It's a bit of an oversimplification, but here's an analogy for platforms and thought leadership.
Imagine it's circa 1880. There's no consensus about whether alternating or direct current electricity is better.
Hungry businesses are deploying both into the market. Patents are being granted. People are being accidentally electrocuted.
This is a context where genuine thought leadership can thrive and provide value.
Now it's the year 2021.
What does thought leadership about alternating vs. direct current look like?
If you just spit your coffee out on your keyboard, I apologize, but you should have seen that one coming.
I have a client who is focused on a very mature CMS. This is a platform specialization, and they have built an efficient business, so they were well-positioned to double down on this specialization.
In a conversation, they mentioned "doing thought leadership".
I didn't get into it with them about this because it's an understandable misuse of that idea.
Thought leadership is considered a pinnacle of content marketing. It's considered the most potent, valuable form of content marketing.
But in the context of a mature platform, whether that's a mature CMS or the electrification of homes and businesses, there's little need for thought leadership.
Here's what you do instead:
- "Code leadership": Contributing to the market you serve via open source software or, if your platform is not a tech platform, in a parallel non-software way.
- Cultivate a multi-dimensional specialization where you focus on a platform and a market vertical or horizontal problem, and cultivate real expertise in the vertical/horizontal part of your focus so that you can create genuine thought leadership content.
With #2, you are taking advantage of how close a mature platform is to a commodity, where many of the unknowns are figured out. This allows you to focus less on figuring out the platform's unknowns and more on befriending the market's uncertainty and answering that uncertainty with thought leadership.
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