Creativity at Startup Speed – What Silicon Valley Teaches About The Importance of Innovation In Business
A Global Innovation Hotbed
At Enterprise Development Group (EDG) we have recently made an interesting observation: there has always been a fairly steady stream of visitors to Silicon Valley, but lately this has become a veritable torrent. Leaders and students from around the world are arriving daily in ever increasing numbers. Some are coming for just a short visit, others to settle down. Some because they simply want to learn and take it back home; others to become part of something they think is special. It’s the new California Gold Rush, and many are coming here to find that gold for their enterprises.
And for good reason: Silicon Valley is an ecosystem that has evolved for over a century from the fortuitous combination of a wonderful climate, a number of excellent universities, laboratories and thinktanks, critical technical breakthroughs in signals and digital technologies, and money, a great deal of money. This combination of factors became an attractor for great visionaries, thinkers and entrepreneurs who understood the enormous importance of innovation in business. These thinkers gave rise to companies such as Adobe, Apple, eBay, Cisco, Fairchild, Facebook, Google, HP, Intel, Lockheed, NetApp, Oracle, PayPal, Tesla, Twitter, YouTube, Yahoo, and thousands of start-ups that are transforming the world every day.
This is the birthplace of our digital, mobile, social world. A world driven by the power of the microprocessor and the internet. A world that is being transformed over and over again by exponential technological developments that disrupt every industry, every enterprise, everywhere. At an ever faster pace.
And this is what brings so many people from so many places to this part of the world today: Silicon Valley is not only the source of the disruption, it is also the place that best converts the potential that comes from these disruptions into successful enterprises with global impact. Consider the recent successes of companies like Airbnb, Netflix and Uber, to mention just a few.
Is it Magic?
When you travel around Silicon Valley these days, you certainly get the feeling that there is some kind of magic here. Spirits are high, conversations intense, business brisk, and traffic on the roads very heavy. Something is clearly afoot.
But behind all this good feeling there is something that drives this exuberance, that shapes this success. It’s a discipline of innovation.
Development Driven by Venture Capital
Silicon Valley is driven by VC: Venture Capital and Value Creation. Money definitely makes the Silicon Valley world go ‘round: 50% of America’s venture capital – about $20b – is spent here annually. Not to speak of the billions of dollars from corporate investments and acquisitions. This is typically “smart money” – it is looking for payback that comes from highly valuable new ventures. The goal for meaningful returns drives Silicon Valley’s obsession with value creation. This is the most important secret of Silicon Valley: this place knows how to produce customer and market value from products and services that customers crave. Everything here is built to deliver these results: the environment; the company cultures; and the methods and practices that everyone knows and follows. These practices can be experienced, they can be understood, they can be learned, and they can be adapted and applied in places well beyond the boundaries of Silicon Valley.
This then is the reason why so many people are coming to Silicon Valley now – and why they are in increasing numbers visiting EDG to find out the specifics about what this is all about.
Capturing Lightning in a Bottle
For those interested in getting a look at how it’s done up close and personal, a week-long Silicon Valley immersion is a great way to achieve precisely that. Visits are typically tailored to a specific company’s interests and strategies to maximize impact for implementation after the visit. Immersions provide:
- Insight into emerging trends that could influence or even disrupt the visiting company in the future; and discovering ways for capitalizing on such disruptions with new innovation strategies and business models,
- Learning and practicing specific Innovation Best Practices relevant to the visiting company’s innovation efforts, specifically focused on increasing customer and market value in a profoundly changed world,
- Visits to iconic Silicon Valley companies and start-ups whose offerings or approaches may be impacting the next generation of the visitors’ business; learning about their products or services and experiencing their innovation culture,
- Linking learning back to the strategies and visions of the visiting company,
- Integrating the experiences and learnings into an Innovation Blueprint – participants leave with a roadmap in hand that will guide communication and next steps,
- Building relationships with Silicon Valley companies and innovators that may continue after the immersion.
The goal of these efforts is to reinforce the importance of innovation in business with the visiting leadership team , as well as get them “on the same page” about emerging trends, the future they want to create together, and the practices they will want to mobilize to reach the intended future. To have a profound experience about what is coming, and what that means for their company and most importantly for their leadership. Leaders leave these experiences inspired to lead with greater confidence about what is possible and determination about what needs to be done. Once they see what is possible they are prepared to channel their inspiration into requests from their employees for faster, bigger, and bolder ideas.
A recent visitor reflected on his company’s executive team’s experience in the following way: “The Silicon Valley Immersion we experienced two months ago was truly inspiring, and you can still feel “the glow” everywhere. Participants act as wonderful multipliers as the SV-Spirit is spreading in downright “viral” ways across the company.” – Dr. H.S. – Head of Corporate Innovation Management and Product Development
Maintaining the Magic
When visitors to Silicon Valley return to their companies, they usually have a greater appreciation of the importance of innovation in business. They are typically also committed to installing or expanding structures and practices necessary for enhancing their companies’ innovation capabilities – to bring Silicon Valley inside. This means implementing the fundamentals of what makes Silicon Valley tick:
- A continuous flow of information of critical developments – signals from the future – today,
- Clear communication about the strategic intentions of the company,
- Engaging everyone in continuously developing innovative ideas, both small and those that will have significant impact, by using highly
- Disciplined innovation practices, which include focused campaigns, as well as bottom up or open innovation efforts, using specific
- Pitching and review practices along approval stages, e.g. using juries and moving ideas through funding cycles.
We have found that Qmarkets offers the ideal platform for supporting these critical innovation practices seamlessly, empowering everyone in the enterprise to effectively participate in innovation – very much aligned with how it’s done in Silicon Valley. Their platform delivers a concrete foundation that allows a company’s leadership to show its commitment to a future through innovation by enabling the kinds of behaviors and practices that are so effective in Silicon Valley. It allows leaders to create a culture of active engagement in innovation (e.g. through focused campaigns); for people to pitch their ideas and get feedback to make their ideas better; and ultimately to get the funding necessary to move an idea forward, all the way to successful commercialization.
And here is a little secret: the Qmarkets platform is so good at supporting Silicon Valley style innovation practices that those who use it can achieve much of the intended effect without a visit to Silicon Valley. Although of course the great passion and strategic commitments from leaders that come for an actual visit cannot be easily duplicated.
To find out how Qmarkets can help you prime your innovation strategy to drive growth and maximize ROI, don’t hesitate to contact us for a free demo today!
Herman Gyr and Laszlo Gyorffy are partners in the Enterprise Development Group (EDG), an international consulting and training firm headquartered in Silicon Valley. EDG specializes in business strategy, innovation best practices, organization design, and leadership development. EDG has been running immersion programs for over 10 years with participants including: Airbus, BBC, Danish Broadcasting, Hospital North Zealand – Denmark, ITRI – Taiwan, Johnson and Johnson, Lufthansa, Mayo Clinic, Panera Bread, Philips, Stanford University, Swisscom, Swiss Post, Texas Health Resources, and Universal Music. EDG and Qmarkets have worked together on a number of projects over the last 6 years, and continue to use their combined assets to generate business results for many organisations across the globe.