Thought Leadership 2.0: How Web 2.0 Tools Will Impact the Way You Develop and Market Your Firm’s Expertise

“Thought leadership attracts clients for a simple reason: It significantly increases their ability to determine whether a professional firm possesses truly unique insights on their problems and the expertise to solve them. Whether it comes in the form of a white paper, editorial, speech, seminar, webinar, research report, or other medium, thought leadership provides a tangible sample of a professional firm’s expertise. This is critical to selling intangible services.”
–The Bloom Group, Thoughts on Thought Leadership

"Technology is the campfire around which we tell our stories."
–Laurie Anderson

What Hasn’t Changed About Thought Leadership

The fundamentals of thought leadership in our industry have not changed:

  • Architecture and engineering firms will always need to communicate their expertise to clients, consultants, and employees.
  • Despite advances in technology, the most important aspect of thought leadership is having a thought worth sharing. Collecting insights, testing hypotheses, and distilling experiences into expertise which can be clearly communicated to others, will always be the foundation of thought leadership.

What Has Changed About Thought Leadership

We have new communication and collaboration tools:

  • The free, or nearly-free, nature of Web 2.0 tools — authoring tools such as blogs, video-sharing tools such as YouTube, and social networking tools such as LinkedIn and Twitter — have dramatically leveled the playing field. Small and emerging firms now have increased access to clients seeking their expertise.
  • Thought Leadership 2.0 tools are collaborative, which means that your audience will help you to improve or expand upon your ideas through comments and discussions.

What is Thought Leadership 2.0?

We are currently going through a period of change I like to call “Thought Leadership 2.0.”

Here’s how Thought Leadership 1.0 worked:

You had good ideas. You used Thought Leadership 1.0 tools such as writing articles and books, speaking at conferences or industry groups, and teaching seminars and classes to spread your ideas and demonstrate expertise.

Here’s how Thought Leadership 2.0 works:

Have good ideas. In addition to the tools which were available to you in Thought Leadership 1.0, you have the opportunity to leverage new Web 2.0 tools such as blogs, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Twitter to spread your ideas faster and to a larger audience. Your audience will help make your ideas better.

Examples of Thought Leadership 2.0

Last April, our company produced KA Connect 2010, a knowledge and information management conference for the AEC industry. From 2002 to 2009 I led the information technology departments of two mid-sized architecture firms in San Francisco, and through that process, came to learn that our industry did not have best practices, established frameworks, or shared vocabulary for managing information and sharing knowledge. I invited thirty-six thought leaders from architecture, engineering, construction, software, management consulting, and academia to come together for two days to share their stories. Inspired by the TED conference, I recorded all of the talks and published many of them online for free at

We had eighty attendees and the feedback on the conference was overwhelmingly positive. Yet on the Saturday after the conference, I found myself asking “what’s next?” I did not want to lose the momentum from the conference and many of the attendees had expressed interest in “continuing the conversation.” That’s when I decided to upgrade my thought leadership efforts from 1.0 to 2.0. I created the KA Connect LinkedIn Group, actively recruited guest posts for the KA Connect blog, and started tweeting the talks and publishing them to iTunes. At the core of KA Connect is an annual conference and tribe of professionals who are passionate about sharing best practices for information management and sharing knowledge. While conferences and tribes are clearly 1.0 tools, we have leveraged 2.0 tools to build a more collaborative campfire and grow the membership of the community.

As I have gone around the country speaking about Thought Leadership 2.0, I have discovered several excellent industry examples. OWP+P (now Cannon Design) took a book and turned it into an interactive website and blog at Gensler is blogging about work, cities, and lifestyle at Winter Street Architects is blogging about their expertise at All three firms are using a combination of 2.0 tools such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube to expand their respective audiences and engage in conversations with their communities.

How You Can Get Started

I’d advise sitting around some 2.0 campfires to start. Subscribe to a few blogs, join industry LinkedIn Groups (perhaps KA Connect), and follow a few thought leaders on Twitter to see what works for you and what doesn’t. Once you are comfortable, join the conversation by commenting on blogs or creating discussion threads on LinkedIn. And when the time is right, start your own campfire.

Posted: December 8th, 2010 | Filed under: Most Popular | Comments Off on Thought Leadership 2.0: How Web 2.0 Tools Will Impact the Way You Develop and Market Your Firm’s Expertise

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