Choose your idols carefully


Analysis of our thought leadership ratings over the course of the last decade reveals a narrowing of the gap between the lowest- and highest-ranking firm. The good news is that the worst is getting better. The bad news is that the best hasn’t changed much at all. We shouldn’t miss the opportunity to congratulate Capgemini on maintaining its position at the top in our latest rankings—it’s a really remarkable achievement, built on a foundation of extraordinary consistency—but it does so courtesy of an average score that’s almost precisely the same as the top firm was scoring in the second half of 2011.

Which brings to mind a question we often get asked when we’re talking to firms about their thought leadership: “Which firm should we be aspiring to be like?” While there are plenty of ways to answer that in terms of individual pieces of thought leadership (have a look at It's not 1 in 4, it's all of us from Accenture), the truth is that even firms with a reputation for greatness, like McKinsey, while they may offer valuable lessons about how that reputation was earned, are failing to set an institutionalised example of greatness to which other firms should aspire today. They may still be capable of publishing great pieces, but one swallow does not a summer make, nor one fine day. On the other hand, Capgemini deserves your admiration for what it’s doing to tackle the incredibly difficult issue of consistency, but an uncompromising reading of its achievements would say that it has so far only managed to create the platform from which it could go on to lead. Right now, it’s consistently good, rather than consistently great. It leads without truly leading. It’s not yet the idol it could become.

If there must be a search for idols—and our suspicion is that much may be achieved by shifting the focus of the search for greatness inwards rather than outwards—then perhaps they’re to be found in the form of content that serves as an example of what’s possible in respect of one (rather than all) of the criteria we use to judge quality in thought leadership. For example, if you’re looking for inspiration when it comes to addressing what remains the Achilles heel of most thought leadership—its ability to prompt action—spend some time watching the final episode of the BBC’s Blue Planet 2. You try not taking action after watching that.

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