Innovation Silicon Valley Style is the Exception, Not the Rule

People First is delighted to share work that is relevant to our initiatives. Geoffrey Moore is an author, speaker and management strategy advisor. His work has influenced the careers of many of us at People First and we are excited he granted us permission to share this particular article.
In this third article, Geoff touches on something that caught our eye. Things change. Fast. The line that says it all: “To quote a hopefully soon-to-be would be candidate for president, Silicon Valley’s version of the innovation game is rigged!” (Doesn’t that seem to be such a long time ago?). Every day we see that institutions we thought were one thing are now under attack. Silicon Valley is no different. It’s a struggle for us to make sense of it all. Thus we would argue that it might well be the exception …. but it definitely not the only way to solve the problem.

This article on innovation was published on LinkedIn, October 31, 2016.

There is a cottage industry in conducting executive tours of Silicon Valley, and now increasingly San Francisco SOMA, to expose teams from other parts of the planet to what is admittedly a uniquely successful culture of innovation and wealth creation. I’m all for it up to a point. Where I part company from the herd is with the notion that global corporations have a chance in hell of playing the same game. They don’t. Here’s why.
To quote a hopefully soon-to-be would be candidate for president, Silicon Valley’s version of the innovation game is rigged! That is, it is specifically designed around a venture capital oriented ecosystem that is uniquely aligned to support investments in disruptive innovation. The limited partners who fund VCs want their money put into these high-risk, high-reward endeavors. The VCs that parcel out that money interview entrepreneurs to pick the best ideas, plans, and teams to prosecute a disruptive innovation. The ecosystem of service providers needed to support these fledgling enterprises is deeply experienced in navigating the economic gyrations brought on by the Technology Adoption Life Cycle. And when any individual joins one of these companies, he or she knows their sole mission in life is to bring the targeted disruptive innovation to scale as fast as possible, come hell or high water, Devil take the hindmost. Now, I ask you, where else in the world could you expect to find this kind of alignment?
Most companies in most economies in most places live by sustaining innovation, not disruption. Successful investments are typically medium-to-low risk with medium-to-high rewards. They do not involve going through a bet-the-company J-curve, that deep and harrowing financial trough from which only a fraction of traveler’s return. Financiers from traditional economies do not want the companies they invest in to take this route—they want steadier ROIs from more proven paths. The executive teams who run these companies developed their considerable expertise prosecuting opportunities of just this sort. The workforce’s who report in to them are not prepared to work crazy-long hours in pursuit of some visionary dream, nor do they want them to. They want them to show up,

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