Share and share alike

A learning experience in Silicon Valley

For many years, companies would lock away their internal processes and systems from prying eyes. Whatever they did internally tended to stay internal. There was very little external sharing around the way an organisation was run. Things have definitely changed, organisations are much more open and not just about what they do - but also about how they do it.

In the hotbed of digital innovation, Silicon Valley, sharing is endemic. People are happy to help and always quick to share. This deeply embedded culture of sharing is why we decided upon The Valley as the venue for the first Orange Business Learning Experience, or LEX.

What is LEX? The best person to answer is our Head of HR, Patricia Waldron-Werner, as she is the driving force behind it.

“For many years now,” explains Patricia, “I’ve been observing how digital transformation is changing every part of business, including HR.”

Actually, Patricia’s done much more than just observed change – in her role she’s helped to transform Orange Business. This real-world experience of guiding a large multinational corporation through its journey of digital transformation makes her the perfect person to help other HR leaders as they attempt to modernise and digitise their own operations.

“An account manager asked if I would present our own digital transformation story to a client. I met with their Director of HR and presented our Plazza story, telling him about the challenges we faced to implement our internal social media network within Orange Business. The presentation was well received, and I was invited to return. Soon, the word got around and I was getting more requests for further presentations to other clients.”

This was the start of what would eventually evolve into LEX.
“Samantha Woods, Head of Customer Centric Culture had the kernel of an idea when she suggested to Orange Silicon Valley the idea of including a people stream in Orange Fab Force. Then the plan really took shape during a conversation with George Nahon, CEO of Orange Labs in Silicon Valley,” reveals Patricia. “I knew Silicon Valley was the place and that George had the contacts and the reputation to make it happen.”

This conversation eventually led to Patricia bringing several HR leaders among our clients to Silicon Valley for the first Lex in spring 2018.

What happens at a LEX?

“LEX is a four day event hosted by Orange Silicon Valley,” explains Patricia. “We spend four days experiencing a range of keynotes and learning - including a visit to University of California at Berkeley. We also met with companies both large and small.”

This was all in Silicon Valley so no surprise to see data analytics on the menu.

“Data and data analytics was a common theme because of how it can have such an impact on our relationship with our people. But it’s not actually about the tools, it’s about the people. Just as data is transforming sales and marketing by helping them to better know and understand their customers, it is also transforming HR. Today, an HR director can use data to do a better job for the organisation’s employees.”

Data is important to business today but so are people and ideas. Meeting the right people is a big part what LEX is all about.

Delegates at LEX get in-depth insight into the latest technology and trends in business and HR. They meet with start-ups working in their field; these are companies that can bring valuable innovation to an organisation.

Meeting the start-ups gave everyone a chance to spend time with the people making these ideas real. Patricia and many of the delegates found many ideas that they thought could benefit their own organisations.

“All the companies we met with were fantastic, always so open and ready to share. I even made contact with two start-ups there that may be able to provide services for Orange,” admitted Patricia.

With all this access to such a rich network of knowledge and ideas, the delegates were all inspired by the LEX. Perhaps the most striking experience for them is witnessing the essence of The Valley culture at work.

“Something profound happened on the LEX – we were fully exposed to the culture of sharing. In Silicon Valley, people are so open and willing to share. They’re enthusiastic and they want to show you their experiences, their methods, their stories. This sharing is contagious, and soon our delegates were sharing their own challenges, stories and experiences.”

Sharing may not come quite so easy to those who haven’t been exposed to this culture of openness. But in software innovation, with Open Source, it’s become the norm. Internal processes are now also being shared like Open Source code. The sharing culture is spreading.

Glenn Le Santo
Glenn Le Santo

Editor in Chief, International, at Orange Business. I'm in charge of our International website and the English language blogs at Orange Business. In my spare time I'm literally captain of my own ship, spending my time on the wonderful rivers and canals of England.