Get out of your comfort zones

By: Bill Van Eron Thursday July 5, 2012 1 comments Tags: Bill Van Eron, Innovation Advantage

By Bill Van Eron

Chief Innovation Strategist at Headwaters Marketing 

When I opted to leave my very comfortable, skill-secure life as a graphic designer with HP, I have to say it was not easy.

I love design and was devoted to "original" creative problem- solving approaches (and still am). I was always 2-3 years ahead of what the crowd was doing, so why not feel secure? I won many national awards and had a hard-to-duplicate resume, so why do it?

For me -- right or wrong -- the answer was I cared about the business, problem or initiative that creative thinking was attached to and how creativity - no matter how cool - was superficial when removed from an in-depth understanding of that business, market, problem definition and/or trends that affected them. It was like a band aid to a wound that would never heal.

I had to do more.

Fortunately, I stayed within HP and went to the company's sales organization in Florida. I wanted to see how we did business on the "front" and gauge real-time customer/dealer reactions to new ideas. I also read a book that said market-inspired innovation would one day rule, and Marvel Comics was not the publisher.

Ladder climbing via tradition was clearly not for me.

As an artist, I can tell you showing up for my first workday in a sales office and seeing just a desk and a phone made me feel stripped of the creative environment/mantra that had defined "me." My new boss was a young sales guy in his late 20's. He shook my hand and said "Welcome to the bleeding edge. You say you're thirsty here, and you'll drink from a fire hydrant."

He was right, a little cocky, maybe, but so was I. With new thinking and creative approaches, our Southern Sales Region soon led the nation in quotas achieved two years in a row. Not by a slim margin, but by a landslide.

By me getting out of my comfort zone, I was actually getting closer to creating a higher value by connecting innovation to a vital and traditional business process. No longer was I winning awards for great conceptual brochures (well, there were a few), my team was winning respect, bigger bucks and pride in accomplishment that swept our company. Everyone wanted a piece of that action, so we applied it company- wide to win a huge market advantage.

Now when I approach design I see far more, so that business or an entire community is my palette and the market is my eyes and inspiration. Now that's incredibly better!

How are you bringing the right market dynamics to a point of understanding that your creative teams can do more than just make you (superficially) look good? How are you getting outside your comfort zones and creating more value?

Let us know.
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.

Thanks for this insight, Bill. We're looking forward to tapping into even more of your creative energy on InnovatioNews!

- Lee Porter