Innovating at Startup Speed

Silicon Valley is Hot!

— blog article by Lisa Friedman, Herman Gyr, and Lazslo Gyorffy.

There have always been many visitors coming to Silicon Valley, but lately this has become a veritable torrent. Every day, leaders and students from around the world are arriving in ever increasing numbers. Some are here for just a short visit, learning as much as they can and taking it back home. Others come to settle down, becoming part of something they think is special. It’s the new California Gold Rush, with many coming here to find “gold” for their enterprises.

And for good reason: Silicon Valley is one of the world’s most vibrant innovation ecosystems. It has evolved for over a century from the fortuitous combination of a wonderful climate, a number of excellent universities, laboratories and think tanks, critical technical breakthroughs, and funding. This combination of factors became an attractor for great visionaries, thinkers and entrepreneurs, and gave rise to companies such as Apple, eBay, Cisco, Fairchild, Facebook, Google, HP, Intel, Lockheed, Oracle, PayPal, Twitter, YouTube, Salesforce, and thousands of startups 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.

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.

But behind all this good feeling there is something that drives this exuberance, that shapes this success. It’s a discipline of innovation.

A discipline – driven by VC

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 every year. And this doesn’t even include the billions of dollars from corporate investments and acquisitions. This is typically “smart money” that 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 positive 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.

Silicon Valley Immersion:

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 that. Visits are typically tailored to a 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 the learning from these visits to the strategies and visions of the visiting company, and integrating the experiences into a compelling Innovation Blueprint. Participants leave with a roadmap in hand that will guide communication and next steps,
  • Building an external innovation capability through ongoing relationships with Silicon Valley companies and innovators that continue after the immersion.

The result can be a profound experience for the visiting leadership team that shakes up their assumptions about the future and what it means for their company and, most importantly, for their leadership. These programs get the leadership team “on the same page” about emerging trends, the future they want to create together, and the innovation practices they will want to mobilize to reach the intended future. Leaders leave these experiences inspired to lead with greater confidence about what is possible and a firm determination about what needs to be done. Once they see what is possible they more easily 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."

Silicon Valley Inside

When visitors to Silicon Valley return to their companies they are usually 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,
  • Specific pitching and review practices along specific approval stages, e.g. using juries and moving ideas through funding cycles.

We have partnered with several world-class online platform providers 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. These platforms deliver 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.


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