Building the Next Generation Company: Innovation, Talent, Excellence

author: John Chambers, Cisco Systems, Inc.
published: Feb. 4, 2013,   recorded: October 2008,   views: 2622
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While the ongoing world economic crisis has left many business leaders sweating (or worse), John Chambers is rolling up his sleeves in anticipation of an eventual recovery. After every economic challenge, he says, Cisco has come out with dramatic gains in market share. This time won’t be different, if Chambers’ bets pay off.

In the 1990s, he predicted that networks would transform the way the world works, becoming platforms for communications and other IT, and Chambers placed Cisco at the center of that transformation. Today, he envisions a Web 2.0 premised on collaboration and social networking that will similarly transfigure all business life. Since 2001, he’s been positioning Cisco to catch this massive market transition, and indeed, is “betting the company’s future on it.”

In “phase two of the Internet,” says Chambers, “Content will find me; I will not search for it.” Any device, anywhere, will be able to receive any kind of content. We will be dealing with licenses for things like music, rather than worrying about compatibility issues between our digital tools and what’s streaming through them. Web 2.0 will also bring “effective collaboration,” by which Chambers means network-enabled visual tools, which will make “working together for a common goal truly possible.” Expect much faster business processes and revved up productivity, says Chambers.

Based on Cisco’s own experience in the past several years, organizations will completely restructure around these new capabilities. Indeed, he offers up his company as a paradigm of this vision. Once a hierarchical, command and control-based organization, Cisco is now much flatter, a company running “off of social networking groups.” Councils with cross-functional responsibilities suggest and take on many more projects (from emerging markets, to video, and smart grid boards); from one to two major ventures per year, to this year’s 26 launches. The next generation company is “built around the visual.” Cisco employees do non-stop teleconferencing with collaborators around the world. The company hosts 2500 such virtual meetings per week. It also employs Webex, Wikis and blogging to move work along.

With this kind of communication and carefully managed process to match, “operations can be turned on a head,” says Chambers. It’s the recipe for market-dominating speed and scale. Chambers is “loading the pipeline” with projects that assume other companies will want what Cisco has and makes. “If we’re right, we’re developing a huge wave of revenue opportunity.” Perhaps this is one reason why he’s “an optimist on global productivity, global economy and our ability to handle the challenges.”

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