Janina Keuters has travelled to Silicon Valley with a group of top 100 medium-sized entrepreneurs in search of innovation and inspiration.
When we were named Top100 Innovator last summer, it wasn’t just an award. We were also accepted into the network of the most innovative medium-sized companies in Germany. New ideas and the courage to think outside the box is an important factor. A group of last year’s award-winning top innovators, together with Prof. Dr. Nikolaus Franke, now embarked on a quest for innovation. And where better to do that than in Silicon Valley – the talent factory for software, technology and innovations.
FLS Managing Director Janina Keuters and 18 other top innovators made their way all the way to Northern California. Tour guide Mario Herger’s schedule included visits to well-known names such as SAP, Apple, TESLA, Google and Facebook. But also some less known tech solution providers like DocuSign and Belcham, as well as various workshops were part of the program.
Nowadays the technology is changing faster than ever before. Gadgets, devices and innovations that were considered science fiction just a few years ago are now part of everyday life. Whether it’s Apple’s latest iPhone, Tesla’s new generation smart car, or innovative crowdsourcing solutions like Uber and Airbnb, the possibilities for where the technology will take us in the future are seemingly endless and within reach, especially in Silicon Valley.
A handful of companies immediately come to mind when you think of Silicon Valley. SAP, Apple, Tesla, Google and Facebook are just a few of the companies that Janina Keuters, and participants in the group, were allowed to visit during this time. Understanding how these companies started, what sets them apart, and how they maintain a culture of innovation are principles we can use to drive change and bring it to our businesses.
Many things about the big companies are already known without having to travel far. But you can learn on the ground that “innovation” is indeed so rooted in the corporate identity of the individual companies that it no longer needs to be addressed. Innovation is lived and is part of everyday life. The idea of “pay-it-forward” was particularly important and fascinating for Janina Keuters. In Silicon Valley, this refers to a mentoring mentality from which Steve Jobs also profited and which he in turn passed on to Marc Zuckerberg. Because if you support inexperienced thinkers and developers without expecting any counter help – you also indirectly help yourself. After all, Silicon Valley’s entire network ultimately benefits from new ideas, start-ups and technologies.
The courage to plan things larger than one would dare to do also plays an important role: “If you think big and it`s doable, then you probably don`t think big enough!” and “Fail early, fail often!” are important guiding principles for the Silicon Valley mindset. Together they show that you have to have the courage to think bigger and to see in problems the possibility for growth and the creation of new solutions – because even failure gives you important lessons!
From the first day of the joint tour, the Top100 Group saw on site how digitization is gradually reaching every area of life, and how progress is being implemented. So self-propelled cars drove through the streets, you could go shopping in the AmazonGo shop without queuing and have a cup of coffee served by robots in the CafeX. Prototypical innovations are part of everyday life in Silicon Valley.
There were also many inspirations for the everyday life of the company. Whether small teams at Google, writable walls, or open-plan offices with 100 employees in one room – every company creates spaces that encourage cooperation and are adapted to the requirements of the employees. FLS Managing Director Janina Keuters was particularly enthusiastic about the working environment and the rooms on Facebook. Because in order to promote work motivation, it is important that the employees can fully develop and identify with the company. From the roof terrace to opportunities for personal development and a wide variety of restaurants offering free food for all employees and visitors. The “Mini-City” is an impressive experience.
The time announced by Prof. Dr. Franke at the beginning of the trip as an “adventure week” passed far too quickly. But Janina Keuters took many small and big ideas and thoughts with her for herself and the FLS and one thing is for sure: This was not the last time that she got inspiration in Silicon Valley!