HR & Management
How, not where: Taking the Silicon Valley culture out of California
5 min read
24 August 2016
Silicon Valley has succeeded. Known as the first name in tech, it’s home to some of the world’s biggest companies, has spawned countless imitators, and, at the last reckoning, employs over a quarter of a million IT knowledge workers.
It’s made billionaires out of quite a few of them and while the high density of talent has added momentum to the region, it is not geography that lies at the heart of its achievements. Silicon Valley lives and dies on its culture. Placing an emphasis on agile working and collaborative processes, the Valley encourages out-of-the-box thinking and creates an environment in which new ideas are given the time and space to breathe – rather than being left to wither on the vine.
However, it is a misconception that such a culture could only work in that region. With the right approach, organisations all over the world can replicate its success – regardless of whether your organisation is a technology business.
Creating Silicon Valley success
Critically, it’s about taking a holistic approach to your organisation’s culture. Consider the physical environment, although some companies place a little too much value on this, it is an important part of a productive workplace.
Read more about increasing productivity in your business:
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Think of inviting clients into the office, work alongside them and create an immersive experience that helps them understand how you work. Aim to form small, autonomous and balanced teams composed of the right mix of skills. This increases the collaboration between those who may not be used to meeting face to face.
Small things such as providing breakfast for everyone to start the day together; having a short company-wide stand ups meeting in which new faces can be introduced, ask for help, or share interesting updates and announce events, can also encourage a feeling of community. Lunch activities, such as presentations and board games, also create stronger relationships.
Another tactic is to encourage table tennis breaks at regular intervals – that’s what we do. This isn’t a gimmick (and it’s certainly not part of our business plan to produce an Olympic-level team of ping pong champions), it serves an important purpose in helping offer a moment away from the desk that allows workers to stretch their legs, recharge mentally and enjoy time with colleagues outside of a formalised setting. Movement can also help spark new ideas, helping to jog creative thoughts and lift people out of a rut.
Additionally, initiatives such as “Lunch and Learn” sessions for staff can broaden the experience of your workforce. It offers a platform from which to share knowledge and inform peers about topics on which they are truly passionate. It’s also a chance for staff to practice public speaking in a safe environment. They can get feedback on ideas, run through presentations ahead of conferences, and refine their content in front of an interested and supportive audience.
Exposing employees to as much relevant information as we can, from all sides of the industry, not only helps increase their own talents but allows them to communicate and collaborate more freely with their colleagues.
At its heart, the Silicon Valley state of mind comes from freedom, with employees given free rein to bring new ideas into reality. Creativity cannot be ordered or bought, it must be nurtured and encouraged. Challengingly, there is no right or wrong answers in the drive towards a creating the right setting where inspiration and inventiveness will thrive – though businesses that are willing to give it a go are already taking steps in the right direction.
Robbie Clutton is director at Pivotal Labs.