The last thing I said to Laurie was: “See you Thursday when I can update you on ‘the list’.” That was on Tuesday, the 17th of September, at the last Cobwebs event that Laurie would host.
On Thursday 19th we were due to meet at the Three Horizons Training in Oxford. When he didn’t attend we all commented on how unlike it was for Laurie not to let us know. Over that weekend I thought about Laurie and was going to call him on Monday to see if he was OK and then I got the email saying he had died on the Wednesday the 18th.
“The list” was created two weeks earlier when I called Laurie to say “I’m free” and that I’d left the corporate world with a package! He was so excited for me and said “Debs, do you want my advice?” and I said “Of course, Laurie, that’s why I’m calling you”.
This was the way it had been between us, from when we first met in the late 80’s. Our paths kept crossing. We never actually worked together, although there were some near misses (Unisys & Blakes). We shared the same values and beliefs in people and services marketing.
Through the Cobwebs events Laurie had introduced me to “futures” and how we should be including this in marketing strategy. Now it seemed we had the ideal opportunity to work together. Laurie seemed to be at his happiest and really content. No longer was he constrained by a corporate (bollocks) environment, no longer was he under pressure to run his own business, Laurie was just being Laurie and being valued for just being himself.
Laurie’s advice to me was to “take my time” to “hang loose for a while” (child of the sixties) and most ironically to “follow my heart”.
The list I was to give Laurie was an update of the people I should meet and marketing bodies I should join. Even though Laurie is no longer here “the list keeps giving” as I meet more and more of Laurie’s friends and they share what Laurie meant to them.
Laurie may have been my touchstone but he touched so many people, whether it was meeting him just once, knowing him from the beginning or more recently in his career. Everyone has a story (or two) to tell about Laurie. I hope that you will join in and share your story(ies) on his memorial page.
Mike has known Laurie since they were at college together, he spoke at the memorial on 4th October 2013 and again at the memorial on 22nd January 2014.
Mike has always called Laurie “ Lol” , long before it became short text for “Laugh out Loud” and “Lots of Love”, both of which absolutely apply.
Below is the transcript from the memorial updated from the service, and the last photo of Laurie and Mike which taken outside the Globe Theatre by Sue, Laurie’s partner.
First of all can I say sorry to anyone who was at Lol’s funeral, because they’re about to hear again a lot of what I said on that day, but I do also have a few extra things to say, so I hope this won’t feel like a complete waste of time.
I’m very proud to be able to say that Lol and I go back over forty years, to when he and I were spotty, self-important sixth formers doing our A Levels at Southend High School for Boys. My first and abiding memory of Lol is in the library, lecturing me about how stupid and immature I was. He was a sort of an old soul, wasn’t he? He was just one of those people who was always far more mature than his years. And I remember him as always ready to debate, ready to take on the world.
I remember in English, with our teacher Mr Sheldrake, who we called Bombduck, that Lol was outraged by Bombduck’s assertion that the notion of romantic love had been created by 12th century troubadour poets. Lol believed that in fact there was ample evidence of exactly this kind of idealising love in the Song of Solomon in the Bible. It makes me nervous even telling you about this, because I’m probably getting all the facts wrong. I can so easily imagine him saying to me, with a look of withering scorn, you have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about. Anyway, being Lol, he wasn’t afraid to put Bombduck right on the issue either. He even promised him an essay on the subject, and forty years later, when he and I were in the Queens Head in Chesham looking back at those times, he still felt as if he owed Bombduck that essay.
Lol and I met up from time to time to play chess, and to continue the conversation that had started between us all those years ago. He was much better at chess than me, and I came to realise, slowly and painfully, that his moves were in fact based on an actual understanding of the game. When I won, as I did occasionally, it was I think because he just had no defence against the sheer illogicality, desperation and daftness of my moves.
Lol was optimistic about the future. He believed in people, that they had the resources and the sheer common sense to create better solutions in the future than were found in the past. And judging by the way he always talked about his three boys, I think it was his belief in and love for them that encouraged him to feel good about the future.
He often found his own surprisingly cheerful way of looking at a situation. One that springs to mind was when we’d both seen a news report in which people were moaning about the fact that they’d have to wait a year or more longer before they could take their state pension. “Only the British,” he said, “could make a bad news story out of the fact that people are living longer!”
Lol despised fundamentalist thinking, religious or political. He despised cant, prejudice, injustice. Sometimes he’d text me and say, “Do you want to have a beer and put the world to rights?” And that’s how he and I felt when we got together, as if we could make sense of things, things that outraged us or disappointed us. Somehow when we talked I came away feeling a little better about the world. We were just a couple of grumpy old men, really, but we were cheerful grumpy old men, and I count myself very lucky to have had those evenings with Lol over a chess board.
And one day over a game I said to Lol, “You know, the trip I’ve always wanted to do is the Trans-Siberian Railway.” Lol looked at me, thought for a moment, and said, “OK then – let’s do it!” If it hadn’t been for Lol, I would still be saying I wanted to do that one day. But he was ready, there and then, to make it happen. And I feel so pleased, and so grateful, that he and I got to have that amazing adventure together.
It means that today I have the chance to tell you about the time when we were travelling through the Gobi Desert in Mongolia, looking out across this amazing landscape in the hope of spotting a camel or two. We were standing in the corridor of the train, and Lol started talking about his legacy. He was wondering what it might be, what he might leave behind when he’d gone. How would people remember him? He talked about the books he’d written, and the books he was hoping to write. He even talked about the novel that he always hoped he would eventually be able to coax out of his head and onto the page. But then we found ourselves remembering a scene in the film It’s a Wonderful Life. He and I both loved the film, in fact we watched it in the cinema on Christmas Eve, two years in a row. Towards the end of the film, when George Bailley realises that actually, he really has had a wonderful life, I remember Lol would suddenly pull out his handkerchief and do that sudden fog horn of a snort he did. It always got to him, as it gets to me. But anyway, that day in the Gobi Desert we remembered that George Bailley’s guardian angel Clarence gives him a copy of Tom Sawyer, and inside the book Clarence has written, “Remember: no man is a failure who has friends”. Lol and I both thought that day, what better legacy could there be? And today, looking round at this gathering of his friends, I think I can say with confidence that Lol would be very gratified, and very humble, to see you all here today.
I could tell you so many stories about our journey from St Petersburg to Beijing: about how Lol seemed determined to eat every strange and unappetising thing on every menu we encountered. How he and I trekked for two days around Lake Baikal in Siberia. How, when we discovered that the provodnitsas on the train were smuggling melons from Irkutsk to Ulaan Baatar by hiding them under our seats, Lol took it upon himself to hoist the boxes out into the passageway. And how he believed he didn’t snore.
But I think I’ve said already the most important thing about our adventure. That when it was offered to him, he said yes at once. That’s the kind of man he was. And that’s why I feel honoured today, in this gathering of his friends and his family, to be able to say, he was my friend.
Laurie and I met at Unisys in 1990; he had just left BT and myself Granada Computer Services. He worked for the UK marketing team and I was with the European HQ, each of us focusing on services marketing. We enjoyed many intense debates on the subject.
Laurie wrote his first book, Competitive Customer Care around this time, whilst unifying elements of Unisys’ services offerings in ways that stood the firm in good stead for the future and were years ahead of their time. In the mid 90s I left the field of computer services but Laurie still kept in touch, although we did not meet nearly so frequently.
I last met him in 2009 at Café Nero in Pinner. We had not met for over 10 years. I was between jobs and he was planning the research for Thought Leadership. He was excited about that. Like a child with a new toy. Infectious enthusiasm. He was also quite reflective that day. He clearly loved his writing and told me he felt that his destiny was to write for others. He also spoke of his beloved collection of first editions. At the time he had published around half a million words and was proud of that. He said he had valued his corporate roles and building his own business, but was delighted to be at last free from the pressures of both. He listened to me and guided me in his positive and supportive way that so many others have mentioned.
I was in shock when I learned of his passing. I was privileged to know him and work with him for a short period. From my own experience and from meeting so many who knew him at the funeral and memorial service and from earlier comments here it is clear that we have lost a great friend and truly exceptional human being.
May he rest in peace and may his legacy live long and continue to help others achieve their dreams.
Roger Emmott (firstname.lastname@example.org)
I first met Laurie when he was marketing partner at PWC back in the late 90’s. He’d arrived at the time I was halfway through a major strategic marketing project for PWC. Suddenly I had a client who not only understood what I was on about, but who also questioned, improved and expanded my thinking.
Since then we’ve collaborated regularly and it’s always been a pleasure. Laurie’s curiosity, intelligence, warmth and generosity were exceptional. Our last meeting in September was unexceptional. We’d identified three or four new things to work on, were both excited at the prospect and were scheduled to talk again two days later.
When I rang two days later, through to voicemail. Not like Laurie. I rang again the following Monday; again to voicemail. Was it something I said? Maybe he’s really busy and doesn’t have time to talk?
I soon found out what had happened. Couldn’t believe it. In fact I still can’t!
Tim Westall (email@example.com)
It seems impossible to me even now that I should be writing a memorial tribute to one of the most ‘alive’ people I’ve known. Laurie was curious, imaginative, fun-loving, witty and courageous. He was also a fabulous marketer. For me, he was a great friend.
I have had the privilege of working with Laurie for twenty years: from Blakes Marketing Practice through PwC and Fujitsu; working together on the CIM Board of Trustees; co-authoring ‘Marketing Technology as a Service’ for Wiley; and more recently working as consultants together on a variety of projects. I have seen him deliver high quality, thought-provoking work to some of the world’s leading firms. I’ve watched him train and mentor aspiring marketers as they get to grips with the techniques that will really make a difference to their careers. And I’ve laughed with him till we cried at some of the funny things we have seen and done over the years…
Laurie helped me get through some of life’s toughest times, including the loss of both my parents. He told me that grief is strange – you think you have it under control, then it comes and kicks you in the stomach while you’re washing up one day and you find yourself wet with tears.
I owe him a huge debt, as so many of us do. He set us all an example by being both professional and human at work (our brand values from Blakes Marketing Practice, all those years ago). The humanity is important. Its what made him so special; being world class at the same time as being a normal, wobbly human being.
I can still hear him when I feel wobbly about opening a training course or stepping onto a conference platform, simply saying, ‘Come on girl, its showtime!’
Thank you Laurie.
Bev Burgess (firstname.lastname@example.org)
I met Laurie when he was 34 and at the top of the ‘High Flyer’ community in BT. He came to see me when I was Career Advisor at the (then) British Institute of Management saying ‘success is related to satisfaction so – what next?’
He saw himself even then, as being on a journey which would offer him the opportunities to develop and to release his creativity.
He moved to Unisys, took marketing exams, got his first contract to write a book and did three business plans for new ideas all between 1991 and 1993! His energy and enthusiasm never diminished in all the years I knew him.
Laurie was always sensitive to those around him and the need to make them feel confident in him and his ideas. He was genuine and kind to others. He supported and encouraged me when I left the Institute and set up Jo Ouston & Co. He came to many workshops and introduced many of his friends and contacts and employed me to help in selection of consultants for Blakes Marketing
His personal constructs included drive, sophisticated thinking, accomplishment, sharp thinking and tendency to ‘get on with it’ whilst honouring his belief in being true to himself, open and sponsoring others.
I think everyone who has known Laurie would be able to recognise all those traits. It was impossible not to grow fond of such a generous and genuine man.
Jo Ouston, Director – Jo Ouston & Company Limited
Yesterday (22nd Jan 2014), at the “Cobweb” event held in honour of Laurie at the Royal Society, I was given the opportunity to say a few words – in fact a whole two minutes of them. It seems fitting to include them here.
I have just discovered from the last speaker that Laurie and I had more in common then I had thought. He had written eleven books, and I have read eleven books.
So Laurie Young in two minutes – really?
I first met Laurie on joining the International Board of Trustees of the Chartered Institute of Marketing. He stood out as someone who was driven, a leader, with a little touch of the wheeler dealer. Most importantly he was someone who put others at their ease while helping them in fulfilling their role.
While he left the Trustees over a matter of principal, our paths kept crossing. We appeared in The Market Leader, my first ever article which benefited from his guidance.
Throughout our acquaintance I, and I know others, kept mentioning the Worshipful Company of Marketors. Once we had convinced him that we didn’t just, as he saw it, dress up and wine and dine, and that there were old friends involved, and, most importantly there was a lot of good work to be done in support of both the community and of the marketing profession, he finally came round in 2012 and I was delighted to welcome him into the Company.
As I expected, in no time he was involved in not only joining the Marketors Think Tank and speaking at a panel event on measuring marketing effectiveness, but also organising a visit for members to the Guildhall Library where he was able to exercise his interest in the history of branding.
Laurie will be greatly missed. However, as he enters the Pearly Gates, I am sure that, with the current state of the church, his views on thought leadership will be greatly prized.
John Flynn (email@example.com)
I have known Laurie for the last 5 years or so, as a consultant, inspirer and mentor. In that time he demonstrated some amazing qualities- giving his time freely, sharing his wisdom and taking real pleasure in seeing others succeed.
I interviewed him for a book in 2011 and asked him the secret of his success: “Honesty and integrity and being seen as Mr Nice Guy was what worked for me,” he said. How true. More than that, Laurie had a great grasp of marketing theory, which with his great personality, intellect and experience made him somebody everyone would listen to.
In short, he was a great man and I will miss him greatly.
I had the unique privilege of knowing, loving & sharing my life with Beloved Laurie for a few short precious years before he was so cruelly taken away from us all. Despite my grief I feel blessed that we packed in a lifetime of joie de vivre & wonderful memories,whether it was enjoying a night out over a meal or the theatre, travelling & exploring on the many business & pleasure trips all over the world, rambling through our glorious Chilterns which he loved so much, spending time with both our families or just chilling out at home; we both found a loving contentment in each other’s company & were looking forward to a long-term future together in our new home.
Having met some of his many business colleagues after the funeral & reading the amazing tributes on his memorial page I realise you all have an individual insight into the essence of Laurie the accomplished business professional, creative author, mentor, lecturer, raconteur but above all Laurie the man who related to people across the board with his generous, intelligent, humorous inquisitive zest for life.
Thank you Laurie, ‘I carry your heart with me I carry it in my heart’
Sue Sinclair- Smith
I first met Laurie when he was services marketing director for Unisys. I was working as a consultant with the Unisys customer services team advising them on the development of new and profitable service streams.
We hit it off immediately as we had many similar idea on services marketing within the technology sector and over the years Laurie involved me in a number of projects both at Unisys and later at Blakes Marketing Practice including work for Microsoft.
Part of the fun of working with Laurie was the joyous and free-ranging debate on ideas that is reflected in his publications. Although I left consultancy to take up a post in the voluntary sector in 2005 we remained in touch and I was desperately sorry to learn of his death.
In memoriam, Laurie Young, 1955 – 2013
Laurie Young MBA, Dip M, FCIM was a widely-respected international specialist in the marketing and selling of services whose career was focused primarily in the professional services and technology sectors.
One of the few independent advisors to the professions who was himself a partner in a leading firm, as a global marketing partner of PricewaterhouseCoopers. Laurie’s career included senior positions with BT and Unisys. He also founded and built his own consultancy company, which was sold to Oglvy & Mather on behalf of WWP. He will be sorely missed by both friends and colleagues alike.
Laurie had been dividing his time between consultancy work (including teaching on the Executive Education Programme of Wharton Business School, USA), public speaking, writing, advising senior executives and marketing professionals. Amongst Laurie’s recent assignments he chaired Fujitsu’s Customer Experience Management panel and was one of two external members of the innovation board of Allen & Overy, a senior group reporting to the chairman on change initiatives in this global law firm. Over the years his clients also included Russell Reynolds Associates, Deloitte, Philips, Hitachi, Motorola, Lucent, Clifford Chance, Ericsson, Ingersoll Rand, Microsoft, the BBC, Cable & Wireless, American Express, NatWest, Gartmore, Nokia and BDO Stoy Hayward.
A popular presenter Laurie spoke at a range of events every year from in-company seminars to larger international conferences. He enjoyed writing and he had over a hundred articles on service marketing published in trade journals and the national press. He had also started to write a novel. He researched his subjects meticulously and took great joy in debunking the myths of management. He had eight books published to date, and his latest Thought Leadership in the pipeline.
His book, Marketing Technology as a Service: Proven techniques that create value, published 2010, attracted widespread interest in Europe, the US and Asia. Laurie told me that Chinese business Mr Zhang Ruimin, CEO and Chairman, Haier Group, Beijing had contacted him about the book and ordered copies for every one of his staff. Encouraged by the book Haier accelerated its changeover from a traditional product-driven to a more customer-centric company.
Last year I sat next to Laurie at his first formal event with the Worshipful Company of Marketors to which he had just been admitted as a Freeman. He admitted that he was a somewhat reluctant recruit; I set out to convince him of the values of our Livery Company.
I recommended him as a member of the Think Tank, highly unusual for a new member. He subsequently was a speaker at an excellent panel event on measuring marketing effectiveness. I also asked him to direct an event visiting the Guildhall Library. Knowing his passion for the long history of branding I thought he would take to this with enthusiasm and he exceeded my expectations.
Laurie and I attended the IOD Convention in September and it was on the evening of that event when I heard the tragic news of his sudden death from a heart attack. I must have been one of the last people to speak to him.
David Pearson, Junior Warden, The Worshipful Company of Marketors
Published in Marketor, Winter 2013/Issue 62
Laurie always managed to dispense advice gracefully and genuinely, and when we met for what turned out to be the final time at the Criterion in London, he made me promise, hand over heart, that I would write and publish a book in the next few years as I have always wanted to do.
When he failed to show up for our next meeting, which we had arranged together only a couple of days before, I knew something was wrong. Laurie was unfailingly polite and well mannered, and never once did I know him to not answer a phone message or email – even when travelling in China! Laurie had agreed to take part in a session with our customers to help advise us on our next direction, and it was so unlike him to not turn up as promised.
My full tribute is here: http://blog.icebluesky.com/2013/11/a-tribute-to-laurie-young/
Charlotte Graham-Cumming – firstname.lastname@example.org
I was with Laurie the day before he died and we were expecting him to be at a meeting the day after. We were surprised when he didn’t turn up and no message. So unlike him, courteous and punctual.
In my last conversation with him I asked if I could review his book on Thought Leadership. I never imagined that he would not be around to read it. He was so excited and cheerfully looking forward.
Here is where I posted my review: http://www.bcs.org/content/conBlogPost/2252
That says what I want to say.
Chris Yapp – email@example.com
Laurie was a great friend and colleague. We met when he came into PwC as a Marketing Partner in the PwC Advisory practice. I always was impressed by his enthusiasm and optimism and his way of supporting and nurturing his people. He was a real gem and sorely missed.
He was also our Chairman at the Strategic Planning Society – a “little charity” as he would describe it, but in fact a membership association with a great brand and legacy since 1967. His passion for SPS was immense and I hope to continue his great work and ambition to grow the organisation to further success.
On behalf of the Board of Trustees of SPS I would like to wish Laurie all the best wherever he is….and to send our deepest sentiments to his family and friends.
Fiona AE Carter, CEO, Strategic Planning Society
For many years I was fortunate to work alongside Laurie – we were both tutors on CIM courses, we often spoke on the same conference platform, we were both writers and I reviewed many of his books. We had both started long ago in the technology sector and then moved into the Big Four accountants as our baptism in the professions. Mind you, I was a mere consultant at Deloitte while he was a high flying partner on the privatisation team at PWC.
And from this professional association we became close friends. We would meet up regularly to talk about the latest developments in marketing and in the professions.
Whilst ever the pragmatist he was thoroughly well versed in theory. And took great delight in researching and digging into the origins of accepted wisdom and challenging the status quo. Perhaps he missed his vocation as an academic.
And we always met at interesting places – we both liked finding those hidden little gems a bit off the beaten track. Sometimes, I’d review them. Often, they became – and remain – some of my favourite restaurants.
But I thought it was also worth mentioning some of the other sides of Laurie. He loved to travel. He did this with his business, of course, and made friends with some of the world’s great commercial leaders.
He had fascinating tales to tell about innovation in Asia and entrepreneurialism in China. But he also travelled a lot for pleasure – whether this was to hole up in some sunny Caribbean location to finish writing one of his book, visiting friends in far-flung corners of the earth or exploring the Trans-Siberian railways with a close friend.
He was also happy to be out and about closer to home – wandering around heaths and parks. He once described London as “a beautiful woman surrounded by green petticoats”. Perhaps this partly explains his role at The Ramblers Association.
The other big thing was his love of music. And he was so very proud of his sons and their activities and achievements in this area. Laurie’s taste in music was both eclectic and deep. He always wanted to play saxophone – so he could join in those jazz jams he so admired. The only type of music he lacked appreciation of was discovered by accident at a hilarious and very short stop at a blue grass gig.
He was always smiling. He was always enquiring. He was always challenging. His busy mind rarely rested.
He gave his time generously – to all who asked. His colleagues respected him. His students adored him. His friends loved him.
He was always a source of inspiration and support. I miss my dear friend so very much.
Kim Tasso – firstname.lastname@example.org
I first met Laurie when he came to us with the idea for his last book Thought Leadership. It became very apparent that here was a man with great energy, commitment and a deep understanding of his subject. He quickly became a close friend of the company and took up the position of chair of Kogan Page’s Marketing Editorial Advisory Board.
His ability to drive to the heart of the subject with clear and uncluttered vision was apparent. He was also a generous networker; often bringing together individuals for the first time where he identified a like-mindedness or where he knew the introduction would result in a flow of new ideas and energy. The publication of Thought Leadership was greatly anticipated by ourselves and Laurie. The many plans for its promotion, in which Laurie would play a central part, were about to be put into action. I last saw Laurie as he had just finished filming at our offices and we shared the excitement of his soon-to-be-published book. It was with deep shock that we heard of his untimely death. He is greatly missed by us all.
Helen Kogan – email@example.com
I remember Laurie from my time at PwC and working for him on a restructuring project. His marketing and business experience was vast and he had a way of delivering insight and advice in a way that was always calm and assured. I met him again briefly last year and he spoke enthusiastically about his new book on Thought Leadership. His death comes as a shock and I am certain he will be greatly missed.
Ayo Daramola-Martin, Managing Director, Admotus Marketing
Laura Mazur remembers a keen mentor and kind friend.
The marketing universe lost one of its brightest stars when Laurie Young died suddenly on 18th September at the age of 58. Laurie was a truly genuine communicator. He combined intellectual depth and a passion and curiosity for ideas with the ability to get to the core of a business problem and come up with a sensible and effective solution.
A brief look at Laurie’s portfolio career shows that he was something of a renaissance man. First, there was his acknowledged business/strategic marketing expertise, encompassing a range of positions which demanded marketing skills in the midst of dramatic change, including BT and Unisys. At PricewaterhouseCoopers, as global marketing partner of its corporate finance division, he was one of the few non-accountancy partners at senior level.
Then there was Laurie the entrepreneur. In 1994 he founded his own professional services company, specialising in services marketing. It grew to be a mid-sized boutique which was eventually bought by WWP’s Ogilvy and Mather.
He was in great demand as a consultant as well, advising clients such as Allen & Overy, Ericsson, Philips, Motorola, Microsoft, Fujitsu, Russel Reynolds and American Express. His clients enjoyed not only his ability to get right to the heart of an issue, but the enthusiasm and good humour with which he tackled even the trickiest of assignments.
An experienced and charismatic speaker and presenter, he was equally at home with a conference audience of business owners, delivering an in-house seminar to marketing professionals or leading a round-table discussion with senior executives and partners.
But it was, perhaps, Laurie’s emergence as a successful and acclaimed business writer that really characterised the later stages of his career. He was a passionate and prolific writer, as his admirable catalogue of books for publishers John Wiley and, latterly, Kogan Page attest. His latest, and sadly, final book, Thought Leadership, was published on 3 October.
Laurie had that very rare capacity to mine the past for lessons, debunking nonsense along the way, while at the same time being open and curious about new developments. He had a deep respect for the history of marketing and must have been one of the few people in the world to have collected a list of brands from as far back as the 9th century.
Above all, he was a very kind man, a keen mentor, a good judge of character and someone who made people feel better about themselves and their capabilities. We will miss him.
Editorial published in Quarter 1, 2014 edition of Market Leader: Food for Thought
Laurie Young, who died recently, was a regular contributor to Market Leader. He had the kind of insatiable curiosity that made him a particularly valuable member of the Editorial Board, always on the lookout for new developments, well read in the academic world and quick to debunk nonsense. Recently he became fascinated by the concept of thought leadership. We are pleased to publish an extract from his newly published book on the subject as our lead article.
As Laurie points out, thought leadership is a very slippery concept. One of the things that intrigued him was that in researching his book, he could find no serious mention of thought leadership in any marketing textbook or academic journal, despite its widespread use by some of the world’s most successful companies – especially in the professional services and technology sectors. By way of illustration, Bev Burgess describes in her article how thought leadership is used in practice in citing IBM and others. Some may not even realise this is what they are doing. If a campaign has a substantial advertising component like Dove, for example, it is typically thought of as an advertising story by both professionals and consumers. PR campaigns are standard practice. But an intelligently conceived and executed thought leadership programme is much more than just advertising or PR.
Perhaps the most significant point in Laurie’s article is his description of how the marketing paradigm has gradually evolved over time from “demand push” to “demand pull”, and it is this shift that opens up a role for thought leadership. Complex concepts, such as Fairtrade, connected to big social ideas for movements, are significant candidates for this treatment. Marketers in these areas need to take notice.
What does a real servant leader do? A lesson from my mentor, Laurie Young
One of the principal reasons that many individuals and organisations engage in futures work is to support ‘thought leadership’ (TL). The term has been around for many years. Wikipedia attributes the term ‘thought leader’ to Joel Kurtzman in 1994. I can remember a ‘thought leadership’ lecture in 1990. So whatever the origin the term has been around for at least two decades.
Yet what is ‘thought leadership’? For an individual what makes the difference in being seen as a thought leader in say 3D printing or the internet of things, as opposed to being a hype-merchant?
The IT industry has lots of roles for evangelists, champions and the like who produce white papers under the banner of TL.
What I find odd is how little work has been done to understand the term. There is a dearth of literature on the topic. Look at the literature on say innovation and you’ll soon see the difference. Where does it come from? Who does it well? Why is it done? What is the value of being a thought leader?
Laurie Young’s new book on the topic, called simply ‘Thought Leadership’, answers a lot of these questions and gives a wide variety of instances and good case studies both in recent times and goes back as far as Boulton and Watt to show that there is a long established discipline or practice and that there is good cause to look at success and failure in attempting to be recognised by the market as a thought leader. The final chapter gives some interesting ideas about how TL may evolve.
In management circles, Peter Drucker readily springs to mind as a candidate for such a status in the last century. Just one of his ideas, management by objectives (MBO), has had an enormous impact on organisational life. Far more people are impacted by it than have ever read the book it sprang from. The Turing machine is an obvious example in our discipline.
Once the idea is out in the world, any control over it by the creator is likely to be lost. My own suspicion is that if Drucker were alive today he would be horrified by the systems and practice that purport to be MBO. One of the joys of not being in the corporate world is to avoid MBO. If you go back to the source of the idea, most organisations who think they are doing MBO could do with reading what Drucker said were the limitations. Personally, I think that its misapplication has created too many organisations that are over-managed and under-led. Anyway, that’s my gripe out of the way.
In a world where products are easily commodified, communicating TL to clients, governments and business partners is central to many organisations ability to recruit and retain talent and to see beyond the next quarter’s figures or this year’s targets.
One of the best ways to embarrass an in-house futurist is to ask how the ideas they talk about are used internally to impact on strategic direction. It is very easy to become detached from the operational decision-making world and to become disconnected from the strategic world.
So, Laurie’s book has fluently scoped and explained TL in a way that should be useful to any professional who has such a role or aspires to it.
Sadly, the book arrived two days after Laurie’s funeral. He died suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of 58. I was with him the day before he died. He was his usual warm, generous and engaging self.
Laurie had a distinguished career at BT, Unisys and PwC before branching out into writing and consultancy. The IT industry and professional services have lost one of the most insightful, passionate and committed professionals I have had the pleasure to know.
A book on thought leadership is a fitting legacy for a man who was a recognised thought leader.
I first met Laurie at a conference some years back where he was speaking about how marketers need to understand office politics. It was both perceptive and funny and talking to him afterwards was the start of a treasured relationship.
I started working with him on his first book for Wiley, Marketing the Professional Services Firm, helping both with the writing and the case studies. By the time we started working on his subsequent From Products to Services Laurie was so accomplished as a writer that he only needed my input with the case studies. His reputation as a thoughtful and insightful business writer was soon flourishing.
He was always coming up with new and fascinating topics he wanted to explore, from marketing techniques of past centuries to the uses and abuses of management tools. Best of all was his sheer enthusiasm for whatever he did. It’s still hard to believe he is no longer around.
Laura Mazur, Writers 4 Management (www.writers4management.com)
I met Laurie first when Laura Mazur introduced us & suggested that we write a book together on Scenarios in Marketing – this we did and it is still the main book on the subject. We kept in touch over the years and in 2011 we realised that our clients – SAMI’s in strategy & futures, Laurie’s in strategy & marketing – were saying that the business environment was so confusing, incomplete and indigestible that they felt unable to get a clear picture; and that they were sure that industry prejudices and unarticulated sets of beliefs which had grown up in their market were not necessarily future proof. So we designed and ran the “Blowing the Cobwebs off your Mind” series of events – which were in progress at the time of his untimely death. Laurie was not only a delight to work with, he was empathetic and full of ideas, quick to see how to get new ideas, about the future and how to anticipate it, to people who have “day jobs”. And his approach of “why don’t we just do it” led us to some amazing insights. He was unique and is very much missed.”
Gill Ringland, CEO & Fellow, SAMI Consulting (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Laurie was a warm and generous person and I will miss him. We met many years ago through CIM and we would meet up in Oxford, and generally go to a good restaurant somewhere in the country.
Laurie did some very good work for us on Services Marketing , do go to http://www.oxlearn.com/topic_Marketing-Professional-Services_5_16#topo where you will be able to see him in action. So for us he will live on – in our hearts, on our website still teaching, and in the minds of the many students he reached out to in his life .
Professional Services Marketing Group
It is with much regret we learn of the sad death of Laurie Young
For many years Laurie wrote a feature column in The PSMG Magazine. He never stinted in his support for PSMG and was an absolute pleasure to work with. I know that our Editor, Matt Baldwin, always found him to be conscientious and courteous. He was a great friend to PSMG and to professional services marketers. A true professional! He will be sadly missed.
Strategic Planning Society
It was great regret and sadness to hear that our Chairman, Laurie Young, passed away unexpectedly on the night of Wednesday 18th September 2013. Laurie was a prolific author, passionate about exploring ideas and sharing knowledge to drive the strategy debate, and a dedicated supporter of the Strategic Planning Society. His enthusiasm and commitment for SPS as a member, Trustee and most recently Chair, was inspiring and invaluable. He will be sorely missed and our sincere condolences go out to Laurie’s family at this difficult time.
Cambridge Marketing College
We are sorry to hear of the sudden death of Laurie Young, a long-time tutor with the College. Laurie was a popular tutor teaching our Professional Services Diploma, and was known for his energy and provocative views. He was also a speaker at the College’s Annual Dinner in 2006 and gave an amusing and thought-provoking speech on the ‘Myths of Marketing’. Click here to read more.
It is said that when someone dies people don’t talk about job titles, status, power, money etc., but about how a person made them feel, about things that are truly valuable and that can’t be measured. The measure of Laurie was evident to anyone who had the pleasure of knowing him whether it was meeting him once or working together, he was a generous, kind man that believed in people. I was lucky enough to have known Laurie since the late 80’s, we shared a passion for services marketing, we remained in contact throughout our careers and he was my touchstone.
Debra Fox (email@example.com )
4/10/2013 – 1st Memorial Service (Order of Service)
22/01/2014 – 2nd Memorial Service (Order of Service)
This is digital tribute for everyone to connect, learn and share what Laurie meant to them.
“To know Laurie was to owe Laurie.”
If you would like to share or be connected in anyway to Laurie’s legacy let me know on the form below. Thank you, Debra Fox (firstname.lastname@example.org)