Innovation excursion: Visiting Silicon Valley

Challenge

How to get inspired and make the most of a visit to Silicon Valley?

Solution

Clear learning goals and guidance for an effective learning journey to take back home.

Inspiration on innovation comes from the outside, not within. Corporate leaders and teams tour to innovative regions like e.g. Silicon Valley and other relevant tech hubs to meet innovative start-ups, organisations to discover trends in various industries, talk to start-up founders, learn from speakers, and be inspired.

When Ralph Hamers was put in charge of the Dutch ING Bank in 2014, he decided to change course. The financial crisis had just ended and this called for new ways of thinking and doing business. In order to get inspiration from the source, Hamers took the bank’s entire Board of directors to Silicon Valley. To keep it from becoming a useless jaunt, he had to think carefully about the trip.

More and more companies head off to Silicon Valley to get inspired. Busloads of them can be seen driving to the offices of Google, Apple, and Tesla. In itself, this can be expected: it doesn’t get more cutting edge than Silicon Valley, especially when it comes to technology. All big names are based there and a journey to this new center of the world can indeed be amazingly inspiring and truly add value to your company. By looking around, one simply sees more.

Unfortunately, more often than not, such trips end up as a simple jaunt. Traveling agencies are keen to organize trips, but in most cases, they offer merely superficial glances and visits. Many doors stay closed and the real brains behind the companies have better things to do. Upon returning, these boards have to explain what they have been doing on their expensive trip.

Oracle Transformation Tour

During Oracle OpenWorld 2016 partners were acquainted with other innovative companies. Arno Nienhuis: “Oracle Benelux organised the Partner Transformation Tour which we visited with several dozen partners innovative companies in San Francisco and Silicon Valley. The purpose of this tour was partners not only inspire new innovations but also to engage in dialogue on how innovation can impact transformations for our customers and the business models of partners. We designed this tour together with Business Models Inc. We visited include office JLABS, Lyft, Chain, Stanford University, Andreessen-Horowitz, and Linkedin. 

Learn from start-ups

Ralph Hamers likes to mention his recent trip to Silicon Valley, using it the same way many bank CEOs do, as evidence that he is in command of the technological upheaval in his industry. But the ING boss goes further than most rivals. He recalls a meeting with US financial technology start-ups, including Wealthfront, Metromile, and Kaggle, over dinner in a plush Menlo Park steakhouse two years ago, shortly before he took over as head of the biggest Dutch bank by assets. Mr. Hamers says he questioned the Californian entrepreneurs on how they planned to build a sustainable business, who then turned the tables in a flattering fashion. “They said, ‘It is interesting that you asked because this is exactly what we want to hear from you’,” he recalls, suggesting that they saw ING as a fellow digital disrupter.

Why should you take a tour?

There is no better way than experience innovation in the real world. You need to be aware you should not go alone but take your team with you to go beyond the “start-up petting” experience. Innovation excursions quickly educate leadership teams, create a shared language and knowledge base, and help to efficiently identify partners in order to change company culture and push other innovation programs forward.

Business Models Inc. supports organizations to organize innovation excursions to hotspots like e.g. Silicon Valley. We helped ING, Oracle to get access to the best start-ups and experiences in Silicon Valley.

Check out the Inside Silicon Valley Playbook we created for Dutch Consulate in San Francisco.

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