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We're chasing social innovation in Silicon Valley

by Joanne Jacobs on 10 September 2012

This month, I’m heading to Silicon Valley to explore the future of innovation.

At 1000heads, we study word of mouth as a crucial aspect of human behaviour, and we think strategically about how it can be deployed for our clients. We use word of mouth for internal communications, and we explore how emergent social technologies can optimise business. And this latest adventure should give me a whole new perspective on where social is going next.

Orange Blog Bus Tour

Welcome to the Orange Blog Bus tour. I – and 12 other bloggers from China, Finland, France, Romania and the UK – are piling in to a bus to visit about 30 startups and established companies in San Francisco and Silicon Valley in order to explore what makes an innovation culture and to gauge whether the Valley really is in decline. I’ll be conducting my investigation with a distinctly Australian agenda, considering what elements of Silicon Valley can be replicated or extended to these shores.

I’ll be using WOM methods to conduct the research and record the conversations we’ll be having with businesses and investors alike. You’ll be able to follow our progress on social channels with the #blogbus hashtag, as well as on the live Orange blog, and I’ll be happy to pose any questions you might have if you contact me on twitter.

The businesses we are visiting range from the old guard of the tech sector (Adobe, Broadcom and HP Labs) to more recent social businesses (Foursquare, EventBrite and visual.ly) and brand new startups. We’ll be looking out for who the next batch of tech winners might be, and considering what essential elements form part of an innovation ecosystem. And we’ll be considering how organisations communicate – with one another, with investors and with customers.

So we’ll essentially be using social technologies to reverse engineer the entire culture of Silicon Valley.

As a specialist liveblogger, I’ll be writing up our meetings and my own impressions as I go. I’m keen to explore creative thinking techniques and the relationships between firms and their investors, but also to explore how firms profile their products. This is crucial; you can’t have an innovation culture without providing a platform for conversations about products developed by tech entrepreneurs. It is a unique opportunity to track patterns in word of mouth deployment and to see how this could be adapted beyond the tech sector.

To say I’m looking forward to the experience would be a huge understatement. I am fully aware of how lucky I am to have this chance to explore the products, practices and principles of success in tech Mecca. And I’m also aware of how valuable this journey will be in developing the next generation of social commiunication strategies. I’m a very lucky bunny.

Just to clarify, and for the sake of the public record, I am not being paid by Orange to be involved in this tour, and I’m taking a week of leave from 1000heads to do this trip, but Orange have paid for my travel and accommodation expenses. As such, I will be contributing content to the Orange channels and I will wear their T-shirt during the trip.

But I’m also there as COO of 1000heads, and will be considering how new social tools may be adapted for business purposes. I’ll comment on my findings here on the 1000heads blog and on my own site. As I see it, it’s a fabulous example of businesses like Orange and 1000heads working together to create contexts for exchange of ideas and improve value for all of our clients and customers. I’m proud to be part of it.


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