Does your organisation need more gurus?

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When did you last read a book that didn’t have a named author? Or replied in a conversational tone to an email that came not from a person, but from an organisation? If your experience reflects mine, then the answer is a resounding ‘Never!’ Yet somehow, despite wanting people to engage with their content, many consulting firms continue to push out material that offers no insight into the person behind the words. An author may be named but often at the end, and we are given little information to help us build a connection. The writing style provides no further clues – it is the ‘voice’ of the organisation. And there really is no opportunity to continue the conversation, no sign of this expert producing other material or being available on social media or at events. So why are firms so hesitant to develop and promote their own gurus? When we talk to our clients about this missed opportunity, they raise the thorny issues of experts – who have been built up to represent the firm on a particular topic – leaving, perhaps even leaving to join a competitor. Our view has been that it’s a risk worth taking, and that it’s less of a risk than it might appear: if you were supported by your firm in building up your influence, wouldn’t it take quite a lot to tempt you elsewhere? We recently had chance to interview one of our favourite gurus – William Eggers, Director of Public Sector Research at Deloitte – whose publications on Deloitte University Press always educate through an engaging approach. “I think some of the concern is misplaced,” he told us. “On one side of the ledger, Deloitte has put a huge investment into me in the 13 years I’ve been with the firm. The firm naturally doesn’t want to lose this investment. I have thousands of contacts with clients, key influencers and experts internally with whom I partner with on projects. But you also have to look at the other side of the ledger. In professional services firms, the incentive for someone with eminence in their field to stay at the firm is actually very strong the longer they’re there because so much of their intellectual property is intertwined with the firm. Deloitte, for example, owns the IP for the studies and books I’ve written since joining the firm. For me to leave is probably a lose-lose scenario for me and for Deloitte. So it’s a situation where the incentives are quite strong on both sides to continue to build and develop the relationship.” Not all firms can or should bring in established experts (as Deloitte did with William in 2002). But all firms could be doing more to develop their own gurus – gurus whose voice and experience your target clients will be keen to hear more of. The full interview with William Eggers is available for White Space subscribers.

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