Grace’s secondment at the SF office

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My trip to San Francisco in August was a complete immersion into another innovation ecosystem. From Sydney to the Bay Area, I embarked on a three-week journey, Vegemite in hand, to fill up on experiences, embrace this vibrant and forward-thinking City and share my learnings back home with the Aus team. A few days in and it became clear that, as two teams working halfway across the world from one another, we share the same DNA, the same tools and techniques and the same intrinsic need to have fun with every project we deliver.

Of course, each BMI office has its own unique flavor and if I could describe the ‘SF attribute’ in one word it would be, colorful. Think ‘M’n’Ms-and-LaCroix’ type colourful. The kind that fills a room with its energy and gets the job done without compromise, and without taking life too seriously. It is safe to say that I gelled with it immediately. We worked hard and we played hard and part of this meant enjoying all that the City had to offer. The steep hills and pastel buildings, bicycle riding around Stanford, and all the incredible food (thanks Maaike for the suggestions) not to be underestimated by our daily Dutch lunch!


Reflecting on my time in San Francisco, what inspired and impacted me the most was how the team approached their work as a truly collective and collaborative activity. We always say that if you want to go far you ‘don’t fly solo’. Even when you are working independently, it’s important to bring people along with you in the journey, to build on ideas, ask questions and present new perspectives. Stepping into a new environment in the SF office really reiterated the value of working together as a unit, harnessing individual strengths to move collectively toward a goal, and being candid in the process. Drawing a parallel with our team back home, where team members span across multiple states, it was familiar to see how the SF and New York offices connected frequently and collaborated on multiple projects over the course of my stay (thanks Meg, Doménique and Charlotte!) We know that the future of work will look and feel different to today, but what will remain is the value of the ‘team’ as a celebration of diverse experiences and perspectives.

US office vs AU office 
Over the course of my secondment, I developed an understanding of the team’s rhythm. This was first-hand learning as I took a deep dive into several key projects, all very diverse in nature. From working with the not-for-profit sector to identify an optimal pathway for transformational innovation, to co-designing circular economy workshops intended to facilitate co-innovation between large corporates – it was interesting to see the parallels in these project focus areas between the SF team and our work here in Australia, creating ample opportunity to share insights and collaborate on outcomes. And of course, there’s CHILL, Cisco’s Hyper-innovation Living Lab.

CHILL is an intense and encompassing experience and each step in the journey is designed as such. With a curated cohort of participants, end-users, designers and engineers in the room, the energy is electric and a great level of detail is required to provide (and maintain) the optimum conditions for collaboration. The theme this year – Industry 4.0 – was an inquiry into the future of machine and human interactions, exploring a world where the two not only coexist but work together, an area of focus that we are also exploring with our clients in Australia. Joining the action for CHILL was such a memorable experience, not just for me but for all who participated, and it is precisely because of the attention to detail the team pours into the design and facilitation of the event. Stay tuned for more learnings and insights from the team about what went down at CHILL this year
San Francisco is an epicenter for technological innovation and we naturally find ourselves referencing the advancements that are being made in this part of the world on a regular basis. Thinking from this global perspective, there are unique differences between the two markets that I observed. The most obvious being the accelerated pace and climate for digital transformation, driven by an active inquisitiveness about new and emerging markets, products and services. There is also creative energy to the City that makes it flexible and responsive to change. You can see this manifest in certain customer behaviors – the uptake of new ways to get around the City, connect with others and purchase goods (online and offline) – as well as how businesses are prioritizing how they value their customers as ‘individual’ and ‘unique’.

Upon returning from our annual international weekend earlier this year, what struck me most about working with Business Models Inc is our truly global way of working. Bringing together our international offices under the banner of one global team set the tone for what was indeed a year of cross-office collaboration and celebration. The secondment program was a continuation of this experience and really helped me put into perspective the broader context, history and future focus of the BMI international team. It was so cool to see everyone in their element and experience this first-hand. Mutual experience is the best way to build understanding and enrich relationships. That moment when you’re celebrating a win or the delivery of a project you have just worked hard on is difficult to top. And being able to do this together makes it all the more memorable!




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