As part of the Executive MBA I followed at Vlerick Business School, I went on an international trip that included a programme in Entrepreneurship at Berkeley University. It has been one of the most amazing experiences in our life.
The last day in San Francisco we took the picture above. My fellow Executive MBA class mates and I are full of energy after sharing this journey in that magical environment. I think everyone should visit it at least once in their life.
1. I did not fail. I learned 10.000 ways it did not work
This is a quote by Thomas Edison when he was trying possible element combinations for the filament of the light bulb. People came on stage and said, "yes, we screwed it up pretty badly". Investors valued the entrepreneurs who had already ventured into previous start-ups and failed. Why? Because failing is learning. Often we are too afraid to share what did not work. But guess what? If we experiment, if we innovate, we will inevitably fail. We will fail several times and we will learn every time. The alternative is to stay in the comfort zone and do just small improvements in what we know. But, as I read once, the wheel was not created out of small improvements of the movement of our legs, right?
2. The art of impossible things
Dominique Trempont, probably the most inspiring person I met in Silicon Valley said "in the valley, we have the art of impossible things". Thinking that something is possible is the first step towards getting it done. We often kill our own ideas, we are our worst enemy. Sometimes we just need to follow our passion blindly, and the rest will follow. The world around the bay allows people to experiment and act crazy. Challenge the status quo and believe that doing things in a different way is possible. And then, once you believe on it, and you are passionate about it, it is a matter of will and exceptional execution. A self-driving car? Yes, it is possible!
3. The importance of multidisciplinary teams when it comes to innovation
I visited the design school in Stanford and it is a place where architects, designers, engineers, all came together to work on a project. Often the best start ups are created when different sciences are combined. We also saw plenty of co-working spaces where people came together to work on different ideas and to discuss solutions from all angles.
4. Embracing Diversity: when different is the norm
While walking around in San Francisco, I realized that diversity was everywhere. Just opening your eyes, you could see that different was the norm: different races, religions, styles, clothes, gadgets, music, food, you name it. There a is place for everyone. No finger pointing, no… "oooh, that’s weird"… In a culture where everyone is different there is no place for judgement, there is no place for feeling excluded. And far from trying to get teams with similar people, they seek the contrary. Because they understood the beauty of complementary people. The more variety, the more areas are covered, the more different ideas are generated, the less blind spots we have.
5. The magical pie
This idea was shared by Carlos Baradello in his opening speech of the Berkeley "Innovation and Entrepreneurship" programme. When Marcel and Lucia share a hamburger one more bite for one is one less for the other. Simple. However, when it comes to ideas the magical pie (or hamburger) happens. Let’s say two people have an idea each (their pie), and they decide to share it. When they go back home, each of them have two ideas, the pie is bigger! Some people in Europe are often afraid of sharing because someone will steal the idea. In Silicon Valley, I constantly met people which immediately shared their idea. Because they know they need network, feedback and resources to make it grow. And in the end is 99% execution, so, why not share?
6. Where is the guy with grey hair in a suit?
Organized by Vlerick Business School, we visited several companies and joined multiple networking events. We met CEOs, Founders, head of staff… and it was brilliant. Companies had done an excellent job at selecting the best people. And that best does not mean the “guy with grey hair in a suit”. It has to be the person that fits the position best. For a company to perform better you need the best. Sometimes best comes with experience, sometimes it only requires the right mindset.
7. The beauty of simplicity and focus
I loved entering in the Apple store in San Francisco. No cables, just wooden tables with the products on display, an open space with plenty of light and just the minimum of what they wanted to show. And that is exactly what they are good at, simplicity in design and focus. Another example is "in n out". This place is one of the most successful fast food chains in the US. Their food menu? One hamburger (with or without cheese, or double meat/cheese) and fries. But they are just so good in what they do, that the place was full any time of the day.
To conclude, do not be afraid to go out of your comfort zone and experiment. Open your eyes to the world and embrace the diversity you have around to create fantastic teams. Share your ideas, collaborate with others and have in mind the "pay it forward mentality". And finally, have passion and love what you do!