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By: Michelle Couturier

The Executive MBA class of 2011 has officially been re-introduced to Silicon Valley (SV). For the “grand opening” of this trip, the class headed to paradise, a vineyard called Savannah-Chanelle. Sitting in the middle of Santa Cruz Mountains, this place was incredibly inspiring. As we walked across this site, we felt calmness, an overwhelming feeling of simplicity and a way of life that we could only imagine wanting to live. This first experience was just the beginning of what we were about to experience in “the Valley”. Since our arrival on Saturday, this vision has expanded, we can truly feel the cultural differences of SV and it is really starting to sink in. Interestingly enough, it seems that an impressive number of people from the Valley have extended their careers and their lives to their 80s and even 90s, by thriving to experience more of this greatness, year after year after year.

A student from a previous year came back from the SV trip and once said, if the entire Executive MBA program would have to be limited to this week, it was worth the entire program investment. I will attest to that and raise it by saying, this is Monday, and we already feel like the value of this week is priceless.

The best word to describe the Valley; Innovation. Few words to describe how they do it; Openness, Trust, Collaboration, Networking, Questioning, Risk-taking and Patience. How to do business in Silicon Valley is very different than the traditional hierarchical models that most of us live in our current work environments. Innovation cannot be made possible by following our traditional ways of doing business. Silicon Valley has been a laboratory for developing a business culture that strives to share information and knowledge. The following message became clear to us: “failure is an experience of unplanned outcomes”. In order to assimilate this, you probably have to experience what our class is experiencing this week, or perhaps you already have.

A “bottom-up” approach that “rewards risk-taking and tolerates failure”, as Mr. William Miller, Professor at Stanford University quoted today.

Issues, problems, failures, are open discussion topics here in SV, people are not afraid to say these words, they are actually very comfortable in talking about it, they believe that innovation is impossible without collaborating in this way, and should you ever feel threatened by sharing ideas and solutions fearlessly, you probably don’t belong here.

Regis McKenna, a marketing guru, a pioneer of the Valley, spoke to us today and I wish we could have spent an extra twenty hours with him as the information he conveyed to us within one hour was truly overwhelming. This published author grew up with companies like Intel and Microsoft as they made their first steps as start-ups and as they pulled off breakthrough events in ridiculously short timeframes, realizing the future of these companies as we know them today.

The atmosphere in SV is an Ecosystem of its own, it is “green”, it is “clean”, and it is truly hard for me to say this as a proud Canadian, but I am already convinced that this is the “Centre of the Universe” as people here believe it truly is. One would hope that not only this way of doing business but this way of life will influence the rest of the business world around us. SV is not only a laboratory for technology; it is also a lab for developing markets and abilities, enabling people to vision possibilities and opportunities.

I leave it to my colleagues to provide you with further insight in the next articles of this series, as we will be expanding our comparator of Silicon Valley versus the world we know. Stay tuned for more on our adventure in the Valley.