Is your innovation and business relevance feeling absent? Time to embrace your ecosystem

By: Bill Van Eron Monday February 5, 2018 0 comments Tags: Bill Van Eron


 By Bill Van Eron

Value Systems Architect

Headwaters Market-Inspired Innovation

We all value wakeup calls on occasion, especially where we can associate it with a great “Aha” versus hearing them too late.

Too often though, we witness a quicksand-like absence of the willingness to invite open dialog around ideas.

One such wakeup call happened to me when I left my job in HP as focused on marketing, design and branding after I read a book, ‘Customer Facing Marketing,’ decades ago. I then challenged myself to explore the possibilities of immersing myself into our customer-facing HP salesforce and reseller channel. Admittedly, I initially felt like a fish out of water as natural to leaving our comfort zone. One sales person greeted me as a “soon-to-be-converted factory puke.” I loved how that label translated instantly as an opportunity to contrast how closed corporate marketing efforts inadvertently become when most of their time is spent inside corporate walls versus outside, on the front lines of customer perception, and reseller effectiveness.

Rule #1: When you break out of your comfort zone, explore your environment with open eyes.

No one that I have ever heard about or known with strong design roots had ever immersed themselves in the front lines of business. I saw this as breaking out of a status quo that limited how marketing was conceived, acted on and most fruitful. I now see it as greatly increasing the relevance other creative people can offer.    

Rule #2: Let your team play a key role in defining your value.

I reported to a great and younger sales manager – Quinton English - in that his initial advice was “Don’t try to impress our team with how creative you are. Instead, ask for their ideas; then synthesize where each has merits or how several inspire better ideas. Then play back what they inspired you to refine as ideas in action.”

That advice not only led to the seeds of great ideas, it created true inclusion and complete buy in to all the work we took on. Everyone has ideas. True professional need to recognize the seeds of innovation across a diverse landscape and help refine them further. As people feel their ideas are being heard and they respect the process, you bring to life the only way companies have ever prospered – as people-empowered organizations.

Rule #3: Understand your customers’ values & priorities so your help aligns to trust and relevance.

It’s sad when we see how many companies define their ‘customers’ journey’ as revolving around their product or service. That creates corporate blinders. When corporate objectives limit how we stay open to seeing what customers really care about, that in all actuality greatly reduces the potential to connect your brand with what they really value. As one example: My job then was to convince resellers to market HP products. When I invested time to realize they did not understand marketing at all, and were often feeling too pressured to sell to worry about marketing, I immediately saw the value as a vital part of our business ecosystem calling for help.

So I helped them to define their brand and unique value proposition which led to greater comprehension of the value of marketing. All the resellers in our territory grew revenues and valued brands far faster than any other tech resellers in the world. One of them was tech data, which continued my brand strategy to focus technology as a human enabling value. They are now a high-worth, multi-billion dollar reseller.

Our sales team, armed now with greater creativity, buy in and relevance out-paced all other sales forces within HP and many in the industry exceeding sales quota by at least 250% each year.

Rule #4: Learn from, recognize and enable your champions.

So many companies fail to realize their success happens outside the corporate lines, and often by heroes who decide to make a difference. Too often, as I also experienced as such a hero over my 24 year career in HP, we may get a pat on the back, but the managers above, who at best may have just stayed out of your way, or offered less support: “It’s your job; your risk, just do what you think is right”, were always the ones getting the biggest rewards and recognition. Most heroes just go to greener pastures, as I also did. I have to say, witnessing the negative impact on business, soon after we left, was still hard as today, there are too few visionary leaders. True leadership has to be enabled within and beyond the status quo.

Several takeaways have shaped my view of how a healthier business and market ecosystem can be set in motion, naturally and in a way that sustains a real future.

  1. Despite all the hoo-ha about analytics, marketing automation, and your customers journey; if you fall short in observing the forces that shape value for your customers, their influencers and across your internal and external ecosystem, you will witness the penalties of lowered market and internal regard.
  2. I see a few companies starting to say the right things, yet only actions define if they are genuine or not. Bringing your promises to life, in a totally transparent economy is crucial.
  3. Accountability is not the four-letter word so many treat it as. In fact, an honest company on a journey to improve will get more market forgiveness than ones making bolder promises and who fail to deliver.
  4. While innovation has largely been contained to incremental product development, far greater business impact has been realized by making innovation the by-product of an open culture; an inclusive and idea-enabled testimony to business humanity – trust, credibility, relevance.
  5. Embrace diversity completely. Especially with regard to opening dialog around values, ideas, understanding the full ecosystem and working to earn full regard across all or most of it.
  6. Get outside of your silos and stop hiring silo solutions as we enter an economy that is fueled by at least an 80% external openness to values that can regeneratively grow the relevance of your brand.
  7. Stop mandating success and start enabling others to earn it.
Bill Van Eron

About the Author: Bill Van Eron

Bill Van Eron continues to stay decades ahead of conventional thinking. Not because he is smarter or has a self-centered agenda. Truly, having that ability to relate to others values & value creation with a systems thinking view and a design thinkers ability to shape inclusive solutions, Bill cares that many employees feel emotionally detached to work, and most executives seem trapped in a past rooted by control, some greed, bottom line thinking and risk aversion. Bill stays open to helping tech companies see beyond their technology strengths to embrace others diverse attributes, values, skills and mindsets, while also championing greater attention to Conscious Innovation as well as We-Relevance. When intellect separates itself from compassion, values and diversity, they often become closed experts in past actions versus champions for greater relevance. Bill still is transitioning Headwaters Marketing & Innovation ( to its greater transformational catalytic capabilities in the most agile manner, as only one who saw and acted on principles most overlook then and now. We also partner with truly exciting innovations that raise the bar in meaningful ways to more across every organizations ecosystem.