Does your manager make you coffee? Here are three tips gleaned from Silicon Valley startups that help break down barriers and foster innovation.

For more than 20 years, the Silicon Valley has been synonymous with innovation and entrepreneurship. At swissnex San Francisco, we make it our business to connect with today’s innovators and share lessons from the front. Here are three picks for local startup best practices worth spreading.

Number1The Dialogue Box at Evernote

Coffee in San Francisco is like chocolate in Switzerland—a delicacy and a must. And chatting over coffee? Nothing better serves as an internal communication tool, especially if your boss is the barista.

At the Evernote headquarters in Redwood City, The Dialogue Box is a fancy little coffee shop in the lobby for employees with one major tweak: executives make the cappuccinos! How it works? An expert barista from a first-class coffee brand trains the executives. Then they all take one-hour shifts at the counter preparing drinks for their colleagues.

What seems to be a silly exercise is actually a brilliant approach to improving internal communication by dropping cross-departmental and hierarchical barriers. The coffee counter is an informal and flexible space where all departments can discuss business regardless of position in the company. Wouldn’t you feel more comfortable brainstorming with your boss while she is making you a coffee than when she is staring you down across a table with five other managers?

Number 2The Transparency Policy at Square

Six hundred employees and everyone knows, well, everything? This simple philosophy is Square’s responsible transparency policy. All meetings of two or more people require a note-taker. Transcripts are then sent to a common email address accessible to everyone in the company.

The idea is that every team member can bring something to the table when it comes to innovation. This works only if people have access to all the information. Let’s say the software team meets to discuss new features. Obviously, this discussion could be of interest for others in the company as well. Since meeting notes are shared, everyone will have access to that information and be able to add input.

More than a way to foster innovation, Square’s policy is an effective way to build trust and keep some of the small startup spirit that the company had at their inception. And anyway, who can keep secrets?

Number3The Focus on Customer Experience at Airbnb

Companies often forget that they need to put themselves in their clients’ shoes if they want to offer the best possible experience. Being consumer-oriented is key to most businesses. After all, you need people to use your product and be happy with it. Depending on your product, you won’t be able to do that sitting at your desk.

At Airbnb, workers are given an annual $2,000 travel stipend to test Airbnb’s platform and services around the world. Sounds fun, right? It probably is but it’s also an efficient way to gather feedback about their service, trigger improvements, and simply fix bugs.

Don’t be mistaken; generating innovation inside a company takes more than a few cool initiatives. In order to nurture the innovation spirit, strategic efforts and processes need to be carried out by the management and supported by employees. Having one disruptive idea is one thing. Being able to innovate over and over again is a whole different challenge.

Photo credit: Jasper Sanidad. Evernote offices in Redwood City, CA designed by Studio O+A