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Thought Leadership

Your constantly-updated definition of Thought Leadership and collection of topical content and literature

What is Thought Leadership?

A thought leader is an influential person who influences their personal networks. Thought leaders have the powerful ability to resource information that exists beyond the immediate social network. They take “outside” information and messages and return to their social networks with a uniquely translated message.

According to Robert K. Merton, who is considered a founding father of modern sociology, thought leaders come in two forms: monomorphic and polymorphic.

A monomorphic thought leader has expertise within a single field. For example, Steve Jobs is a monomorphic thought leader on technology. You wouldn’t value his opinion on fashion design or crocheting.

Someone who is an expert in multiple fields is a polymorphic thought leader. Many people consider Leonardo DaVinci to have been a polymorphic thought leader, due to his many abilities and talents.

A polymorphic thought leader has influence because they have any of the following factors: expertise, intelligence or personality. Professional competence, social network standings and/or avid expression of inner-values strengthen the thought leader’s position.

Literature on Thought Leadership

Here’s the entire UX literature on Thought Leadership by the Interaction Design Foundation, collated in one place:

Learn more about Thought Leadership

Take a deep dive into Thought Leadership with our course Design Thinking: The Beginner’s Guide .

Some of the world’s leading brands, such as Apple, Google, Samsung, and General Electric, have rapidly adopted the design thinking approach, and design thinking is being taught at leading universities around the world, including Stanford d.school, Harvard, and MIT. What is design thinking, and why is it so popular and effective?

The overall goal of this design thinking course is to help you design better products, services, processes, strategies, spaces, architecture, and experiences. Design thinking helps you and your team develop practical and innovative solutions for your problems. It is a human-focused, prototype-driven, innovative design process. Through this course, you will develop a solid understanding of the fundamental phases and methods in design thinking, and you will learn how to implement your newfound knowledge in your professional work life. We will give you lots of examples; we will go into case studies, videos, and other useful material, all of which will help you dive further into design thinking.

This course contains a series of practical exercises that build on one another to create a complete design thinking project. The exercises are optional, but you’ll get invaluable hands-on experience with the methods you encounter in this course if you complete them, because they will teach you to take your first steps as a design thinking practitioner. What’s equally important is you can use your work as a case study for your portfolio to showcase your abilities to future employers! A portfolio is essential if you want to step into or move ahead in a career in the world of human-centered design.

Design thinking methods and strategies belong at every level of the design process. However, design thinking is not an exclusive property of designers—all great innovators in literature, art, music, science, engineering, and business have practiced it. What’s special about design thinking is that designers and designers’ work processes can help us systematically extract, teach, learn, and apply these human-centered techniques in solving problems in a creative and innovative way—in our designs, in our businesses, in our countries, and in our lives.

That means that design thinking is not only for designers but also for creative employees, freelancers, and business leaders. It’s for anyone who seeks to infuse an approach to innovation that is powerful, effective and broadly accessible, one that can be integrated into every level of an organization, product, or service so as to drive new alternatives for businesses and society.

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