What we can learn from Silicon Valley

This year's focus of our trip to the most influential valley in the world was to validate what we are doing: our Agile Transformation Cycle and the Agile Learning Loop.

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View over San Francisco from the Fine Arts Museum

The good news? When you talk to the business modelers of San Francisco, Justin from Business Models Inc. or Hugo from propelland, we earned a 1000% (yes, 1,000) agreement on how to model (digital) businesses from a customer´s point of view.

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Sabine and Justin, sharing their experience in Business Modelling

Justin even talks about customer Safaris, when it comes to gaining insights – a good way of framing the often hard work of listening and observing customers in order to identify jobs to be done they did not even detect themselves. Setting that all into context, framed with a business model and a vision creates the right filters to ideate. Which means to open up for ideas, but in concrete fields of opportunities. Full focus to your business, from the beginning of the design (thinking) process. This focus is one thing we can learn from the spirit of the valley.

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Hugo Giralt, founder of propelland

But let's start at the beginning: Why would we need to remodel our business and undergo the transformation process? In order to develop concrete options for the future or (one step before), you'd better train the innovation capabilities of an organization, cultivating the language of innovation for the highly agile digital age. Hugo shared his view on that: at propelland he made the experience that people always come first in this process of transformation. People, then project and then the organization. This is a hard one for Europe: as we have been trained in delivering results.

Ok, let´s find an easy entry into what makes the culture of Silicon Valley, the base for being 100 % customer focused. For my feeling it's well explained by our visit at the Amazon Store in San José.

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100 % integration of off- and online. Retail driven by data and user interaction: You would find the user ratings at each price tag. As well as the customer based suggestions. Self-evidently you can buy your book with your Amazon App.

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Well, of course there is a next level to that: the B8ta Store. A store to discover, challenge and buy the latest technological innovations. Designed for prototyping a retailer´s environment. For StartUps who need to learn and improve their products and the experience around their products, before they go market. The price tag? About $ 4.000,- per week. Highly relevant testing at low cost and risks.

That's one important differentiation between Europe and the US, or at least Corporates and StartUps: the battle at the market can only be won by asking and observing the customers, and not by crunching business cases and argue battles in the office. ;-)

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B8ta Store, Santana Row, San José

Having explored that, I hardly recommend to continue with a visit at the d.School – the school where Design Thinking was born by Hasso Plattner (SAP) and Dave Kelley (IDEO) 13 years ago.

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Sabine, back at d.school in Stanford

In summer 2016 I was honored to take my design thinking lessons at that school that is connecting disciplines in order to create new ideas: starting with the main hall of the building, that connects 2 totally different houses with a modern steel construction in order to create a creative environment with a clear DO mentality.

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d.school Stanford

As every agile discipline, design thinking is all about DOING and co-creating. So we did that and built our prototypes for bringing the idea of the d.school to the people.

What might be of interest for everyone who is reading this blog is the fact, that with my Social Media Marketing team at ambuzzador, we are developing an online 24/7 version of Design Thinking: the so called Community Design Thinking, that uses every customer interaction to dig into customers needs and undetected wishes. In order to detect “jobs to be done” in realtime. Making the interaction with brands or organisations a personal experience for everyone.

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Stefan sharing the Community Design Thinking approach from ambuzzador with Rachel from MUH-TAY-ZIK / HOF-FER

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Stefan, prototyper with passion, at d.school.

But even in education, there is more: such as Cogswell College, an inspiring place for programs in technology, animation, audio, business and games. Conducted as a student-centered approach.

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Sabine in the classroom with students at Cogswell College

These students are trained in human interaction, in order to really understand customers' and consumers' needs to build their designs, business models and products on. When they meet in class, they share their experience, thouhts and ideas. Instead of books and technical features. For me that seems a very future oriented approach for learning, as in my opinion, humans and their personal qualities will make the difference in the upcoming machine age. And not technical features that will be common sense.

When it comes to technology, we highly recommend to spend time at the wonderful Singularity University where I personally spent one of the most exciting and inspiring weeks of my life, back in 2015.

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Sabine and Stefan at Singularity University, Moffet Field

So far we have learned about integrating the community, prototyping and testing, new ways of learning and exponential technologies. Time, to introduce the spirit (!) of the Silicon Valley. We met Asa at Mozilla (Firefox) who shared his passion on working for the “good” Browser who acts as non-profit organization, depending on the contribution of its developer community. A community that strongly supports Firefox, as there are very well “engineered” community mechanics: coders own their own features of code after having proven to be the best, by passing several stages of approval by the Firefox coder community.

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Sabine, in love with the (Fire)fox in Mountain View

Hence, there are not only Americans as passionate about what they do, we met Paul Hofmann, CTO of spacetime to be proven the opposite. Born and raised in Austria, Paul is living and working in California since many years in different functions. At lunch we discussed about business models of Amazon & Co and why they are not beatable at the moment. But what fascinated me most was Paul´s thought on the Start Up ecosystem: in the digital age it is the small players who invest in research and innovation, by working as described above. Adapting every day, being connected to their customers. Large organization manage no longer to innovate, due to structures and leadership made for the industrial age. Too slow in adapting to the new ways of thinking and working.

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Lunch with Paul Hofmann

When it comes to lunch, I have to share my experience with the Impossible Burger. Meat that is no meat. But tastes like meat.

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Impossible Burger at Epic Steak, San Francisco

As I found no better bridge to our visit at the brandnew Visitor Center of Apple I use the one, that an apple a day… ok. Let´s just share my experience: You will find a video of the AR-animation on our YouTube Channel. Impressive, feel good architecture and a large scale shop.

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My colleague Stefan summed it up in a tweet.

Coming from Apple, THE Design Thinking company it makes sense to visit the SAP App House in Palo Alto. One house full of open space, walls to write on, all over, an own d-shop with tools to build a prototype. Pure paradise for our Chief Innovation Officer Stefan who brought back many ideas for reconstructing our office and our clients´ creative spaces.

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Stefan at the d-Shop in the SAP App House in Palo Alto

Mainly these are the ingredients for being adaptive in re-creating your (digital) business model: being open for any impulses from your customers or even competitors who are considered to be your ecosystem. Entering the age of scalable learning. Leaving the age of scalable efficiency.

We are grateful about all the deep exchanges and highly recommend Niki and his Inspiration Tours for exploring the culture of Silicon Valley. Thx for having us! J

For further insights we suggest our short video reportage on our ambuzzador YouTube Channel.

And as a pro tip from Stefan and Thomas Kicker we highly recommend a visit at MoMa SFO, one of the best Museums of Modern Art in the world.

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Stefan, exploring Maman by Louise Bourgoise, at MoMa SFO