Why Irish companies need to adopt the Silicon Valley mindset - or at least the positive parts

Entrepreneurs need to keep learning and be inspired by Silicon Valley, while also looking to the east

By Stefan Lindegaard Author and advisor

I HAVE MIXED feelings about Silicon Valley.

These days when I travel around the world, I see change happen fast, competition is fierce, and that disruption is a constant threat.

I am often asked how companies as well as individuals can keep ahead in such a shifting landscape. I believe it’s of utmost importance to have the right people, capabilities and processes in place to lead in times of high uncertainty. But what does this look like and how do you get there?

The Silicon Valley mindset is key for this to happen. It is rooted in one word: impact.

By leveraging new technologies, talent, strong ecosystems, agile leadership, and ingenious approaches to business, Silicon Valley impacts entire industries in ways that shape the world.

For an Irish, or even global company to thrive or survive in the next decade, its leaders will need to understand the Silicon Valley mindset as a whole and be able to put it to work. 

There is a strong fascination with Silicon Valley in Ireland, with no shortage of people with the experience and mindset. I believe this provides a strong basis for building an Irish foundation based on three key elements: startups, corporates and the government.

There’s a misperception that Silicon Valley is only about startups. This is not true as with every country you have to build a strong ecosystem based on startups, and corporates and involve the government.

So when you work hard to create the future and try to instill a growth mindset among people, you should do this not just for startups, but also for corporates.

I have no doubt a focus on both will bring Ireland more prosperity and jobs. This is also an essential part of the Silicon Valley mindset; it’s very much about harnessing networks, ecosystems, platforms, and cooperation.

Although the Silicon Valley mindset is essential to success, I do have some words of caution. Recent tech backlash opened our eyes and it’s clearer to see that not everything that comes from Silicon Valley is positive.

We have to be increasingly careful not to let a few hundred thousand people from a fairly small area in the USA dictate the future and even more so our societal values, norms and behaviors.

Overconsumption of technology can have negative connotations and even though we can praise the drive and the mindset of Silicon Valley and try to bring this to our own business community, we must still be critical of the overall impact this has.

On frequent visits to Ireland, I see there is little interest in and understanding of what is happening in China and Southeast Asia.

I believe this has to change because this is where the future really lies. This goes for opportunities but maybe even more so for the competition.

If we don’t gain a stronger understanding on how to develop better approaches in the context of what is happening there, we cannot possibly respond appropriately.

My advice is to keep learning and be inspired by Silicon Valley, while looking to the east. An air of change is on the way, the impact of which will be profound.

More companies and countries will be on the losing side of this, rather than winning (as in business and societal progress) but the good thing is that Ireland is in a unique position to become one of the winners.

Stefan Lindegaard is an author, keynote speaker, advisor and entrepreneur. He recently held a talk on ‘leading with the silicon valley mindset’ with the IRDG.

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