might delight or appall you — or both. In our exploration of the
idea, we even took the bold step of crowdsourcing our cover art.
Write email@example.com and let us know what you think of it.
Randy W. Fiser
Behind the Buzz