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Catalysts for 10x Innovation (Part 1)

“Why does a computer need a fan? I want my computer to be quiet and small!” Steve Jobs actually provoked that question when he started the journey that led to the creation of Apple II nearly four decades ago.  And, of course, the journey made history and continues on into new frontiers of technology.

Asking an unsettling question that breaks the status quo – in any era – is one of the key catalysts to ignite innovation exponentially. This is especially true today because of the unprecedented levels of innovation made possible by the digitization of society through the Internet of Everything – the connection of people, processes, data and things.Cisco Leadership Forum_Biren presenting

A provocative question that turns things upside down gets the innovation journey under way.  However, it’s just one of many key catalysts we have identified from extensive research and experience that accelerate innovation 10 times or more.

My colleague, Hagit Oron, and I recently had the honor of conducting a highly engaging workshop – Innovation Catalyst – at Cisco’s bi-annual Leadership Forum, an event series tailored for people leaders.  Igniting innovation is one of our company’s highest priorities as we transform from a hardware product company into an end-to-end solution provider delivering business outcomes to customers in vertical markets.

Encourage Inclusive, Diverse Culture. First, we emphasized that leaders must foster a climate of innovation with their full teams – not just by hiring a few outliers – but as a collective team to solve problems and develop new products and services. That means assembling teams with a full spectrum of diverse backgrounds, skills, perspectives and approaches, enabling them with the right tools and resources as well as empowering them to innovate collaboratively. Read More »

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Changing the Equation

It’s been a little more than a year since we created Cisco’s first Office of Inclusion and Collaboration (OIC).   And it’s been a milestone year.  Today, we’re releasing our annual Corporate Social Responsibility report (CSR), which details Cisco’s high-level priorities for being socially and environmentally responsible, and I’m honored to share the highlights of our progress within Our People section of this amazing document.  As a critical part of Our People Deal, Inclusion and Collaboration are featured prominently in the report.  I invite you to dive in and understand what we’ve accomplished in FY15 and how we’re changing the equation for creating value moving forward.CSR Photo1

What does it mean to change the equation?  For Cisco and the OIC, it means we continue to expand our view on the factors driving inclusion, diversity and collaboration.  It means we leverage fresh perspectives, thought leadership, and data and analytics to gain new insights. It means we use those insights to inform bold new strategies.  We change the way we talk about inclusion, diversity and collaboration, the way we measure our progress, and the way we connect our business strategies and our inclusive practices. And we align with a higher vision of value creation in the work we do to drive transformation through our people.

A Foundational Year with Milestones. Changing the equation was a top priority in this first, foundational year for the OIC. We began by looking at the legacy work of the Global Inclusion & Diversity (I&D) function we were transforming, including over 400 well-intentioned programs designed to support diversity and inclusion across our company.  And while we recognized the progress made through those programs over the years, we knew that more programs would not result in more impact or move us forward in our higher vision of value creation. Read More »

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A Brief History of Cloud Collaboration

This is part of a blog series on the evolution of the Cisco Collaboration Cloud platform, which explores the technical and design principles behind its unique architecture.

I came to Cisco with the idea that, in many ways, enterprise communications technology had fallen behind consumer technology. And that we could apply to enterprise communications much of what the industry had learned in the mobile cloud revolution.

So it’s no surprise that I believed the next generation of business communications technology would be powered by the cloud, delivered on mobile devices and browsers, and used in larger settings (like conference rooms) through group systems.

The first thing we did as a team was define the “ultimate experience.” We assembled a small group of really smart people from around the world who had invented many of the collaboration technologies we all rely on today. We asked them to dream and dream big! From that dreaming, we created a vision of the future experience we could aim towards.

Assembling the Pieces
The missing piece of the puzzle was a cloud platform to power this next-generation experience. Just one minor catch: The cloud platform we needed simply didn’t exist, though many companies had built pieces and parts. WebEx had web conferencing to which it later added video. A handful of startups had video calling and bridges in the cloud. Some companies had cloud-based telephony systems. And others had even built closed networks to deliver 1:1 and small group video conferencing in the cloud.

To complicate things further, no one had a solid idea of how to build the platform we needed. Read More »

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Declutter For Your Customers

We’re moving.

After twenty-five years in the same house, my wife and I will soon be living in a new place.

Moving isn’t fun. It’s not just leaving the home where we raised our two boys, but getting rid of all our unneeded items. We’re not hoarders or packrats, but it’s downright astonishing how much stuff (I won’t use the word junk) we gathered over the years.

beverly hillbillies

Businesses can be like that, too, can’t they? Read More »

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What I Learned at Grace Hopper: Collaboration Is Crucial for Improving Gender Diversity in Tech

In October I had the privilege of attending the Grace Hopper Celebration for the first time. I am truly in awe of how transformative and inspiring this conference is.

Grace Hopper is the largest event for women in computing. It’s a place for women to come together and get inspired by other women who are inventing and innovating. After three days of amazing keynotes and technical sessions, I can honestly say that I have never been more proud to be a woman in tech!

Where My Girls At?
I started my career in 2008 and quickly became passionate about improving gender diversity in tech. The photo of my first team may help you understand why. Taken within my first few months of joining a large tech company, it’s a great snapshot of a typical lunch outing with my team. Believe it or not, this was not a staged photo. I was really the only woman in attendance.

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