This blog post is long overdue since I visited San Francisco and Silicon Valley late November/early December 2018. It’s been a while, but I had the most incredible, mind blowing and educational excursion. I came back with a broader mindset and a deeper understanding of how work, work-life and businesses will look, a few years ahead. And I’m so excited!
I still feel the inspiration and engagement, it just keeps growing on me. That’s what a trip like this can do to you when you decide to go, and to participate with a totally open and curious mind. I wish every one had a chance to do it some time. So I guess the trip changed me for the better, it’s me before and after. 😉
I have been curious about this area for years. I had never been to Silicon Valley (except for visiting my wonderful family in San Jose way back, when I was still in high school).
I watched a documentary on the plane going over. It was about Silicon Valley – what it is and how it has become this global hot spot for innovation and venture capital. I found it so interesting to hear Steve Wozniak talk about how his father had been an engineer in the bay area after the world war, and had brought Steve with him to work. He had explained to Steve how the work he did was building and affecting America. Wozniak said this was an experience he shared with other guys, like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and so many more, who were also sons of proud and hard working engineers in the same area at that time. Of course these sons were proud of the work their fathers did, and they grew up wanting to contribute as well. I’m thinking that’s passion – isn’t it? First one generation, then the next one…. Two generations of proud and passionate employees, and now the third generation is well into their professional careers.
I’ve thought of the place being kind of a “compressed USA”. Like, if you have a mass amount of people who are passionate and driven by “the American dream” – living within the same area, helping each other working on common goals, giving it all it takes, succeeding along the way – and celebrating together when big things happen. I know there are so many sad stories also, there always are, but I’m going to focus on the positive side. No matter how many downsides there are or have been along the way, nothing can change the fact that a vast amount of the largest and most successful companies in the world started out here, and a significant part of the global venture capital is (still) in this area.
So I arrived in Palo Alto, Silicon Valley, very curious and with a deep wish to learn and take home new found knowledge.
Ok, so honestly? I l-o-v-e-d it there! I could feel it the instant I arrived. It’s just something about the pace, the vibe, the people. The cars with the occasional new tech-digit-thing on the roof, in front or – with a missing driver! All the people playing with some sort of new technology, a random robot on the street or in the shops…. And all of it taking place in charming and beautiful Palo Alto – a warm and charming city, so much smaller than I had imagined. Wherever you go you meet people who are passionate about what they do, whether it’s giving you the best hotel-service possible, offering you a taste of a particular wine or exciting you in a bookstore – there is no way their generous curiosity can’t rub off on you. I was so taken by it.
Of course, when you join a trip like this, you are with likeminded people. It was nice to have a couple of days getting to know the rest of the group before the program started, and to have the chance to explore the city a bit. (Next time I’ll make more room for exploring Stanford University!).
We visited so many companies and the inspiration, learning take-aways and the impressions made were so many – I don’t think I’m able to get it quite through in a blog post. But I’ll try and share some of the findings that were key takeaways for me.
Institute for the future. Their mission is to help people and organizations think more strategically and imaginatively about the future. They told us about how people’s thinking around trust is changing in the urgent future. They taught us about how they practice on exercising the mind to foresee and predict, how they use tools like artifacts and maps when they work on how a new technology may/will affect society. The best part of this workshop was that they shared how they actually work on foreseeing the future by using various tools, i.e. spotting drivers, forces and signals that are likely to drive social, technological and economical change. Oh, so exciting – and I’ve started to exercise my own mind. #challengeyourself 👌🏼
“Any useful statement about the future should at first seem ridiculous.” (Jim Dator).
“Helping people live their lives, ensuring they are not being outdated.” An online educator that has teamed up with top universities. It’s pretty awesome that you can now do a course at universities like Yale, Northwestern and Stanford from your own home! Oh, how I love that! You can take all the courses on Coursera and end up with an MBA from University of Illinois – how about that! Most likely a lot cheaper, and with the benefit of not having to leave your family or job. Coursera works with large companies that need to level up – or add competencies to their employees, and with societies where traditional learning hasn’t been mandatory or even available. I was so amazed by the work they do with governments to lift a country’s possibility for growth by educating it’s citizens. The future is really here. Now everyone can get an education or a new competence. Will the future issues then be related to what qualities we have as “whole and complete persons”, more than what degree we could get (or afford)? I think I like that thought….
My favorite presentation and business-visit. Oh-My-God! I love this company! Most people might know Gensler through the work they have done creating headquarters for companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, airbnb, Instagram…. yeah, I could go on and on. But the way they work, their philosophy and their approach to creating workplaces for the future blew my mind. They talked about how they look at how people live in their environment, and bring that into the workplace. Trending now is developing neighborhoods, creating spaces at work where businesses can gather people in lobbies, event areas or restaurants. (Uhm, I know a couple of Norwegian companies that might have worked with Gensler, come to think of it….?). And we’re not talking about “just” gathering people already connected to the company (like customers and employees), no – we’re talking about bringing neighborhoods together – inviting everyone in! Isn’t that something? In their own offices Gensler has a reception area designed for bringing people together, (see featured picture), they have wellness areas, a gym and of course open offices. The idea is that people don’t feel that they have to “leave their life” to come to work. When the company communicates to take some time off and take care of your health, that is valuable communication to the employees.
I could go on and on about this trip, but for now this will have to do. I can’t risk the “information overload” – you know what I mean? 😅 And if I tell you these were only fragments from 3 of our around 15 visits during these amazing 4 days in the bay area – then can you understand I’m still processing? Just writing about it now makes me excited and hyped! I will tell you more in part 2 (and maybe a part 3 as well?), there is so much more that deserves to be shared. (If you are interested in my trip this year, check it out here – you are welcome to join! 💃🏼 ).
Take care of yourself – stay inspired, or seek inspiration. Be curious and aim to learn something new every day.
Peace & love,