What is supply chain Thought Leadership?

By Carl Melville | What exactly is supply chain Thought Leadership? Much like the story of the blind man the elephant, this question engenders all sorts of responses which are more or less accurate, but decidedly incomplete.

Thought Leadership is often compared to public relations, press relations, media relations and the various artifacts this engenders such as press releases and announcements. While all of these can be essential components, they do not constitute Thought Leadership.

Another common answer is that Thought Leadership is speaking at conferences or being involved in industry events. While it is true that Thought Leadership does include these activities, and that a successful program will most certainly have a high level of industry visibility, this does not constitute Thought Leadership.

Recently a new reply to this question has surfaced which is equally insufficient. Some people claim that thought leadership is about content creation; putting relevant content on your website, in your PowerPoints, and that all customer facing materials. Again, while these all can be good things they do not equate to supply chain Thought Leadership.

Supply chain thought leadership is a philosophy. First and foremost, even before strategy, supply chain thought leadership constitutes a philosophy that you and your organization seek to be perceived as innovators in your industry. The nature of that innovation, and the extent to which you claim to possess it, will govern your thought leadership strategy. Your ability to execute this strategy, including your ability to explain that innovation will determine the success of your supply chain thought leadership initiative.

As the previous paragraph suggests, what must follow this philosophy is a strategy that is specific to your organization, the virtues of your leaders, and the goals you set forth for your organization. All of this is against a reality of your current position in the industry, you’re available resources, and where you see the enterprise moving over the next 24 to 60 months. This type of fact-based analysis is essential for any powerful strategy, and is clearly required for effective supply chain Thought Leadership strategies.

Only after the above has been constituted do we get into some of the details noted at the beginning of the story. It is then that we bring in speaking events, industry events, media relationships, analyst relationships, white papers, content creation, and powerful leadership narratives that flow through your customer facing materials and are drilled into your front-line sales leaders.

So, the next time you are asked “what is supply chain thought leadership?” , How might you respond?

[Carl Melville is the managing partner of supplychainmarketing.com, a marketing strategy and execution firm focused on helping supply chain organizations produce superior revenue solutions.]

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