Being a thought leader or an industry guru has always required a bold approach, a willingness to be outspoken, to provide a different viewpoint. A crucial, and overlooked requirement for thought leadership, however, is the need for perspective, and the wider the perspective the better the leadership.

How can you knowledgeably talk about what people want, especially when people often don’t actually know what they want in the future? How can you be an expert with guidance and insight to share? To ground what you are saying in reality, market research can help you connect to a lot of people – quickly. You can find out about their behaviour, attitudes, motivations today, and intentions for tomorrow.

That said, representative samples of consumers, while important in providing insight about the ‘now’, can be poor at predicting future events. Collecting market research data and insight outside of the mainstream is vital in helping understand future trends and predict how they may affect the mainstream. Using a research company to help you find a niche, a forward-thinking sample can really pay off and get you, and the shareholders, thinking outside of a siloed box.

Research nowadays can be used to aid brainstorming, at all stages of the innovation cycle and to demonstrate how products and services are actually used. All things that a thought leader can take as evidence and use to push the boundaries in their sector and speculate about what is going to happen tomorrow. We all know Steve jobs “didn’t like market research”, yet we also know he talked to people, sought to understand people’s lives and how people used products, and then pushed things forward. A good innovator listens. A thought leader will listen, understand, innovate and amplify.