Starting today and for at least the next year, I will focus my work on this question:
What is the evolving dynamic between truth and influence, and what should you do about it?
What do I mean by truth and influence?
Here’s how I define these terms:
Truth refers to the insights that research creates. That research might be the type that analysts or scientists perform, the work that journalists do, or the more informal insight that comes from constant contact with a market or a body of knowledge. But for me and the work I’m doing, truth means learning and describing things that most people don’t know.
Influence refers to the process of telling people what you’ve learned. Analysts have influence; so do journalists. There are now an infinite number of channels to spread influence, from podcasts to Facebook to appearances on CNN.
To make a difference, a thinker needs both truth and influence. If you know the truth but can’t get the word out, you don’t matter. If you can spread influence but don’t actually know anything, you are just a blabbermouth. People who both create truth and spread influence lead people’s thinking. They are, in the popular phrase, thought leaders.
These people can include technology analysts, financial analysts, academics, independent consultants, authors, CEOs, public speakers, bloggers, and columnists. We see and hear about them all the time and they shape our view of the world.
Key questions about truth and influence
My main worry is that the world continues to evolve in such a way as to set truth and influence at odds with each other. The quest for influence undermines truth. Identifying actual truth undermines influence. Only the most disciplined of thought leaders can balance the two. It is my goal to describe the problem, and determine how to create balance in this fundamentally unstable dynamic.
Here are some of the questions I am investigating:
- Are influencers more likely to be wrong? Influence comes from insights that are new. These insights are more likely to be wrong. Is the current dynamic propelling wrong ideas to the forefront of the discussion?
- Do wrong insights do harm? What damage results from people with influence who don’t care if they are wrong?
- How does bias infect insights? What biases do thought leaders harbor, both conscious and unconscious? How can they fight bias? How can we identify it?
- Is there a right way for a thought leader to behave? What codes of integrity must disciplined thought leaders follow?
- What works for creating influence today? What channels work best for spreading influence? What paths exist for becoming influential? How are these channels and paths changing?
- How is the market structure of thought leadership shifting? How is the dynamic changing among large institutional pools of influence (research firms, financial firms, think tanks, media), corporate-backed influencers (such as CEOs), and individual influencers (including authors, consultants, bloggers, and podcasters)?
- Is truth at risk? Truth is under attack. Opponents of any truth can label it “fake news.” How will the continual erosion of truth as a concept change the role of thought leaders?
These are just a few of the questions I will investigate. If other, related questions interest you, please describe them in the comments.
How I will conduct and publish my research
I will be doing all of the following:
- Identifying existing analysis of this market and reviewing it in light of the new developments.
- Conducting a survey of thought leaders and analyzing the results.
- Interviewing individual thought leaders.
- Interviewing consumers and clients of those thought leaders.
I will describe the results of my work on this blog. Eventually, I will publish a book on this research.
I am not abandoning my work on business writing
To me, the desire to write clearly in a business setting is about identifying truth and clearly communicating it. I learned about that in a career that was capped with a 20-year stint as an influential analyst. In my mind, the questions of thought leadership with integrity and clear business writing are closely connecting. They are both about communicating important things without bullshit.
I will continue to analyze public writing and provide writing tips alongside my posts on truth and influence. As always with this blog, some posts will interest you, and some will interest others.
What’s in it for you?
If you are a thought leader, or aspire to become one, I will provide advice on how to succeed in that goal while maintaining your integrity.
If you work with thought leaders and influencers, I will help you to understand how they think.
And if you are just interested in the future of truth and influence, I will explain how the world is shifting and where it is likely to go.
I would be delighted to hear in what way I might be most valuable to you. Please leave your suggestions in the comments.