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Inspiring across the generation- what does it mean to me?

From baby boomers to generation X to digital generation of the twenty-first century, it is more important to find similarities in people expectations and experiences than to focus on the differences.  We all want respect, peace, love, lightness, happiness and joy. And it is not hard to get these things if we follow simple principles. Read More »

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Four Initiatives to Bridge the Collaboration Adoption Gap

November 2, 2012 at 8:33 am PST

In my previous post, I mentioned that I’d briefly describe four initiatives Cisco promotes to help customers bridge the adoption gap. Most of all, adoption needs to be factored in at all phases of the plan-manage-build collaboration investment lifecycle. The biggest mistake organizations can make is to treat adoption as an afterthought or process that naturally occurs without prompting when a collaboration solution goes live.

Bridging the adoption gap begins with lowering the barriers to customer investment in collaboration-focused IT services by expanding the role of “as-a-Service” collaboration consumption models. Here, cloud computing is the enabling technology, but beyond that, Read More »

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Why Consensus is the Enemy of Collaboration

July 24, 2012 at 9:53 am PST

Increasing how well organizations collaborate is the business opportunity of the decade. But there is one toxic mindset that can inhibit collaboration’s potential: many individuals confuse collaboration with consensus.  Consensus is what makes everyone happy; collaboration is about achieving the best outcome.

As business leaders, it’s vital to recognize that consensus is the enemy of collaboration. Sometimes when we say collaboration, people believe it’s an opportunity to hold hands and sing “kumbaya” around the office campfire. I was deeply inspired by Morten Hansen’s book, Collaboration, in which Hansen stated so brilliantly: Read More »

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Let’s agree to disagree

I’ve been watching a TV series called You Can’t Take it With You in which business guru Sir Gerry Robinson helps bring families together to write their wills. Given the differing values, priorities, perspectives and emotional sensitivity of those involved, it’s unsurprising that -- if not visible, then just below the surface -- there’s always a degree of tension or even conflict amongst family members.

What many of the individuals do -- like so many of us in the workplace -- is try to avoid that tension or conflict altogether, or simply ignore it. If we can’t say something nice, our mothers taught us, don’t say anything at all. Of course, Sir Gerry’s task is to help the families tackle these difficult challenges and decisions. Inevitably, tension or conflict becomes unavoidable, and with it the potential for it to get disagreeable or even destructive.

So what is surprising is just how often he manages to pull off a minor miracle and turn conflict into collaboration. From favouritism, to boys versus girls, to judgments about people’s lifestyles to plain old-fashioned prejudice, Sir Gerry has helped negotiate a way through them all.

The typical strategy says Sir Gerry is to avoid conflict and close down dialogue and discussion (“I’m not prepared to talk about it”). Whilst this approach appears to work for many, stubbornness and inflexibility set in. And when tensions bubble to the surface, people already convinced of the rightness of their view become increasingly polarised around conflicting positions and values. The result he says is ‘destructive conflict’, which is personal, vindictive, and a source of pain.

Other strategies include reducing tensions and stresses by one party simply accommodating the wishes of the other -- a one-sided ‘win-lose’ situation. But this simply glosses over the issue -- something Sir Gerry won’t accept. Another widely accepted means of resolving conflict is to accept that there needs to be give and take on all sides, involving a series of ‘concessions’. A ‘win-some, lose-some’ strategy.

But Sir Gerry believes that when managed properly, conflict can have many positive aspects and even bring about innovative solutions. His ‘constructive conflict’ approach works because those involved have a positive learning experience from the event and see that theirs is not a case of ‘right against wrong’ so much as ‘right against right’. By creating the conditions for each party to both speak and listen he ensures they understand both the what and the why of their differences. By opening up dialogue and sharing and assessing the reasons for the conflict, issues can be clarified which results in more possible alternatives and opportunities to solving the problem. A clear ‘win-win’ strategy.

So how do we manage conflict so that it’s a positive not a negative force? I think it starts with the simple notion that we can disagree without being disagreeable. And that we have to make it “safe” to be different,  to take opposite points of view and to disagree. When people know they can stand up and say what they believe without being castigated, guess what? They will!

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Staying Relevant

It’s against human nature to react favorably to the disruption of process change. Continuous improvement means continuous change, and change takes people out of their comfort zone. How have you seen people react to changes in their work? The typical reaction is resistance. As Machiavelli pointed out in The Prince roughly 500 years ago, there is no constituency for innovation: “There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.”

- Brad Power, Harvard Business Review Read More »

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