Open the real meaning within words to shape more relevant actions

By: Bill Van Eron Monday March 30, 2020 0 comments Tags: Bill Van Eron

Van_Eron_header By Bill Van Eron

CEO, Stakeholder Relevance Advisory

Headwaters Marketing & Innovation LLC

Communication always ranks up near the top of human effectiveness requirements. Leaders tasked to inspire employees only show a 15% success rate & 23% with moderate scores (Gallup). Yet, looking at the cause & effect to language obsolescence, which can erode any government, business & relationship, as more of us are realizing of late.

Here are a few examples:

  1. Younger "cool" gens often create new words & phrases, thus ignoring key values within key words where overused, cheated, carrying excess baggage, or lacking obvious relevance. Rather than expecting an entrepreneurial culture, the greater value is in shaping one. Digital addiction lowers soft skills all at a time when our humanity in evidence is what will define orgs of significance here on forward.
  2. Older conventional gens greet almost anything new as "buzzwords" for decades, often failing to grasp their real meaning in time to evaluate & act on them where relevant. They act threatened by change, versus doing the right thing & enabling it...a far better value. Diversity needs to be embraced.
  3. Infrastructure - government, corporate leadership. education, search engines, training, headhunters - often lag real time change by a decade or more, losing a core advantage. Now; true leaders will invest in their stakeholder & infrastructure ecosystems beyond norms, & rise within the ranks.
  4. Accountability - Biz had the code "Always under-promise & over-deliver" versus the opposite, as we see in government today. Thirty years into a major trust crisis, no progress? With stakeholders having 100% transparency to any orgs worthiness, time to own up to that.

Once encouraged by a mentor to add & advance systems thinking to my values synthesis, design. possibility & critical thinking skills, I soon saw a more connected world of opportunity.

My evolution into this mindset was greatly enabled by values attained early in life - earned trust, open dialog, diversity, humility & attention to others. As I chose design over basketball as my career choice, that kept me more open-minded to value & the seeds of ideas as a lifelong pattern which always kept me ahead of change and among its earliest adopters. When I started using the term "ecosystem" with regard to the inter-dependencies in life, business and all internal & external stakeholders for HP since 1990, the outcomes benefitted all stakeholders. I stayed too busy in HP to train others, as the more managers trusted my outcomes, every important project was thrust at me knowing I respected all involved & catalyzed attention to key insights all or most still miss today. When I mentioned "stakeholder ecosystems" 12 years later to leaders I respected, that knew my work, I still got buzzword responses.

As one near retirement age, who conversely never stopped advancing, age hasn't impaired my ability to see at least 5 years into the future, while increasing my concern to help others, as “we” can't afford to wait ten years to realize seize-able major opportunities now that all benefit by.   

We truly are in a time where a major shift is upon us. We can now rise above obstacles, status quo or even our own false comfort zones collectively as shared leaders to understand the sudden latitude more of us can apply to shape lives, work & communities that matter. Communication is relevance to cultivate shared values in an inclusive & humanitarian manner. The red words above consistently proved as that rare,  highest impact puzzle piece to earn stakeholder regard. CEO's only realized this last Fall 2019. 

Let's look beneath the surface, at both true & superficial translation to these words:

  1. Values Insight - Even in the midst of big data and AI-enabled analytics, many CEO's still preferred intuition. Way back to the start of analytics' which largely stalk buyer behaviors - a practice that turns off most customers - in speaking directly with Steve Jobs, we shared the value of human observation with analytics as a validation source where needed. I applaud that, as today's changes & challenges are still human values-based decisions. So, wise up to what really matters across your internal & external stakeholder ecosystem to create your reputation to enable progress, you will regain an even more relevant & timely intuition, more suited to seeing change shaping before others. An associate, Gautam Mahajan, is an exceptional globally ranked coach & author to value creation. We explored values systems together & another associate leadership coach Bob Reish and I concluded that earned significance across your stakeholder ecosystem is now the only path to success. Ryan McShane and I have perhaps the best grasp of HR’s now potential as requirements to become a strategic value. Having done all of what now defines a future workforce over a hundred times assures clients or future partners greater insights, agility & outcomes. This is - bigger than all of us - yet inclusive to us realizing our full potential as significance is shared. Everything human, is vitally inter-dependent so isolating needs fails.
  2. Critical Thinking -- This always rises up to the top in cultures dominated by left brain thinking & in general. I apply it to assure critically relevant insights, test our assumptions, explore alternatives, shape solution criteria while also factoring in concerns & resistance so we design in better answers. We always stay connected to the humanity across stakeholders and the tradeoffs of action, phasing, or inaction. I knew a guy who was one proud critical thinker. He boasted that he could find fault with anything & stop it. I responded that I was far more excited to lead or catalyze outcomes that helped on many levels. I asked if he ever solved challenges to create an outstanding solution. The answer must have been no as he shut down on that question. That is revealing to how critical thinking & risk aversion co-existed so long.
  3. Systems Thinking -- One of the best advisory suggestions I ever got in life was from Charles Prather who had tested over 200,000 leaders on their Innovation Quotient (IQ). As a designer, perhaps I breezed through conceptual challenges that stymied conventional leaders. Charley posted all scores but mine at an Innovation Network conference that 950 top leaders attended & leading-edge innovation advisors presented at. I had opted to sit in the audience rather than presenting, so as to assimilate the value received. Charles had a look of concern as he and his team invited me to dinner to hear his input. I am not an ego-centered guy, yet I was surprised when Charly said I posted the highest score by a large margin after 10 years testing at least 20K leaders annually. I thanked him, then stated I was more concerned to hear his concerns. He said with such advanced design, synthesis and possibility thinking skills, if I study systems thinking and then advance it to current needs, I will be able to catalyze world class change for the better all around. I studied Deming, Ackoff & Senge. I gravitated from the attention they gave to complex systems to seek more emphasis on human values-based symptoms as more relevant to the challenges and opportunities ahead. Systems thinking has been defined as an approach to problem solving, by viewing "problems" as parts of an overall system, rather than reacting to specific part, outcomes or events and potentially contributing to further development of unintended consequences. Seeing inter-connected factors is now key to effectively lead.

I saw great relevance in their work and how their definition above pertained to why management approaches, such as isolating a problem to fix it, fail when the needs affect stakeholders as everything human is inter-connected. Trust, innovation, engagement, relevance, inclusion, diversity, culture, and more are all connected. Nor is starting overwhelming as most new to this make it seem. That said, people are not machines so transformation can start in phases if you get beyond the theorists who I support as helping when you can afford to wait for years. I doubt that as the opportunity is now. Find true pioneers. Every step is firm & agile per our guidance, to soon master it as a team. 

  1. Possibility Thinking -- I have always loved this benefit as a designer's unique contribution to a better world. We are trained to understand factors that limit success as well as those that enable it - now across a stakeholder ecosystem. Believe me when I say I am surprised the attributes I long embraced growing up in a poor part of Brooklyn, NY and the skills I honed as a designer, marketer, PR and forward thinking, cause & effect professional, are now the top skills required to lead and earn stakeholder significance which now vitally precedes success in an age of total stakeholder transparency. Just as I never hoped to gain the skills that defined a top CEO, in reverse, It is not practical to expect CEO's to master conscious design, systems thinking, possibility and open mindedness as they will be better off enabling others with these attributes, to make a huge difference & be rewarded proportionately. Get right brainers in your left brain dominated C-Suite as without that strength, you will likely fail to achieve current significance.

I can see a more tuned & agile industry, government & education system leadership and innovative inclusive mindset & structure. My experience revealed better bridges between stakeholder values & brands of relevance that you too can see & realize. I'd like to catalyze more people shaping lives, careers & communities of meaning. We need a better humanity-centric vision for technology & digital transformation. See that path & shape purposes that create global preference for its host or hosts. See a better system for reasoning, learning, owning one’s performance measurements, and positive accountability. I may not live long enough to see that in government, but I will say earned collective confidence gives more of us hope with a foundation to shape lives, careers and communities that matter.

Bill Van Eron

About the Author: Bill Van Eron

For Bill Van Eron, life & work are all about conscious observation and earning our needed humanity high bar. Whether Bill was an art director or lead designer in NYC, the most demanding marketing environment, or shaping a more relevant brand for soon to be major companies in Denver, or across his 25-year career in HP, as its champion for progressive enlightenment, diversity, inclusion and the highest relevance, which followed every project, Bill stays inspired to help others shape a better world, lives & work as connected to greater attention to our humanity, creativity and value-creation. All as vital to any organization's greater success. Bill now is championing the first and most conscious innovations that resolve challenges to our planets environment, as well as business and government realizing each’s greater purpose and brand value. Tired of conventional approaches and willful ignorance, Bill was recruited as one who can champion each solutions authentic relevance. Bill hopes Colorado and Fort Collins can open up and get in flow, as a community Bill & his wife only wish the best for as also enabled with a view all others benefit by, whether they see it initially or not.