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15yearsagoBy Brian Van Bower

‘I’ve always been excited by innovation.  I place creativity high on my list of aspirations and priorities in my own business, and I think my life gets most interesting when I’m involved with people who are similarly attuned to this desire to do and try new and interesting things.’

That’s how Brian Van Bower opened his Aqua Culture column in the October 2001 issue of WaterShapes before continuing:  


‘Fortunately, I’ve had the benefit of associating with highly innovative people through the years who’ve shared the creative process with me, taught me a lot and made the ride extremely enjoyable – and fruitful.  These experiences have filled me with a desire to be out front myself with innovative and creative ideas.’


‘But for all the high-minded talk that you hear these days about creativity and “thinking outside the box,” the truth is that many potentially creative people and companies won’t go very far out on a limb for one simple reason:  Being a frontrunner comes with a fee – a fee known as risk.’


‘To be creative in any walk of life, you must be willing to take chances, and that means you’re almost guaranteeing that at some point along the way you’re going to miss the mark.  But that doesn’t much matter, because it’s these people who define the future not only for themselves, but for everyone else as well.’


‘Another characteristic of frontrunners is a willingness, even a perceived necessity, to share what they know.  Not all innovators take this approach, believing that sharing is tantamount to giving away the store and squandering a competitive edge.  Frontrunners, however, see things the opposite way, operating from the perspective that when they share what they know with others, the entire trade benefits and begins to elevate.’


‘I strive to be a frontrunner in my own way, and I know that a big part of it is a willingness to move into the unknown, knowing that there will be times when experiments and explorations won’t always work out as hoped.  If one learns from those situations, then every moment spent, even in failure, is a worthy investment.’


‘I should mention at this point that experimentation on this level requires working with clients who have adventurous spirits.  . . .  Although these scenarios involve a bit more on-site improvisation than I’m used to, well – so far, so good.’


While we [work things through] as an intellectual and practical exercise, there’s an uncertainty among all parties about what will happen when we turn the system on in the real world.  But that’s not the issue, nor is it the fact that I may end up having to absorb the cost of the jets and their plumbing if I can’t make things work.’  


‘What’s important to me, now that I know and appreciate the value of frontrunning,’ concluded Brian, ‘is that I have to take chances like this to grow creatively and technically as a watershaper.’

‘It’s a risk I’m willing to take – my investment in staying on the cutting edge.’

Are you familiar with the concept of paying the frontrunner’s fee?  How did it work out for you?  Was it exhilarating?  Intimidating?  An ordeal you’d rather forget?  Please share your thoughts and insights on this important topic in the comments section below!


Brian Van Bower runs Aquatic Consultants, a design firm based in Miami, Fla., and is a co-founder of the Genesis 3 Design Group; dedicated to top-of-the-line performance in aquatic design and construction, this organization conducts schools for like-minded pool designers and builders.  He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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