You really shouldn’t try to fake expertise

Aug 10, 2017

Originally published by Rachel Ainsworth, Head of Thought Leadership Strategies and Solutions at Source Global Research 

Far too often, we find ourselves reading a piece of thought leadership that, had we been locked in a quiet room with access to the Internet and a large bowl of M&Ms, we could probably have written ourselves. In stark contrast, anything we could produce ourselves on, say, Innovating the Silicon Valley way (Deloitte) or Empowering a new generation (PwC), would look very poor compared to the ten pieces of thought leadership featured in our latest report Learning from the leaders: What it takes to create high-quality thought leadership.

 It quickly became evident, as we interviewed representatives for each of the ten pieces featured, that a whole lot of expertise underpinned these great pieces a content. For example, Chris Bierly at Bain & Company has over 25 years of experience in education, William D. Eggers at Deloitte has written books about technology in government, and Carolyn Heller Baird at IBM has deep expertise around customer experience.

 Even when the owner of the report wasn’t an externally recognised expert on the topic, they certainly knew a lot about it. And they made sure that externally recognised experts were involved, far beyond the tokenistic “here’s a quote on the topic” level of involvement we often encounter. These experts committed lots of time to designing the research, analysing the results, creating an outline, and editing the draft report.

 It’s also worth highlighting that these high-quality pieces were founded not just on the expertise of an individual but on an area of expertise for the consulting firm. No report was built on the premise–and it is very definitely one we encounter–of “We need to be seen as leaders on this upcoming issue, and since we haven’t any experience as yet, let’s create a piece of thought leadership.”

 David Conway at KPMG told us, “To deliver something of value, you need deep understanding of the subject. This is something we live and breathe all year round.” We agree. Real expertise wins out over marketing bluster every time.