What we can learn from Google, Yodlee and Silicon Valley

The front of the Google offices, Mountain View, California, USA.

The front of the Google offices, Mountain View, California, USA.

Upon return from the Implemented Portfolios Thought Leadership Study Tour, our Brand Manager Naomi Christopher shares her insight into what we can learn from the FinTechers on the other side of the globe…

It’s been exactly a week since we said farewell to Silicon Valley and sunny San Francisco, yet my brain is still buzzing with all the information I managed to consume in the space of a few days – the last of which was most memorable of all.

Of course, there was no way that a trip to Yodlee and Google HQ wasn’t going to blow our minds, but if you could believe it would be possible to exceed the high expectations we all already had, then you’d be right. It really was THAT good.

Not only are these two incredibly successful companies headquartered in the place where so many innovative ideas are born, you can sense that both Yodlee and Google genuinely care about rewarding good ideas; about creating a space where not only new concepts are conceived but are run with, implemented, executed.

During the morning we were lucky enough to speak with the Director of Yodlee’s ground-breaking Ynext Incubator program – Jeff Cain, who gave us the low down as to how Yodlee supports emerging entrepreneurs in turning the concepts in their heads into real life working products. We also met with three graduates from their latest incubator program who showcased their cutting edge FinTech solutions, leaving everyone in the room gobsmacked at the talent being produced and cultivated in the Valley.

Of particular note was Levanto Financial – a software application designed to help every day mums and dads take control of their cashflow. Their CEO (and Yodlee incubator grad) Daniel Chen, took us through the product life cycle – all the way from inception, iteration, implementation and market reception, imparting on us a message that was incredibly powerful. That is – it’s not only the talent that makes Silicon Valley the hub of technology progression and success, it’s the confidence placed on ideas in during their birth and the willingness to help them get off the ground.

Google was no different, indeed it only reinforced this theme of practically fostering innovation. As we were guided through the Google timeline from the very beginning, we were reminded that when Google hit the market, Yahoo was more than just the market leader – it completely and utterly dominated. There was a hand drawn chart started by the Google founders which outlined how Google (the then little guy – dare we even remember them as ever being that way) gradually and then all at once swallowed its competitors whole.
It’s fair to say that it wasn’t merely Google’s on-point branding that sent them soaring into search engine success overnight (although being in marketing myself – it’s hard to fault it!). It was clear that Google owes much of its achievements to the way it has nurtured innovation – not just in theory but in practice. These guys put their money where their mouth is when it comes to pushing the envelope.

Being back in Oz, it is easy to minimise the importance of this – notching it up to these companies having the luxury of cohabiting in a naturally innovative atmosphere. However, if we genuinely mean it when we say we want to innovate, I don’t think we can let ourselves off the hook that easily.

Yes, it may be a little harder to feel like cutting edge tech geniuses when we don’t have sleeping pods, stand-up virtual meeting rooms and fully funded incubators at our disposal. But we do have the ability to genuinely listen to ideas (however crazy) and to not just nod away, put them in the too-hard basket and forget them. But to create an atmosphere in our workplaces where speaking up about doing something new isn’t just encouraged – it’s required.

And then of course, the most essential part – ensuring that what’s new will get followed through.
What’s really cool about this kind of culture is that it can be implemented in just about every business.

Fostering an innovative work environment isn’t limited to tech. Although the irony is if we leave it to tech to innovate for us, it will most likely eat us for lunch as Richard Arnold stated to us on day 1 of the tour.
So on that note, let us not be someone else’s meal. Let us instead, be one of the chefs in the kitchen – a kitchen that unlike the famous saying goes – doesn’t have too many cooks.

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