Thursday July 5, 2012 1 commentsBy 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.