Ideas trump hierarchy

Yesterday I was having lunch with a buddy of mine who is looking to create a startup incubator in Tijuana. I told him that it seems to me that everyone wants to start an incubator nowadays as a good excuse for stimulating the economy.

But more importantly, what nobody is asking themselves is: How do you establish a culture of innovation?

There’s a reason why places like Silicon Valley and New York are breeding grounds for startups. They have a unique mixture of people that come there to create new things. To innovate.

Because of this diversity, the quality of ideas is very high.

In Tijuana there is no startup culture. Period. There isn’t a lot of diversity. The quality of ideas, to be honest with you, is very very low. There is a culture of copycats. If there are 10 new businesses looking for funding in non-traditional industries that’s a lot. While businesses that are similar to each other are born everyday.

This also brings me to an important point: hierarchy rules the day here. The NIH (not invented here) syndrome rules the day. And businesses that are run in a hierarchical way are not designed to innovate.

A culture of innovation is driven by ideas. Good ideas. From anywhere.

Organizations where ideas rule the day are naturally going to attract great people. They’ll all want to work in a place where they know that their ideas will be heard no matter how crazy they are. They’ll want to work there because they know they’ll also be working with other great people.They’ll want to work there because they know executing ideas will also be fun.

Some countries have taken notice. The Government of Chile, for example, started a program called StartupChile with the goal of bringing in people from all over the world to start businesses in Chile.

Instead of funding local companies they chose to bring in outsiders. This is exactly what’s needed. Diversity breeds innovation. And innovation is born from great ideas. Great ideas are born in environments where there are diverse viewpoints. Each one follows the other in a cycle.

The main point is that to establish a culture of innovation, you have to be run by ideas. Not hierarchy.

P.S. I wasn’t planning on writing this post but I stumbled on this short video of Steve Jobs from a few years back where he explains how Apple is managed. He says Apple is the world’s biggest startup because it’s managed by ideas not title power.


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