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Our thought leadership predictions for 2021

The events of 2020 have undoubtedly shaken things up in the world of consulting firm content production. From our unique position looking across the whole thought leadership landscape, we believe there are some key trends that will help to shape 2021. Here are our top three:

A more agile mindset

Many of those responsible for content production in consulting firms really stepped up to the plate in 2020, helping meet the huge appetite for information and guidance at a time when their clients were crying out for support. This need to ramp up production and meet a requirement for super-fast turnaround times led to wholesale rethinking of processes, and often turned  long-held assumptions about just what can be achieved within tight timescales on their head. No doubt we’d all rather find ways to achieve this without the stimulus of a pandemic, but the new approaches born out of the crisis could make for some innovative and ambitious plans for 2021. Many firms will be in a much better position to pivot quickly towards new topic areas, supported by upgraded data collection systems and streamlined processes.

A more collaborative approach

That ability of research and thought leadership teams to quickly produce high-quality, useful material went down well with consulting leaders eager to engage in meaningful ways with their clients as the pandemic struck. The fact that many consulting projects were mothballed in the early days of the crisis also left senior consultants with a little more time on their hands, which some were keen to use to good effect to contribute to thought leadership production efforts. The result has often been a greater appreciation of the role of thought leadership, and an increased willingness to collaborate around joint initiatives. We believe 2021 will see this trend continue, and see informal connections become formalised and strengthened.

Mixing up formats

OK, so the use of multiple formats isn’t a new thing by any means, but the move towards their enthusiastic adoption has been something of a slow burn, and a lot of consulting firms have continued to rely on written articles and reports to showcase their latest thinking. But we think 2021 will be the year when that really accelerates, with much greater use of videos, webinars, and the like. In particular, the growth in popularity of podcasts is leading to more concerted efforts by consulting firms in this area. McKinsey is currently one of the only consulting firms to be consistently charting at the top end of the management podcast rankings, but we predict greater investment in the podcast format from a wide range of firms during the course of 2021.