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5 Things You Should Do to Become a Thought Leader in Your Industry, With Qlik’s Jordan Morrow

I have had the opportunity to speak at various events which have led me to uncover new opportunities and relationships for Qlik. For example, I recently participated at a TEDx event because a person I was teaching suggested I speak at the event. On top of this, I have spoken at multiple conferences from around […]

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I have had the opportunity to speak at various events which have led me to uncover new opportunities and relationships for Qlik. For example, I recently participated at a TEDx event because a person I was teaching suggested I speak at the event. On top of this, I have spoken at multiple conferences from around the world. As such, thought leadership has truly opened up doors. I believe organizations need to take on thought leadership to show that they are not only about products they sell, but really about furthering important messages around the world. Doing so opens up many doors for business and opportunities.


As part of our series about how to become known as a thought leader in your industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jordan Morrow — Qlik Global Head of Data Literacy. Jordan helps individuals and organizations realize their data and analytical potential by bringing to light and enhancing skills in data literacy. When not found within data and analytics, Jordan can be found with his family or trail running the mountains of Utah.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

I started my career in a slightly different field, but my passion has always surrounded the fields of data, analytics and statistics. I eventually found my way to a job that brought these fields together. About five years ago, I worked as a senior manager of data and analytics at a major credit card company where I helped to build out a Business Intelligence group for its United States Consumer Card group. Through this experience I managed a team in building out reports and data for the group and trained them on how to use those dashboards and reports.

It was during this time that I became inspired to teach people how to do data analysis better. That’s where Qlik came in. I came across the role for “Analytics Curriculum Developer” where I would be responsible for building curriculum to teach people exactly what I had envisioned in my former role. I dove in headfirst. Over time, I became the Global Head of Data Literacy because we had a vision at Qlik — and that was to inspire and teach people to use data more effectively.

Can you briefly share with our readers why you are an authority about the topic of thought leadership?

Today, data permeates every aspect of our daily lives — from personal activities such as online shopping and browsing on our favorite social apps to almost everything in today’s business environment. Yet many people still aren’t equipped to understand how to read, work with, analyze or argue with that data. That ability is called data literacy and I’m passionate about spreading the importance of this concept to all. As an expert on data literacy, I know how critical of a skill it is and by sharing my passion and knowledge with others, I hope to empower a more data literate society.

Since joining Qlik I’ve been building one of the world’s first data literacy programs — building a curriculum and working on creating partnerships with key stakeholders to drive the narrative even further. From our Data Literacy Project with partners such as Accenture, Cognizant and Data to the People, to our newly launched Data Literacy Certification we are on track to make sure people feel fully empowered to live in a world powered by data.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

I don’t know if this is the most interesting, but it is one of the best experiences I have had as a Thought Leader: giving a TEDx Talk. Within my role, I have been able to travel the world, speaking at many events and organizations, but the most unique engagement I had was doing my first TEDx Talk. This is a much different setting then a conference or organization, where the enterprise or organization is at the forefront of the mind.

At a TEDx event, you need to have a shorter presentation and message, not rely on PowerPoint (which I don’t like anyway), and you are not just speaking to an organization or enterprise, but to the world through YouTube and so forth. With all this in mind, it was an amazing opportunity and experience to share my thoughts on data literacy with a great event and great audience.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I am not sure I would call this the funniest mistake, but it was an interesting transition to this world I am now in. Before I came to Qlik, as was mentioned before, I had this idea to teach people how to do analytics better. When I was told I couldn’t by my previous company, I quickly moved on and said, “oh well”. Then, as this role opened at Qlik, I jumped at the opportunity, and have helped build one of the world’s first data literacy programs. What is funny is that same company I worked for reached out to me and asked for help on data literacy.

The mistake was the fact that I let it go so quickly 5 years ago. But in hindsight, by letting it go, I was able to develop a worldwide program versus doing data literacy for one company. I learned a lot from this, especially about the importance that this topic has taken across the world.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define what a ‘Thought Leader’ is. How is a thought leader different than a typical leader? How is a thought leader different than an influencer?

A thought leader is a person who is innovative and thinks ahead, who is creative and curious — and not afraid to start a movement. A thought leader, in comparison to a traditional leader, may be more widely known and is someone who is a credible source on a specific topic.

While a thought leader can be an influencer, it is not perhaps the same the other way around. An influencer on the other hand may be someone who has clout and a large following but may not necessarily be a leading voice on a particular subject matter.

Can you talk to our readers a bit about the benefits of becoming a thought leader? Why do you think it is worthwhile to invest resources and energy into this?

It is an opportunity to spread an important message — one that you believe in. And if gives you a credible platform to bring that message and ultimately, your vision (in my case data literacy) to life.

Let’s talk about business opportunities specifically. Can you share a few examples of how thought leadership can help a business grow or create lucrative opportunities?

I have had the opportunity to speak at various events which have led me to uncover new opportunities and relationships for Qlik. For example, I recently participated at a TEDx event because a person I was teaching suggested I speak at the event. On top of this, I have spoken at multiple conferences from around the world. As such, thought leadership has truly opened up doors. I believe organizations need to take on thought leadership to show that they are not only about products they sell, but really about furthering important messages around the world. Doing so opens up many doors for business and opportunities.

Ok. Now that we have that behind us, we’d love to hear your thoughts about how to eventually become a thought leader. Can you share 5 strategies that a person should implement to become known as a thought leader in their industry. Please tell us a story or example (ideally from your own experience) for each.

  1. Have a message platform and a unique point of view — Ask yourself what your ambitions are and what you’re passionate about.
  2. Build your online presence — Whether it’s a blog, social media presence or your own website make sure you create a platform for your audience to see your content. For example, I talk a lot about data literacy on our Qlik blog as well as on my social handles which give me an opportunity to drive my audience to a ‘home base’ to view all my musings.
  3. Travel and network — I have met people all over the world that I would not have been able to meet otherwise. I have come across so many new experiences and seen advances in technology that have inspired ideas I brought to Qlik. For example: my opportunity to speak at a TEDx event came because someone I met while traveling suggested I apply and go for their TEDx event.
  4. Promote yourself — Speak at industry events, contribute to media outlets or stories, and ultimately give yourself a broader platform beyond your own social media and blog to showcase why and how you are a leading voice in your area.
  5. Become data literate — It’s clear that data will continue to become the most valuable asset. Position yourself to lead in this environment.

In your opinion, who is an example of someone who has that has done a fantastic job as a thought leader? Which specific things have impressed you about that person? What lessons can we learn from this person’s approach.

This is a name that everyone will recognize, and for very, very good reason, but there is one key thing this person excelled at that I believe helped set him apart in a new, growing world: Steve Jobs. Now, say what you will about his negative qualities, and they were many, but Steve had an ability to combine the arts with technology, and also share with everyone a vision of the possible; that is an amazing skill. If one follows the era in which Steve worked, there were many companies looking to jump into the world of personal computers, but one was able to stick out because it wasn’t about the product, it was about the possible. The product then followed.

This is the essence of thought leadership!

I have seen some discussion that the term “thought leader” is trite, overused, and should be avoided. What is your feeling about this?

I think most terms can be enveloped into the “hype cycle” of the day, and thought leader can be seen there, along with others. With that said, if a thought leader is doing their job correctly and truly excelling, you can also call them strategic leaders. A thought leader should be able to build strategies, thoughts, and plans that help organizations, whether their own or others, move the needle forward. Thought leadership can be a powerful tool that differentiates organizations from their competition, as they are showing, again, they are not only about a product but with furthering messaging, strategy, and ideas.

What advice would you give to other leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?

For me, burnout can be a real thing. As I have built data literacy from the ground out, I traveled a lot, pushed the limit, and worked hard to ensure we stayed ahead of the trends and were true leaders in this growing world. That said, my philosophy has remained the same: a career is a means to an end and should not be viewed as the end in and of itself. Far too many get caught up in their careers, forgetting there is a lot more out there. To ensure you do that, view your career as a means to an end. For me, that end is to create an amazing life for myself and family. My career in data literacy has helped me create and keep creating an amazing life.

One other thing that helps me enjoy life and thrive is a powerful hobby. I truly enjoy an outside hobby that allows me to regroup, rewind, re-center, and re-focus: trail running and fitness. I take the time to find harmony in my family and work, using fitness as a way to truly improve who I am; if I am not centered and well myself, I am not able to help others.

Finally, incorporate others in your career. For me, I don’t think of my career as my career, it is my family’s career. So, I chat with them to plan and schedule work trips and make sure my career moves and thoughts are not my own, but all of ours.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

It would be a movement of data literacy! I encourage everyone to always be curious to learn and be inquisitive of data — specifically in our personal lives. We read a lot about fake news in the last election cycle and it’s a topic that’s coming up again. And now many of us are again talking about the Cambridge Analytica/Facebook scandal, particularly after Netflix’s recent The Great Hack documentary. I cannot say this enough — but instead of a world of data cynics that this news cycle evokes, we need to create a world of data sceptics. People are starting to become cynical about data but being data literate has the power to give us the power to question and the ability to be more intelligent when we see something on TV or read something in the news.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My life lesson quote would come from one that I admire and follow closely: David Goggins. Goggins says that we are only living at about 40% of our true capability. Think about this: 40%. If you are happy and having fun, but only using 40% of your capability, think about how much more you can accomplish! David Goggins has an amazing, tragic, hard, and then wonderful story.

To me, the 40% rule shows just how much more we are capable of. I am an ultra-marathon runner, so when I am hurting in a 50-mile race, I can dig deep and say I am only at 40% of my capability. When I am creating and driving strategy at work, 40%. To me, this leads me to believe in myself more — it lets me know that when I am struggling, pulling a bad attitude, not behaving as the best spouse or father, I am only at 40%, and that other 60% can be amazing!

Along with this, Goggins has a couple of notable quotes: “It’s a lot more than mind over matter. It takes relentless self-discipline to schedule suffering into your day, every day,” and “Pain unlocks a secret doorway in the mind, one that leads to both peak performance, and beautiful silence.” Again, this ties directly to my love of ultra-marathon running, but to me it ties to so much more in life! We know life can be hard, challenging, etc., but if we are in the right spot mentality, we can do so much more and help so many more people.

We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Wow, what a great question. Well, to me it would come down to 2–3 people. Can we make it a group dinner? The three I would look to would be Trevor Noah, David Goggins, or Alex Honnold. Any of them would be amazing. Trevor Noah has an unbelievable background and story, and he is able to bring humor to so many aspects of an otherwise dark world; I’d love to have a meal with him and just chat away. Goggins goes without saying. His relentless pursuit of improvement, moving beyond 40% is inspiring. Finally, Alex Honnold and his ability to differentiate between risk and consequence, and free solo such a beautifully magnificent mountain as El Capitan. Living an intentional life is important to me, and all three of these individuals have done that.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can follow me on LinkedIn, @analyticstime on Twitter or read my latest insights on the Qlik blog.

Thank you so much for your insights. This was very insightful and meaningful.

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