London: IBM has retained top spot in the White Space Thought Leadership Rankings for the second half of 2014. In fact a new report published today shows little change amongst the thought leadership leaders. White Space is part of Source Information Services, the global consulting market research group.
IBM's low-volume, high-quality approach to thought leadership continues to deliver with all the firm's reports focused on relevant and timely issues, built on robust research and written in concise style.
The report, which ranks twenty-three firms based on four evaluation criteria (Resilience, Differentiation, Appeal, and Prompting Action), says the common theme for the top four thought leaders (IBM, Deloitte, BCG, and Capgemini) is an ethos of centralised management.
The report says that Boston Consulting Group with its publishing model and IBM with its Institute for Business Value (IBV) are established residents at the top of the rankings because of their central management models. Capgemini Consulting's approach is closely aligned to the IBM IBV approach: although research topics are proposed and sponsored by client-facing consultants, research and writing is managed centrally. At Deloitte, the focus has been on centralising the quality review of thought leadership to ensure only good work is published on DU Press (and the entire US firm is now part of this process).
The report says that the overall quality of articles in the rankings during the second half of 2014 was disappointing, with Rachel Ainsworth, Head of Thought Leadership Strategies and Solutions from Source explaining: "We found very little real thought leadership which challenged current thinking in some areas, and only one per cent of articles reached the pinnacle of presenting a revelatory and challenging viewpoint.
"We recognise that not all content can be truly differentiated and that there is often much value to the reader in robust reports that bring together a series of key insights in a coherent way — even if many of those insights are to be found elsewhere. However, wouldn't it be great to generate more true thought leadership? That's our wish for 2015."
The report also publishes three steps to success:
- An inspiring vision of what thought leadership could be, what it can deliver for the firm, and how it will set the firm apart from others.
- A clear mandate from the top of the organisation for the central team to plan, manage and/or quality control thought leadership.
- A process that ensures client-facing insight isn't lost. This is more of an issue for those firms choosing to centralise all aspects of thought leadership creation. Options include inviting consultants to take up residence (physically or virtually) in the central group to work on their topic of interest, ensuring that experts outside of the central group sponsor and provide regular input to research, and encourage central team members to work in partnership with consultants to interview and deliver content to clients.
Rachel Ainsworth from Source added: "For those firms looking to change their thought leadership ranking fortunes, they should look towards those firms that have succeeded in making a dramatic and lasting change in their standings, as they have achieved this by implementing pretty dramatic changes within their organisations. Achieving a real and sustained move up the list depends not on luck or even good ideas, but on an unerring determination to put in place the right processes with the right people and supported with the ability to manage consulting firm politics."