How Research-Driven Organizations Become Thought Leaders

Take This Risk

Experts know.

Authorities know and apply that knowledge credibly, sharing the application habitually and liberally with others it might benefit, building a relationship of trust.

Implicit in that application of knowledge is POV and the risk of focusing your and others’ attention — on the issue, the problem, the solution set.

To win authority, you must be willing to stick your neck out and call X in and Y out. Expertise is comfortable with remaining uncertain. Authority must acknowledge uncertainty and offer a way forward anyway, based on the deliberate application of knowledge and expertise.

For instance: Signal, the daily global security newsletter from Ian Bremmer’s Eurasia Group, yesterday led with Bremmer and Cliff Kupchan’s top ten list of global political risk stories for 2020.

(They also, amusingly and interestingly and importantly, included at the bottom a list of “red herrings” — stories that Bremmer and Kupchan think won’t rise to the level of dominating the news this year. On the red herring list: populism, Brexit, North Korea, Syria and Venezuela.)

This is the best idea for authority content for the new year I’ve seen.

It’s not a list of their most popular articles for 2019. (Are we sick of that trope yet? Yes, I know it’s a reliable click magnet…at least for the first two of the 200 newsletters you and I get.)

And it’s much more than a list of “what’s ahead for the new year.”

A top-ten risk list for the year could be resolutely unsurprising. That’s what an expert would do. And we’d stop reading no more than halfway through.

In the hands of authorities such as Bremmer, a top-ten risk list is itself full of risk. And they take that risk, feet-first — because the risk of making your risk-list counterintuitive and full of POV and argument (about what’s on the list, what’s off it, how it’s ordered, and a dozen other aspects) returns the rewards of fresh thinking, disagreement, conversation and engagement with your existing audience and new ones.

Authorities take risks like this. Risk is part of the nature of authority, of fostering its social contract. It’s a way of answering your audience’s biggest question (“what’s going to happen?”) and staying ahead of them at the same time.

You (and your organization) should be able to come up with at least a top-five or top-three risk list for 2020 (or the 2020s) for the sector that’s your most important audience.

Or a top-five opportunity list that no one is talking about.

It’s still January. Plenty of time for you to put this together and out. Send it to me when you do — I’ll feature it here and on my forthcoming podcast.