August 28, 2010

Some lessons I've learnt at Silicon Valley

This afternoon, by the time I cross the Golden Gate, I will switch on to holidays mode (and mood!) until September 20th.

But before I enter in that mood, let me tell you a few things that I have learnt these days researching at Stanford and visiting some innovative companies at Silicon Valley.

Stanford Graduate School of Business. Few people were researching these summer days. But nearly all of them where assian graduate students. It's impressive to see their dedication and discipline. We europeans ought to do something about it, especially when one of the key issues in the next decade will be the productivity imperative: "Developed-world economies will need to generate pronounced gains in productivity to power continued economic growth. The most dramatic innovations in the Western world are likely to be those that accelerate economic productivity". (Source: Mckinsey Quarterly, June 2010).

Last week I was luckly invited to "The Santuary of Secrecy": Apple headquarters. The most common answer you get when you adress questions to employees is: "I don't know". And the reason is that there is an internal policy of only knowing what you need to know to do your job. And it does make sense for their business model, which is pretty based on Steve Job's intuition to come up with "the next iThing" on time. But, is it sustainable?

There is a big difference between having a product advantage and having a competitive advantadge. Product advantages alone are difficult to sustain. Will Steve Job's successor be able to keep this level of uncommon geniality?

That's me, riding Googleplex.

And that's the Google Bike.

At Googleplex, I met Avinsah Kaushik the world guru on Analytics. If you have an hour ahead, it's worth watching this video:

Tesla Motors was another remarkable visit. They are launching the Tesla Roadster, a high-performance electric sports car. This high-end car together with the low-end Tata Nano are two extreme examples of a phenomenon shaking not only the car industry: the polarization of demand. Which in few words means that any average product, with average features, for an average client and with an average price is facing a demand contraction. Dramatic differentation is becoming mandatory to survive.

What song would you play to cross the Golden Gate?  I feel like playing September Grass (James Taylor).