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A world beyond clichés and labels

Whether it’s in a television comedy or a real life scenario, we’ve all experienced those excruciating moments when someone tries too hard to be culturally appropriate and ends up getting it wrong. Many of us avoid attempting shows of cultural awareness for fear of the offence we have the potential to cause.

In a global marketplace, many brands (including our own) are looking to build brand awareness and customer loyalty in new markets where social mores and cultural histories are in marked contrast to their own. Yet customers in new markets can often share needs and characteristics with those in originating markets, making a global brand offering eminently possible.

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The Internet of Things [INFOGRAPHIC]

When we think of being connected to the Internet, our minds immediately shift to our computers, phones, and most recently tablets. This week at Cisco live, I shared that in 2008, the number of devices connected to the Internet exceeded the number of people on Earth.

That’s right. There are more devices tapping into the Internet than people on Earth to use them. How is this possible?

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Deloitte Ride Across Britain – Creating a Human Network to Help our GB Paralympics Team Get to the 2012 Games

Last month, 60 Cisco employees from across the UK & Ireland took part in the Deloitte Ride Across Britain, an epic and challenging 9 day cycle ride starting at the most northerly point in the UK (John O’Groats in Scotland) and finishing at the most southerly point in the UK (Lands End in England). The aim of the event was to raise money to help our Great Britain’s Paralympics team get to the Games in 2012.

For me, this event has a great “Inclusion and Diversity” story threaded through it. With 60 Cisco employees taking their bikes out on the road there was a wide cross section of people involved – men and women of different ages, with a range of cycling experience between them from beginner to expert, from different Cisco offices across the UK.

And one of the great aspects of the event was that participants were able to choose how far they wanted to cycle. We had three cyclists who were able to complete the full 9 days covering a total distance of 974 miles, a relay team of 3 completed each day with 2 out of the 3 of them being on the road at all times, 3 riders cycled for 5 days and several riders who conquered Scotland. But the event was also opened up to a wider group of participants who weren’t open to take on such distances and just wanted to cycle 1 leg of 1 day, about 35 miles.

There were also 3 disabled riders who participated in the cycling challenge, including acclaimed Paralympian Danny Crates. One gentleman became the first hand-cyclist to take part in Ride Across Britain and his determination to complete the full 9 days was a real inspiration to the other riders.  

In addition to our 60 road cyclists, there were also 10 virtual teams competing against each other for the most miles cycled, the most money raised and the best team name. As you can see from the photo, a TechnoGym exercise bike was set up in every Cisco UK&I office and together the teams rode 2216 miles, raised £2230 which is equivalent to over £1 per mile!

The 60 riders created a true “Human Network”. There was no hierarchy; everyone was on a level playing field and like a flock of geese, the riders at the front created an “uplift” for the other riders to cycle quicker and easier because they were travelling on the thrust of another. Those “geese” that fell back through tiredness or injury were supported by other “geese” who stayed with them until help came. Using Mapmytracks we were able to connect our road riders with our virtual riders and the various social networking feed, which further connected and enhanced our Human Network.

Feedback from the event was extremely positive. Our riders really enjoyed the employee engagement the event created and felt truly part of the Cisco family. They enjoyed connecting with people they had never met or worked with before and sharing a life-changing experience. Once riders completed their ride they would hug each other and celebrate their amazing achievement.

For me, Inclusion and Diversity is about opening up opportunities to everyone regardless of age, disability, gender, ethnicity, religion and belief or sexual orientation; it’s about creating a non-hierarchal, diverse, open culture to foster growth and innovation and creating a Human Network. I think the Ride Across is a great best practice of how we can encourage Inclusion and Diversity in our own workforces.

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A geek is a geek wherever you are: TechWomen 2011

“This trip was worth everything I left behind for it. Now I have 36 sisters.” Thekra Dwairi is one of 37 women to participate in the inaugural TechWomen program funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). The program paired women in Silicon Valley with their counterparts in the Middle East and North Africa for a professional mentorship and exchange program at leading technology companies.

Cisco had the honor of hosting the closing session for this 5 week program at its San Jose, CA headquarters. Each of the mentees presented their key technical and cultural learnings as well as their action plans for when they returned to their home countries: Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, West Bank and Gaza.

Loubna Haouam of Algeria

Loubna Haouam discusses her goals upon returning to Algeria: exchanging knowledge, encouraging women to learn English and providing computer access

The mentees ranged widely in terms of their backgrounds.   Some work for international corporations, while others are local start-up founders.  Some are world travelers. One woman mentioned that this is her first time out of her hometown!  It was humbling to hear about the challenges these women manage on a day-to-day basis.  Just applying for the TechWomen program was a challenge for Egyptian participants.  The application deadline, February 1, was at the same time that the government shut down the internet—happily, an extension was provided. Read More »

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Simply Making a Big Impact

Often doing something simple can make a big impact.

First impressions are powerful. You have only a few seconds to make a favorable one. A business card is one of the first tangible ways we present ourselves and our company to others. It makes a statement of not only who we are, but what our company stands for. Imagine doing one effortless act that can make a big difference and immediately open doors for you and your company the first time you meet someone.

I have found that having my contact information printed in Braille on my Cisco business card has greatly influenced my interactions with others. I had received a Braille card at a conference and when I returned to the office, asked our vendor to offer Braille as an option for all Cisco employees. It was a simple change to include this option and it has provided an easy way to show people outside of Cisco our commitment to creating an inclusive environment where everyone is encouraged to contribute to their full potential.

Every time I give someone my card, it generates a conversation about Cisco’s inclusion and diversity philosophy and how proud I am to work for a company that focuses on these values. I’ve been able to explain how our culture helps ensure that many different viewpoints and ideas are brought to the table, so we can create the best and most innovative products and services. And people I don’t know, immediately get a glimpse about what is important to me.

Having a Braille business card has also given our sales people with a way to connect better with our customers. By showing right away that we share similar values with them, it has started conversations that otherwise wouldn’t have happened.

In one case, one of our sales directors met with a customer in the Middle East for the first time. After handing the customer his Braille business card, it triggered a rich discussion about Cisco’s commitment to people with disabilities and philosophy of including everyone. That led to a deeper connection with the customer and opened the door to more opportunities.

Better connections with customers. More sales opportunities. Deeper conversations with colleagues and potential talent. A quick way to show Cisco’s and your commitment to inclusion and diversity. Big and lasting impacts. And all from the simple act of having a Braille business card.

What small, simple things are you doing to create an inclusive world?

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