An Innovation Mindset: Silicon Valley's Biggest Export

Silicon Valley’s biggest export isn’t the iPhone, Google search or Tesla cars. It’s an Innovation Mindset and right now it’s getting exported at an exponential rate.

Over the course of the last 20 years, Silicon Valley has produced some of the most disruptive and game-changing innovations in the world. In just a 49 square mile radius you’ll find three of the 10 largest companies in the world by market capitalization: Facebook, Google and Apple. Dozens of others are making massive businesses by overturning old markets: Uber, Airbnb and Netflix to name just a few.

Virtually every major world city now has some form of Startup Hub, at least partly inspired by Silicon Valley. It’s here you’ll find the scrappy local entrepreneurs huddled in co-working spaces hammering out the next big disruption. And, virtually all of this is new in just the last 10 years.

Corporations are taking note that innovation is on an exponential growth curve and are fighting to not be left behind.

Spending for R&D programs worldwide is now at an all-time high with little sign of slowing and, among them, technology companies lead the pack. In a recent Global Innovation Study by PwC, it was found that nine of the top 20 R&D spenders were tech companies. Unsurprisingly, many of those names listed are the companies we’ve come to associate with growth and success.

Organizations are starting to respond: Corporate Innovation Officers and Head of Innovation roles, virtually unknown 10 years ago, are becoming a de facto standard in corporate America.

There is very little room to argue against innovation leading to success. Despite this knowledge, companies are struggling under this sudden “innovate or perish” imperative. Transformation doesn’t happen with business as usual, and change makers are increasingly turning to the tools, techniques and cultural approaches that created the Silicon Valley boom as their guiding light.

New thought leaders like Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup, and Geoffrey Moore, creator of Crossing the Chasm, are exporting this knowhow to the world. Corporations are also discovering that innovation culture is at odds with their traditional quarterly-driven mindset and are looking for solutions.

On his blog, Silicon Valley guru Steve Blank points out that a business’ innovation practice needs to be uniquely accepting to experimentation and failure in order to achieve long-term success. Indeed, the “fail fast” and experimentation culture of Silicon Valley lore is starting to make sense for corporations that need to push conventional boundaries to remain competitive.

Innovation is hard, there is no doubt — and by any objective measure, Silicon Valley has led the way. As cities and companies battle to stay on top, it’s awareness of this that will separate the winners from the losers.

That’s why the Innovation Mindset is, and will remain, Silicon Valley’s biggest export.