A couple of weeks ago, I took a trip to San Francisco. Now this is a city with which I’m intimately familiar. After all, I lived there for many, many years at different points in my life. And at every one of those points, I always loved it.
That being said, I noticed a very distinct change in the tone of San Francisco on this trip - and, I believe, all to the good.
When you hear or read about San Francisco, you tend to hear about, oh, the homeless, how dirty the streets are, the cost of living and impossible rent prices…if you can find a place at all, the homeless, the Millennium Tower (the one that’s now leaning 16 inches…kind of trying to compete with the Leaning Tower of Pisa - only not as safe), the food and wine, the homeless….
You get my drift.
But what you don’t hear about is the energy on the streets.
San Francisco missed out on the Dotcom Boom in the 1990s. At that time, it was still a financial center and didn’t have much of a tech sector to speak of. Sure, there were the beginnings of what was then called “Media Gulch” in the South of Market (SoMa) area - but it was a bit lost in the old factory buildings, outdated apartments, homeless services and the like. But that was SoMa - and you didn’t go there unless you had a reason.
Time passed, as it always does, and SoMa became a living, breathing, expanding tech center - from Twitter, Salesforce, Uber and a thriving biotech community to start-ups in shared work spaces and incubators in multi-unit buildings.
SoMa couldn’t hold everything that was happening in the City - even with all the building that’s still going on - and, as a result, tech moved into the less vibrantly new, more established part of the City. The part north of Market Street. Yeah, that part…with the oldest restaurant (Tadich - which was a great disappointment to me for the first time in my life…and which I’ll write about separately), the venerable bank buildings (that aren’t for banks anymore) and the tourists.
Now, you have the same energy on the streets of San Francisco that was rampant in the Silicon Valley south of the City during the build-up (and bust) of the dotcoms. And still today.
It’s the conversations among men and women about the projects they’re working on, their organizations (and, oh, do I have a story coming about “New Hire Orientations”), the markets they’re pursuing, the opportunities they see, the downslide of people and products they know - or know of…and, constantly, constantly how and what they’re doing to do more. Create more. Change the world…or at least their part of it.
Listening to all those voices representing all those products, services, technologies, countries…in effect, every form of diversity…made me realize that organizations really get culture wrong. And they don’t have to.
Every organization wants success. Momentum. New ideas and opportunities.
That’s near to impossible when the environment is stagnant. When new ideas and opportunities aren’t welcomed - even if the ubiquitous “they” say they are. If employees aren’t inculcated with a sense of their value - now and going forward.
It’s all about communication and sharing ideas. It’s about getting out of the ‘office’ and taking the discussion elsewhere - preferably with coffee involved…better yet, customized coffee made by a robot barista (yes, that exists, too).
If you create the energy, you’ll get the results you want. If you don’t, you won’t.
Just visit the streets of San Francisco and you’ll see what I mean.