Silicon Valley and the chocolate factory: 3 ways to behave like a startup

Can chocolate be produced and marketed the same way as software? How Nestle is adopting the Silicon Valley startup mindset.

There's a common formula many large organizations adopt when they are want more of a startup culture: they buy startups.

Photo credit: Nestle Media Relations Department

Of course, what happens is the startup -- along with its entrepreneurial spirit -- gets assimilated and lost within the bowels of the larger ship. And the startup's people often leave as well, moving onto other smaller companies or startups. There's something exhilarating about being a large fish in a small pond, versus a large fish in the ocean.

Pete Blackshaw, global head of digital and social media for Nestlé, says there's another, more organic way to assume startup culture and values. In a recent interview with Michael Fitzgerald in MIT Sloan Business Review, Bradshaw describes how he closely studied budding organizations in Silicon Valley to bring some of those values into his own 157-year-old company.

Can chocolate be produced and marketed the same way as software? Nestlé has been aggressively partnering with Silicon Valley on many levels. In early September, Google announced that the latest version of its Android mobile operating system by revealing it will be called ‘Android KitKat’, after Nestlé’s chocolate and wafer bar. Android has assumed sweet-themed names ever since the release of "Android Cupcake" in 2009 and continuing in alphabetical order until the most recent version, "Android Jelly Bean."

To build Nestlé's internal approach to tech culture, here is Blackshaw's three-pronged strategy for helping a $82.2-billion-a-year (in Swiss francs) mega-corporation approach opportunities in the style of a year-2013 startup:

Go digital: Blackshaw recognizes that all successful startups employ the latest technology for competitive edge in their new markets. To that end, he helped establish "Digital Acceleration Teams" at Nestlé to identify and develop digital-savvy leaders within the organization. Members of these teams are then embedded within corporate units.

Be always-on, and able to adapt to change quickly: For large organizations, advertising and marketing campaigns may take months to turn around. Blackshaw has been promoting digital-based campaigns that can be turned around in a matter of hours, to respond to market events.

Find a "stimulant," but use it sparingly: Blackshaw says it's important to look outside the organization for entrepreneurial influences who can inject new ideas and ways of thinking. However, as with any stimulant such as caffeine (or chocolate for that matter), don't overdo it, he adds. "Companies also need to know when to shift the stimulants down a notch, and integrate them into the organization."

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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