Innovative Service Success from Silicon Valley

May 15, 2020 • FeaturesService Innovation and Designworldwide

What can we learn from the social environment of silicon valley and can it be adapted to service? Mark Glover finds out more...

In the 1960's, sunlight seeping into the bay area of San Francisco would glisten not only off the sea but, perhaps less evocatively, off the many silicon transistors being developed at the time.

Curating Innovation in Field Service

Since then, the area better known as silicon valley sparked with creativity from the world famous Stanford University and through a tech evolution that started in military equipment, straddling space research, radio equipment, computer software; stopping slightly to ease itself out of the dotcom bubble, has emerged as the technology capital of the world.

It now means that when we think of innovation, we think of silicon valley. It contains the largest concentration of high-tech companies in the United States. The area bristles with start-ups who have started or are about to; a place where ideas fizz creating some of the biggest trends and movements.

Its criss-cross of streets and avenues are dotted with famous tech companies.

Facebook, Google, Twitter all bloomed from its creative soil and it was while researching this article, using the aforementioned web-based search engine, my browser guided me to a picture of an unassuming garage in Palo Alto, the caption underneath reading: "The birthplace of Silicon Valley."

Further investigation revealed the garage had, in 1938, been where two college friends, William Hewlett and David Packard, began developing their audio oscillator. As I look around my office I see a printer with the pair's names on which is probably ubiquitous across many other offices up and down the land and another nod towards the global influence of the Valley.

Hewlett Packard, Facebook, Twitter base themselves or have a presence there. Google's 'Googleplex', the company's vast glass and chrome office-space shimmies and shines over 2,000,000 square feet in Mountain View, California.

Employees from the surrounding San Francisco areas are whizzed into work and back by a wi-fi enabled Google shuttle bus. It's not Google's main HQ, that's in New York City, but the company recognised the importance of embedding themselves here.

But why is this part of the world such a fertile area for creativity and big ideas? Of course, the weather, fine beeches and transport links all help - as does the location of of Stanford University, one of the finest education establishments in the world but the creativity has matured and eventually embedded itself over time.


"It's interacting heavily with each other, doing the same things and learning and inspiring each other and setting the same standards..."


The original sediment fused in silicon chips has, for those that work there, become an ingrained culture that is the envy of many a businesses and thought pieces in Wired and HBR. Those that find themselves working there can't help but be absorbed and locked into its social environment.

In a recent Field Service Podcast Jan van Veen discussed how an social environment like that of Silicon Valley's can lead to business success. "The environment you're in heavily dictates or defines your success," he said. "There is a ambition to it, there is a stretched goal that you are trying to pursue.

"An example of this is Silicon Valley. Everyone is there together, doing the same kind of thing and just by being so close to each other and interacting with each other and doing similar work and collaborating with each other and then all of a sudden that boosts development."

"There are buildings where start-ups join together and are based but it's not just about the office-space, it's interacting heavily with each other, doing the same things and learning and inspiring each other and setting the same standards for example, 'How do we run our business and develop our business and grow our business?'"

It all sounds great, even better if you're in the California sunshine sipping a smoothie while caressing the keypad of your Macbook pro, but what does it really look from a business perspective? "It's a social environment, an environment of people together," Jan suggests. "The environment is a group of people, either inside your business or outside or a combination of both, all sharing the same kind of aspirations and values and goals. And that they have a high-level of interaction and the exchange of information, insight and experiences and interact with each other," he paused at this point in the podcast, "but it's more than this."

"It's setting a culture and values and that way influencing each other's behaviours, mindsets and habits and the actions you take," he continued. "It can boost the things you do and how well you are able to succeed in achieving your goals."


"The demands from clients are changing and we see that business models are changing and we are seeing new entrants coming into the industries..."


As we move forward over the next twelve months what benefits can adopting such a culture bring to the service sector? van Veen thinks it can affect how successful we are in using innovation to develop a more service-orientated business model. "In manufacturing industries we are seeing more and more digital technologies coming in. The demands from clients are changing and we see that business models are changing and we are seeing new entrants coming into the industries."

What this new social environment signifies is a warning to those that choose not to or fail to follow. If manufacturers are not able to adapt quickly and escape from business-as-usual and fail to adapt to new models then they will drop behind the competition. How well are we able to change the way we innovate our businesses, drive that innovation and thrive in a rapidly changing world?

When Mr.Packard and Mr.Hewlett dusted away the cobwebs in a garage in Pala Alto, looked around and taken a deep breath, did they know what they would achieve? Probably not, but they would have driven each other on, confident their mini social environment would get them through.

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