Many clients of professional firms depend on their professional advisors to advise them on new developments that might affect them.
If your firm is focused on finding urban transportation alternatives, for example, your clients depend on you to keep them informed on regulatory and legal developments in this field -- such as short-term, online-based car rentals.
So how can your firm demonstrate to your clients that your firm stays current on new developments that might help or harm them, in the world of transportation?
Take a science fiction approach to thought leadership.
How “Cyberspace” moved from the page to reality
I’m writing this in Vancouver, Canada, home to William Gibson, one of my favorite science fiction writers. Gibson is widely credited with coining the term “Cyberspace,” in his 1984 novel “Neuromancer.” Now, I remember computers from 1984. At the time, computers were huge, clumsy, text-only machines used for, well, computing. Calculating, mostly.
Gibson envisioned a network of computer systems, displayed as three dimensional images, much like today’s GUI images, that could be accessed from anywhere (and hacked) by anyone with a “deck” connected to Cyberspace. From that science fiction origin, the idea of Cyberspace eventually achieved reality, to the point that the term Cyberspace already seems a little dated.
But the point is that Gibson and other science fiction writers postulate what the world might turn into, serving as a guide of sorts, to the future.
Professional services firms can do this too, and in so doing demonstrate:
- They care enough to take the risk of making predictions that might not come true
- They are willing to give the benefit of their understanding, at no cost
- They understand their clients’ world
- The solutions they recommend will not be cookie-cutter, but rather crafted to meet the needs of the industry or sector they serve
That’s a powerful position to be in. Clients will pay more for, and give preference to, firms that show the ability to protect them from future problems.
Unlocking the knowledge treasure inside business professionals’ minds
I find that many business professionals have strong opinions, backed by sound knowledge, about the future of their target industry. It’s easy to envision the essential of a transportation world in which drivers are virtually obsolete, harder to figure out how to make these systems safe.
As an example of forward thinking, in 1997 or so I worked with an accountant who led the insurance sector practice for a major international firm. One might expect this person to know about audit and tax matters related to insurance, and that’s it. But sitting down with him, I found him to be a fountain of ideas on the future of the insurance industry. At the time, the independent insurance brokers were facing a huge wave of ‘disintermediation’ in which customers were seeking quotes for coverage online, threatening to bypass the brokers. My insurance sector auditor client had some strong ideas on how brokers could not just survive, but thrive, in this scary new world. I worked with him to prepare what was literally a science fiction short story, talking about the future, ten years out, for an insurance brokerage. We published this story in an insurance sector magazine.
Unlocking the science fiction writer in you
To generate this type of thought leadership content, consider four points:
- Current trends and influences that are affecting your target industry or clients
- Postulate what these trends might lead to, in perhaps ten years
- Think of what steps the most successful companies might have taken to avoid problems and gain benefits
- Write out your ideas, with recommendations on good courses of action
Nobody’s going to call you to account, ten years from now, on what you predicted, that turned out differently. You’re giving your best estimate, based on current knowledge. But in so doing you provide valuable informed opinion, do some good ... and maybe give your clients a glimpse of the future.