Notes from the bleeding edge offer a crucial wake up call to risk-averse leaders wanting success

By: Bill Van Eron Wednesday December 5, 2018 0 comments Tags: Bill Van Eron


By Bill Van Eron,

Conscious Business Strategist,

Headwaters Marketing & Innovation


What do we mean by the bleeding edge? As one who spent my career inspired by, creating and applying design skills, being in or on the bleeding edge, was like the perfect storm where all we invest is on the line so instincts have to be sharp and conscious. It’s an exciting and vital part of how we earn regard by markets, employers and among each other. But, despite high value, if we failed to deliver fresh & engaging value almost daily, we’d be fired. Design as a profession crosses over communications, marketing, product, business structure, culture, innovation, trust, effectiveness, smart cities, technology integration, SW, architecture and more. Today, conscious design is about to emerge as a vital skill to shape organizations, vibrant communities and work with meaning. That plays as a high impact across the internal and external ecosystem that determines success. This reveals a bleeding edge requiring timely response where applied and a path to failure where denied. I feel privileged to have understood and mastered this new role combined with ecosystem value mapping as everything today is a system. Systems thinking skills will rise as a high impact leadership skill collaborating with other diverse skills to shape bolder actions on a logical foundation for success.van-eron-bleeding-edge-inside-copy

Why Designers? Why not? When I learned design, I accepted that it was our role to find, shape and  deliver value, but saw it as a skillset demand isolated to out-of-the box creative thinkers and designers. Engineers apply logical innovation to design products, yet most struggle to understand and enable right brain thinkers vital to creating a strong value context, trust and relevance. Today, given the explosive rate of disruptive technology impacted all of us, if and where it eliminates thousands of job categories without objective guidance. Leaders will struggle in all industries to understand, explore and mix new technologies to shape a collective value as bleeding edge conscious early adopters will be the only ones to prosper. Risk aversion, both understandable and tolerated beyond practicality, will be the next dinosaur. My belief is technology needs conscious design among those providing guidance to wise use parameters so we can also create the right support ecosystem. Get too far ahead of ourselves and more fail. Think education, manufacturing, medical, and repetitive jobs as all will be disruptive to today’s support ecosystem at a time when conscious design will add vitality to all. Today, more are finally opening up to what we as designers realized over three decades ago, that success is not something you can mandate. It is the outcome of earned regard across your internal and external ecosystem. With deep experience applying the value of conscious design & conscious leadership – our purpose is to prepare & inspire others as only those who have travelled this path can guide, in hope others, once on this path can take it even further.

Putting our beliefs on the line. It was interesting, even in the age of advanced analytics and big data, that a large sampling of leaders – when polled – said they still lean on instinct more than anything else. Most admired early adopters, despite risk aversion dominating as a longtime corporate performance limiter. As athletes, or as design-related professionals, we respect instinct as an ability rise above and perform at a higher level. I liken that to a quarterback who has mastered the foundational plays, yet who is able to call an audible when the defense tries to trick him. Today, it seems too many business leaders hang onto historic instincts rather than current and conscious ones. Instinct is great when you apply it to a current foundation of what it takes to be successful. Change requires a level of conscious response true business athletes can soon master. Employees and markets have near total transparency to how genuine a company is to promises made externally and internally - which today defines if your company is successful or not. Most organizations operate with self-imposed blinders to what matters. All say employees & customers are important, yet in evidence, that is hard to see where the measure is made by the intended recipient.

Get beyond your comfort zones. We all have them. They can be a limiting factor when change impacts our value. Reading the book ‘Customer Facing Marketing” inspiring me to extend the value in my role as a top ranked designer & customer champion in HP – a company I cared to help. I self-immersed design thinking in our sales & reseller channel. My boss welcomed me by saying congrats, you are no longer a “factory puke” – a name people selling on the front lines gave to those of us in  closed factory environments shaping strategies for an environment most have few clues to apply. He said “Welcome to the bleeding edge” - the place where everything companies fuss over – product, brand, training – gets put on the line when working with resellers, influencers and customers. As a bigger example; corporate comfort zones fail to be relevant as core function effectiveness fades.

Shifting attention to what matters. Attention to others is a golden rule for relationships and now business. Knowing I was creative wanting to make a difference, my boss advised me to not try to prove “my” creativity to our sales team. So, I engaged all in open dialogue about the customers and influencers that defined our success and how we might best enable theirs. The ideas flowed. They trusted me to synthesize their ideas and play back those inspiring engaging solutions. Long story shorter – our team led the nation for several years with regard to setting and exceeding quota by 200% to 80% each year. Our help to resellers to pay attention to customer needs grew them faster than any others in the world. High level management flew out to us to try to understand why we were doing so well. When I left that job to revitalize marketing elsewhere in HP, the value of attention to others, conscious leadership, inclusion and breaking beyond the status quo continued to inspire all on our global teams to do their best. I was thrilled to be a catalyst to talented people realizing lives and work that matters & shaping value across our internal and external ecosystem. This 10 year pattern was consistent without exception. It accounted for the HP’s highest revenue growth between 1990 and 2000. Management had no clue as to the formula used to leverage it, but they did say yes.

So WTF is the crucial part? Lessons crucial for today:

  1. What we have experienced the last 5 years – which most describe as exponential rates of change and leadership uncertainty – is nothing compared to what’s ahead the next 3-5 years. Given the rapid growth of disruptive technologies, most leaders take a singularity focus versus seeing the integration of two or three technologies to an advantage. Likewise, with most CEO’s top 10 challenges being human by nature – trust, relevance, inclusion, diversity – trying to isolate or limit how one addresses any one issue, often fails badly. Welcome to the age of systems thinking.
  2. Risk averse leaders waiting for main stream adoption will prove way too late, yet early, even bleeding edge adoption needn’t be a high risk venture when you have the right foundation in place.
  3. This time of unprecedented innovation and business growth – is only for organizations that master conscious business approaches, and respect earned trust and regard internally & externally as one human-enablement system. Today’s talent strongly prefers entrepreneurial environments.
Bill Van Eron

About the Author: Bill Van Eron

Bill Van Eron is an advocate for better integration of values that connect our humanity as a core force for success in life, business, education & government. Systems and possibility thinking are the great enablers to those values as all prosper and my goal to help more achieve it. Contact Bill at