After a Silicon Valley Visit: What Now?
Yu prepared, you learned that you are not getting a Silicon-Valley-Blueprint, but instead many new and fundamental questions, and despite that – or rather because of that – you had a good time in Silicon Valley with a lot of new impressions and inspirations. The time here motivated you with a renewed will of getting things done and shaping the future, but all slowly comes to a grinding halt. How exactly am I supposed to go forward and apply what I learned without losing momentum?
Exactly those are the questions that plague Silicon Valley visitors. Here are a few tips what you can and should do.
The first thing can be done on the way back to the airport for your return flight: assign action items to each participant that they have to do until a specific date. And most importantly: the very next Tuesday all participants should meet and follow up with the next steps.
In the same week – when all the impressions are still the freshest – each participant should do a short presentation in front of their respective teams. Show pictures from the visit, the most important impressions, report about the mindset that you experienced and possible threats and chances of the changes coming. Also mention, which new methodologies the team has to acquire to prepare themselves for the future.
Within a month organize an innovation salon. That’s an informal one to two hour meeting at the company where company employees have been invited to participate, no matter what their job role or experience is. It serves to instill a culture that innovation is the responsibility of everyone, and not just the ‘creative’ department. The innovation salon can be scheduled as a brown bag lunch or later in the day overlapping with the end of a regular work day. This way you get a self-selecting effect, where only those employees who are highly motivated and interested in innovation attend and stay.
Topics to be discussed during such a salon should be flexible and open for a broad range of areas, including product improvements, production processes, approaches, latest trends that come from outside, interesting trends that may not have an immediate impact on the company on a first look and similar areas of interest. The salon can take place in a rather unstructured way, or by having participant giving short prepared presentation and introductions to new topics. Examples could be “What does artificial intelligence mean for our production processes?”, “Driverless cars for our logistics?” etc.
This salon should become a regular item conducted every other week or at least every month. The number of participants will vary every time and much of the success will depend on the energy and enthusiasm of the organizers. What will increase is certainly the communication between departments.
Within three months after the Siliocn Valley visit organize a company-wide half-day or full day innovation event, that include external speakers. Ideally those are speakers from the innovation space, potentially also from partner companies or clients.
If you visited the Silicon Valley in a mixed group of people from different companies, those participants may be already a good network and pool to draw your speakers from.
The invitation to the innovation event is explicitly for each and every employee. Innovation is everyone’s task, not just the task a “creative” department
The innovation event can be used as the beginning or the end of a hackathon. A hackathon is a company-wide contest where a well-defined target and task is given, such as “mobile apps for customer service” or “medical devices of the future”, and is within the area of operation of the company. All employees are invited to submit ideas, form teams, and present and demonstrate the prototypes at the innovation event at a demo jam – a final pitch in front of a jury.
If your visit has been part of a first exploration of Silicon Valley, it may make sense to come again with a larger group or the management team. This time the goals for the visit may be more concrete
Note: also involve your works council. I have never met any members of works councils among participants, but I think for the sake of succeedignwith innovation initiatives, you need to involve them early on, including participating in such a trip.
An innovation outpost serves to be present where the action is. Such a facility helps to be closer to the newest trends, maintain contacts, learn new methodologies, and scout technologies.
A Silicon Valley visit often makes clear, that there are new methodologies such as Design Thinking, Business Model Canvas, Foresight Thinking and others. Skilss around those methodologies can be acquired through workshops, which I also conduct. Just send me an E-Mail, if you have further questions.
Whatever you choose to do, keep the momentum going. Don’t write long reports, but start doing. Schedule informal innovation salons, find co-workers who are interested in those topics as well, identify external think tanks and invite them to coffee and talks. After some time the word about the good stuff you do will spread, management will show interest to hear opinions and get more facts about new trends and topics from this initiative. It’s important that you trigger things and not wait for long decision processes and lengthy reports written about it.
If you follow those tips, than your visit to Silicon Valley will have paid off and not just have been a tourism program that some journalists called ‘Alpha Animals on Safari‘.
This article has also been published in German.