Raise the bar on how we communicate as people to each other, within organizations and as a nation

By: Bill Van Eron Wednesday May 17, 2017 0 comments Tags: Bill Van Eron


By Bill Van Eron

System Thinking to Matter in the New Economy

Headwaters Marketing & Innovation

I see that a lot of business leaders still trivialize advice that seems secondary to product centric, revenue generation, closed or process focused organizations.

This is clearly a time where successful organizations must pay attention to our humanity as change has long tipped the scale in favor of humanity as vital.

I understand the history of business models that were not designed for people as I witnessed M&A actions that failed because they overlooked the people whose passion and work made a company successful to start with.

Assets were classified as capital equipment, patents, and territories, maybe brand value but people were dispensable. Not anymore.

But the problem has grown as it’s not just how organizations show regard for people; it’s how people show regard for each other that really matters.

We all want to matter as individuals, but few of us ever really matter till we relate to others about what we share as principles, values, prevailing truths and success.

Values, empathy, purpose, and regard, are all connected. They are the basis of a great connection versus the superficiality we see guiding so many actions.

So why do many leaders act like revenue growth and a positive customer experience are isolated immediate gratification actions that they hold marketing accountable for at an 86% failure rate (Deloitte) versus as a system requiring the following:

  1. An absolute priority across all functions to continually invest in observing customer’s real needs and how they define value versus accepting superficial research data, sales reports and one dimensional expertise.
  2. People know when a source is genuine or not, especially over time. When employees are in a closed culture many fear job loss if they challenge the status quo. Many tell managers what they want to hear versus acting as champions for value and a better customer experience. The more genuine leaders are, the more open an organization becomes. Make sure your leaders invite challenge to their ideas and across the organization as well as outside in thinking, as customers have full transparency, so should you.
  3. We have been in the middle of a major trust crisis so anyone that assumes trust follows well-crafted words versus after an extended commitment, needs to wake up and see the world we live in as it really is.
  4. Marketing as a function has self-denigrated by promoting superficial claims. Apply creativity to engagement without substance and fail badly. Flip that around and enable marketing to ensure the roots of trust, credibility, relevance, and value are in place, and that delights both those receiving it and delivering it, and you are now marketing something people care about. It’s not hard to understand yet so many struggle here.
  5. Value creation should not be constrained by pre-ordained corporate limits. When one invests to see, and synthesize major and emerging trends to actions that strengthen bridges to your brand, that is the path to a great customer experience as well as employee inclusion.

It’s sickening how many companies think your live revolves around their brand versus revolving their brand around your life. We know firsthand as with a wealth of customer first experiences and value perspectives, the brands we represented have grown at double digit rates. We apply value creation and experience delivery beyond the imaginations of those that only see how things were versus as they might be. See your world through their eyes and hearts.

So, what else is happening that makes attention to our humanity even more urgent now?

  1. Corporate investment in inclusion has never been higher, yet performance scores have never been lower. Today they sit at 70% of employees emotionally disconnected with work (Gallup).
  2. Americans have never been as polarized as they are today. The absence of truth, and a real hit in our ability to accept truths based on change versus how it used to be, are crippling our voice as a nation and a world.
  3. Politicians (both parties) seem to follow partisan stances over the greater good, further eroding trust in leaders.
  4. Our nation is at a time when innovation and connection quality can grow our economy beyond comprehension but innovation must be connected to serious needs, well beyond the random idea generation thinking.

We start with great problems versus great ideas. The potential is infinite. Let’s talk about how business and market environments affect this?

Those that know me well likely know my wife and I were born and raised in NYC and chose Colorado in 1976. What they may not know is we did this during a time when leaving NYC was deemed professional suicide for people who thrived in the most demanding environments as both my wife and I had done. But our thoughts were for our children and living in an environment where nature was a dominant part of our daily lives.

Once while commenting on a blog topic regarding the way the CSU stadium was being mishandled, a guy that seemed like a CSU paid troll made a negative comment about NYC when I had mentioned it as my origin. He said: “that’s one place I never want to go.” I said judging by your trolling attacks on anyone with differing viewpoints, it is a place that you should live for a while so the value of diversity, not only in ethnicity but across beliefs, opinions and thinking patterns, enables you to discuss anything and respect diversity as a primary proving ground and validation for your own beliefs.

That was wasted on him as he was on a closed mission. But today, the best way to get past polarization such as we see now, is not by attacking people’s beliefs or seeing them as evil or stupid people. The advice political comedian Bill Maher gave recently was to show empathy and build a common ground as core to earning respect and trust, a key foundation to our country’s creation.

I took heed myself as I too was struggling with the political impasse upon us. But having grown up in NYC, and embracing diversity in all its forms, as well as having started as a graphics designer in a market that connected my talent with global brands, the demands of survival shaped values that help me to seek out new influences as a constant, and invite critical input, even when it was for something I loved as most artists fall in love with their own work which can close out objective, relevant input.

That and following instincts shaped for the greater good helped me to shape a career that was akin to trail blazing and martyrdom when I left NYC and entered a realm (Colorado) where sophistication was in short supply, but needs and soon values were nicely connected to my own. Just the further I got from NYC the less real appreciation I saw for diversity. I’d love to help change that as diversity offers an outstanding value. When I joined HP in 1978, it was still a young company dominated by an engineering culture. Founders Bill & Dave created a foundational blueprint for success that I wish the current HP and its offshoots still believed in with the depth of its founders.

The HP Way applied MBO “management by objective” versus management by directive. MBO enabled more people, such as myself in an “everything in its place engineering culture,” to shape solutions that mattered as well as challenging the status quo where it limited success or more open thinking.

While those days were far from perfect, I still advanced marketing to a bleeding-edge level of effectiveness. All my bosses were engineers so not as well-informed or invested in marketing as one had to be then and especially now, which Is why I encourage champions versus people that just hold on - as we all know.

I was embarrassed to see one such employee still employed in an HP Spinoff and not doing anything beyond the absolute minimum. When I left HP in 2002 a good friend and executive that I had worked with said “Bill, if you can help others like you did HP – challenging the status quo, exceeding all expectations, while building trust – you will be highly successful.”

Ironically, few other firms were even as far along as HP was in creating a culture of inclusion, so some resisted or compromised accepting all of the components to win, versus just what was easy, but today with it as a necessity and with a rich, rare history and in depth first-hand experience, I will hold off retiring to do as author Brian Solis advised “help others to figure out what you already know as their path to heightened awareness, make a good living but pass on what are rare insights to a world that needs it.”

Thanks Brian.

If you still find that you are in an environment that resists embracing the values that drive both business ecosystem and market ecosystem health, here are a few things to think about.

  1. The real risk is in staying the course versus embracing the tenets driving change, so you can emerge as a true market champion, help your organization where really needed and in doing so, revitalize your career. Not doing so is a high odds path to functional obsolescence.
  2. Get out of your comfort zones. Put demands on yourself that reflect the best of what you hope in others. Invite challenges to your ideas no matter how certain, as doing so increases buy in, inclusion and 90% of the time it either catches something you may have missed that improves an idea or strategy or it reveals a better option. Watch out for those that kill it just because it’s different though.
  3. Invest in others, purpose, and attitude. Your team is all around you and these behaviors even as applied one on one soon create notably higher success and nothing spreads faster than success. 4. Start with a great sense of a problem versus with just an idea and engage people to validate the problems importance. Then all ideas can be vetted by how well they solve that problem and more will contribute and support good ideas.
  4. Creative people- leap out of your own status quo by complementing creative skills with possibility thinking, critical and system thinking. That combination was eternally enabling for me to always exceed expectations in the most demanding markets and challenges. So can you.
  5. Make sure your internal meetings are mostly (80%+) focused on external matters or become a closed culture.

That’s it for now. I wish all of you good fortune at a time that rewards people and organizations that embrace these principles sooner and with conviction.

Bill Van Eron

About the Author: Bill Van Eron

Bill Van Eron is the founder of Headwaters Marketing, now evolved to enabling marketing, sales, leadership and organizational design to function on a stronger platform of trust, inclusion, diversity, innovation and relevance. As an early conscious designer, the world is abundant with huge possibilities and the need to get past false limitations. Stay tuned or if anxious or on that path join in (970-221-0751, [email protected])