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Why Ideation Needs Thought Leadership for the Best Outcomes

Thought Society Ideation

Right now, there’s somebody in a boardroom flinging out ideas, in the hope they can lift their company’s fortunes and make them stand out in a crowded marketplace. I’ve witnessed these things firsthand, seeing middle managers hurriedly pull through flipchart sheets, creating a sea of paper as they try to find an idea that gets the thumbs up from senior management.

It’s no surprise that these days, rather than opting to listen to someone doing an Alan-Partridge-style pitch, business leaders are turning to Thought Leadership to set the path for their organization’s future.

What is business ideation?

To sum it up in just three words: ‘mining for opportunities’. Your business could be doing well on its core strengths, but failing to innovate can lead to stagnation and reduced turnover.

When done well, ideation is the spark that enables a business to leapfrog over its competitors. It’s the ‘fuel’ for business activities such as:

  • product/service launches
  • marketing campaigns
  • expansion of customer base
  • improvements to products/services
  • business development activity, including sales enablement.

What are your organization’s future goals?

Your initial answers to this question are likely to be ‘number one in our sector’; ‘increasing our turnover’ and ‘keeping shareholders happy’. I don’t blame you; these are natural instincts of business. More importantly, you need to ask yourself if internal ideation is getting you closer to these results.

The first stage of ideation typically takes place with internal staff pitching new ideas. Understandably, market trends will dominate discussions in this phase and convention dictates that the bottom line is what all ideas should be geared toward. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but companies that rigidly stick to this process and don’t take critical evaluation into account will face unexpected pitfalls.

For a crude yet simple analogy, it’s like turning up to a marathon and setting off at a sprint, having not even studied the course and sticking to a ‘being the fastest will make us win’ mentality. It will seem impressive at the start, but long term, it’s going to fail, just like a grandiose business strategy that’s not opened up to critique.

Why critical evaluation is important

When I started writing this blog, I promised myself not to resort to the familiar cliché of ‘Fail to prepare, prepare to fail’. I’ve seen it in so many offices, that I view it as the ‘Live, laugh, love’ of business. However, its continued familiarity is likely down to it being true. Hubris is around the corner for even the biggest firms if they’re not aware of their own weaknesses.

Tapping into the public’s appetite for schadenfreude, lists of high-profile business failures are fairly prolific on the web. What many of these have in common, is complacency at the core of senior management.

Why are we looking to famous failures when talking about ideation? Because there are common themes that could have saved these once-famous brands:

  • Listening to the voices of internal staff from all ranks
  • Market examination based on data rather than gut feeling
  • The establishment of an ethics committee
  • Acting on client feedback
  • A progress-centric expansion of product/service lines
  • Smart and honest evaluation of competitor strengths
  • Initial white and grey space analysis to establish positioning, ideas and themes and their relation to the company’s brand, vision and values.

 These strategic initiatives and decisions are what thought leadership is all about and why it deserves to be brought in at the start of any new innovation campaign.

Getting the ball rolling

At iResearch Services, we’re usually approached by prospective clients who are starting at the ideation stage and are looking to tap into our award-winning expertise to scope, strategize and produce thought leadership.

There are usually one or two of these scenarios at play:

  • The client wants to amplify their skills, knowledge and offerings to wider and new audiences
  • There are ongoing developments in a specific industry that the client would like to capitalize on, or where they need to have a clear position/voice.

Whatever the idea, it’s our job to put it under the microscope, subjecting it to expert analysis. We identify hidden disadvantages as well as highlight the unknown potential – a case of delivering good news with the bad. Objectivity is crucial. It’s why we deploy competitive and whitespace analysis.

“We look at everything, really. Social listening and sentiment analysis, web scrapes, data science, panel pulse surveys, good old desk research and, if we have time, input from advisory boards of industry experts. This resource-rich approach maximizes the likelihood of uncovering powerful narratives and helps get the ball rolling on a thought leadership project.” – Andrew Newby, Director of Operations at iResearch Services.

Our successes with ideation

One such triumph was for Pegasystems, a software company seeking to amplify its skills in technology. Using meticulous research, we crafted a survey on digital transformation. This set the strategy for the resulting thought leadership article, which tripled the improvement of landing page conversions. It also scored global media coverage for the brand.

We had a similar story with the world-renowned business transformation consultancy, Brandpie. The end result was a B2B Thought Leadership report on corporate purpose which was the most successful yet, with a remarkable download rate.

This process began with us joining at the ideation stage to provide intensive market analysis and secondary research to discover meaningful issues and ideas within the complex sectors that Brandpie addresses. Through regular collaboration, we worked to define the research areas to explore uncovered areas, leading to a survey of 1,000 CEOs around the world.

Building on this success, our relationship with Brandpie continues with further studies planned for next year. You can learn more about what we achieved in our case study.

We delivered compelling revelations for the healthcare division of electronics giant Philips back in 2021. We produced the largest global survey of decision-making healthcare leaders. The ideation process was a challenge due to the scale of the survey, involving almost 3,000 respondents based across 14 countries, but we  collaborated on setting up surveys and interviews with a specially-created panel to get an understanding of how the healthcare industry would operate in the post-pandemic era.

Our case study demonstrates how the ideation blossomed into a remarkable story that was picked up by international media and how the program is on course to generate more leads than any other.

We helped Thomson Reuters when their subject matter experts (SMEs) approached us in 2020 with the company’s ambition to be the leading voice on corporate tax management during the COVID-19 pandemic. With a variety of hot topics to include, such as Brexit, global trade conflicts and pandemic-related disruption, we workshopped with the SMEs on whitespace analysis and the creation of a thought leadership program. This too has excelled in the area of leads, scoring more than any previous thought leadership campaign the brand has run. More details are in our case study.

Evidence-based research is a game-changer

By meticulously crafting thought leadership campaigns for brands, starting at the very nugget of an idea, we helped elevate their position in their industry and tighten the bonds between companies and their customer base.

Ideation is just one of five services that make up Thought Society™, our thought leadership innovation accelerator, which major companies across financial services, energy, healthcare, legal, technology, media and telecommunications have tapped into for competitive advantage and formulating successful projects.

You can discover more about  Thought Society™ on our dedicated webpages, which showcase the skillsets and experience we use to put organizations on an integrity-fuelled path to thought leadership and commercial success.

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