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May - 2007 - issue > Last Word
Nurturing-Thought-Leadership
Mukul Agarwal
Tuesday, May 1, 2007
Very few business forecasters could predict the wave of globalization that has stormed the bastions of traditional businesses. The seemingly invincible barriers and constraints that had vigilantly guarded and closely controlled the way business was done until yesterday have all but vanished. Every door and every window of opportunity has been flung open by the mighty winds of change. Swept, washed, and rejuvenated, the business landscape stands good as new, ready to be won over by the new breed of thought leaders!
Businesses can no longer flourish on traditional strategy or established methods. The openness to imbibe radical changes and the ability for quick, innovative adaptation now dictates the success of businesses. Organisations that are sailing smoothly today must be fully equipped for the uncertainties of tomorrow. In this rapidly shifting setting, innovation is the only drive that can sustain an organization. Consequently, inventiveness and thought leadership have assumed unprecedented significance.

Many organizations have already realized the importance of nurturing thought leadership within their resources. No company can progress on the sole capabilities of the top management. Talent has to be nurtured and encouraged across levels. Cultivating thought leadership involves identifying and recognizing the capability of the people in an organization for innovation and ensuring that a steady flux of novel ideas perennially replenishes the thought pool.

The skills that many technical roles call for are limited to adeptness in using certain tools. Consequently, the best that one can achieve in fulfilling such roles lies in the realm of implementation; there is little room for innovation. The best of an organization’s resources earn encomiums for implementing ideas, concepts, and procedures in the evolution of which they had little or no role to play. Off-the-track innovation or excellence beyond prescribed roles is seldom recognized as value to business. This must change. Organizations must drive inventiveness by finding ways of inciting thought contribution. They must ensure that there is universal participation in thought contribution: no thought leader goes undiscovered; no one dithers to subscribe.

Communication plays a cardinal role in exposing or concealing thought leaders. The lesser the communication gap between the various levels of hierarchy in an organization, the greater are its chances of striking gold in its quest for excellence. Organizations must consciously facilitate communication as the expressway for thought transit. Thought leadership and creativity are too valuable to be left to chance to expose them.

In rewarding a thought leader—and any achiever for that matter—utmost care must be taken to ensure that recognition for one implies inspiration for the rest. The earnestness and zeal that drove it, rather than the immediate utility of a novel proposition must merit its recognition. This will make sure that there is a constant inflow of ideas from all quarters. Thought leadership must not be seen as a temporary business fad that will blow over. This ‘fad’ is here to stay, for change is its hallmark.

Every organization that plans for its future must prepare for it. And there is no surer way of preparing for the future than maintaining and nurturing a powerful pool of thought leaders; whose imagination holds the key to the unpredictable challenges of the future and the infinite opportunities that are waiting to be discovered.
The author is Managing Director, Unisys Global Services India.
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