Directing without hierarchy

The development of the Brainport brand a few years ago and the Holland High-Tech branding process in 2012 both consisted of working in unique hybrid constructions to position the business and the brand and establish how they would be communicated. At Brainport, the hybrid construction consisted of companies, knowledge institutes and the regional government in the southeast of the Netherlands. At Holland High-Tech, the hybrid construction consisted of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Economy and Innovation, NL EVD/NL Agency, the sector organization FME-CWM, and technological companies. For me, the challenge consisted of managing and linking all of the parties, and keeping an eye on the overall goal. Lateral project management (PDF)

After formulating the needs and interests of all of the stakeholders, we defined the vision, the mission and the goals for Holland High-Tech. We met with the stakeholders to identify the main countries of focus (PDF):  China (Taiwan), Germany, France, the USA and South Korea. HTSM’s top team’s vision is for the Netherlands to be among the world’s five leading high-tech suppliers to these countries by 2020. The Dutch high-tech sector offers a number of benefits such as a growing sales market, collaboration in the area of technology, and the ability to attract investors, knowledge workers, skilled workers and students.

Having analyzed the problem, I made the following recommendation: the Dutch high-tech sector needs to change the way it behaves and acts. Companies in the high-tech sector usually communicate their strengths from the inside out: the strengths of companies, of products, of the Netherlands, of research etc. Our top sector high-tech systems and materials needs to show that the Dutch high-tech sector has a distinct added value when it comes to solving problems for global social challenges in the area of health, renewable energy, mobility, climate and safety. Companies and institutions need to change the way they communicate the high-tech sector’s proposition at home and abroad; it has to be more outside in.

Managing such a project was a challenge because you have to exert influence without hierarchical authority. The aim was to create the Holland High-Tech brand within the very short period of four months and launch it at Hannover Messe (as sub brand of the famous Holland brand (, introduce it to all of the embassies, create the twitter channel @hollandhightech and tools for the NL Agency toolkit, and come up with dozens of stories to support the Holland High-Tech claim. The brand was promoted playfully with the specially developed HHT balloon, which rose to the skies for the first time at the Friese Ballonfeesten in Joure.

The challenge in both positioning projects was to recognize the strategic and political interests of each of the stakeholders, align them with the overall goal, get parties to rise above their own interests and motivate them to work toward the overall goal of the Dutch high-tech sector as a whole. Managing such a branding process means connecting at various levels and focusing on the big picture, namely the benefit of this seemingly hard-to-crack nut. Engagement is key to stimulating intrinsic ambassadorship. One of the frequent conclusions is that collaboration produces the best results when people surpass themselves in their own job, or manage to jump over their own shadow.

Article in Bedrijvig Brabant (Publication for companies in the southeast of the Netherlands)
Article by FME/CWM, the largest organization in the Netherlands
representing employers and businesses in the technological industry.

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