The Power of ‘Ta-Da’ and Other Lessons I Learned in Silicon Valley

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By Kasumi Takeuchi, MBA ‘16

As Global MBA students here at Ross, my classmates and I are kind of like traveling learners.

Our program started in Seoul in February, then moved to Osaka, Beijing, and finally came here to Ann Arbor in June. While traveling, we began studying our MBA core courses, which meant being continuously exposed to different cultures in each city and learning from the life there.

After we finished all of our core courses in August, we got to hit the road again with Ross Professor Noel Tichy for our first elective course - a benchmarking trip to Silicon Valley.

During our two days in the Valley, we visited and had discussions with executives from ten excellent, varied companies and organizations: from IT and bio-tech to design companies and non-profit organizations.

It was an amazing experience to actually talk with the executives of these impressive companies, and get a tour of their work spaces and company culture. Though it was a very busy trip (we moved around Silicon Valley from 7 am to 9 pm), the uniqueness of each company’s culture and the common mindset of the Silicon Valley start-up was very apparent.

It was such an insightful trip that I would like to share some of what I learned from those prominent Silicon Valley executives.

Step Back

From the executives of eSilicon and DocuSign I learned that successful business ideas don’t come from seeking money. Instead, true success comes from asking what will happen in the future, and identifying the ways in which the world is transitioning.

Even more interesting is that both of them mentioned the same attitude to make it happen: “step back.” The world seems to be changing rapidly, competition seems to be getting tough, and you might feel restless and tend to lean forward. But, these executives cautioned, take a breath and sit back. You’ll find opportunity.

The Power of Ta-Da!

To creativity, pressure is a bothersome enemy. And at the Institute of Design at Stanford, we saw many visible and invisible methods to release students from pressure. One of them is the magical word “Ta-da!”

When a teammate makes a mistake, students at the d.school celebrate it. We tried it ourselves, and it was simply fun! It definitely relieves that negative feeling of failure, opens up the possibility to learn from those mistakes and encourages you to keep moving on. As eSilicon’s executive told us, in Silicon Valley, failure is not a bad thing. Moreover, it’s a valuable commodity. “Entrepreneurs don’t play safe,” as Professor Tichy has told us many times. Don’t be afraid to try. Embrace failure.

Leverage your success to help others

That’s what we learned from Peter Fortenbaugh, Executive Director of the Boys & Girls Club of Peninsula, when we met with him and discussed the idea of success.

Silicon Valley is not the place where only highly educated, aspiring business people live, he said. Peter has had a brilliantly successful career as a consultant, but he switched his career to work on “what he really cares about” so he could use his business success to help others.

We were fascinated by seeing how his passion attracts staff, partner companies, and donors to his organization.

All the people I met through this benchmarking trip were very lively, open-minded, willing to share their experience with others and excited to share all they could about what they work on.  

I cannot fully describe what I felt and learned during this trip, and that’s a shame, but it also highlights why having these experiences is so valuable. Though it was just a two-day trip, meeting those wonderful people and absorbing the air of Silicon Valley stretched my mind, and inspired me to think about my future in new ways.

In October, another benchmarking course is scheduled, but this time in New York. Yes, I will travel again. And yes, I can not wait.


Kasumi Takeuchi is a student in the Michigan Ross Global MBA program. She is set to graduate with the class of 2016.