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Inspiring people, inspiring minds

I have a favourite quote that I re-read every time I’m feeling a little lack lustre and needing inspiration. It’s by Eleanor Roosevelt, and says: “The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”

It’s such a positive and empowering statement that you can’t help but feel that anything is possible if you put your mind to it. Inspiration really does come in so many different forms and through different people.

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More together, more often

How easy it is to get caught up in what we see as the challenges and pressures of our own lives and lose a little perspective. Or worse still create a false perspective. But then every once in a while, amidst our personal whirlwind something happens to make us stop and reflect on where and who we are. And just maybe to prompt us to re-calibrate ourselves in some way -- to regain lost perspective or recognise a change that’s needed. That catalyst might be something up-close and personal like a relationship issue, something a little further away like a colleague who falls ill, or even something seemingly un-related to us a world away.

Last Friday that catalyst for me was the massive earthquake and the ensuing tsunami in Japan. For me -- no doubt like millions of people around the world -- it brought out a range of emotions:  shock at its scale; horror at its brutality; sadness for the lives lost; gratitude for my situation and family; amazement at the Japanese people’s resolve and calmness; and of course empathy.

Indeed it’s very often during times of adversity that our identification with and understanding of anothers’ situation grows and we intuitively focus on what brings us together, rather than what separates us. We feel a certain ‘connectedness’. Not only with Japanese communities around the world, but every community -- from the local to the international -  to instinctively understand that at this moment we can and must strive to achieve more together.

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International Women’s Day Across the Globe

March 8th 2011 marks the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, which was set up by women in Germany, Austria, Denmark and Switzerland to protest against poor working conditions, low pay and male oppression.

There are many article out there highlihgting the fact that in many countries and roles across the world men still earn more than woman, but there also many positive articles pronouncing the great work that women are doing today.

This year the UN’s IWD theme is Equal access to education, training and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women.

This theme underlines the importance of education in progressing as a society as a whole and equality for all people. 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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Short Attention Span? Or Just American?

February 28, 2011 at 6:00 am PST

Sony’s US-specific informational video for its NEX camera runs 2:59. It’s set solely to music.  Sony’s video for the Japanese market runs 6:58 and has technical narration throughout.  That’s just the beginning of the differences.

Sayaka Katamura and Haruna Kawamoto did a nice informal analysis of the differences that Sony perceives when selling to the US and Japanese markets in a recent post on Ishmael’s Corner.  The takeaway? The importance of localizing storytelling.

Reading this article was particularly timely as my co-workers and I are planning an inclusion & diversity event for our Asia Pacific theatre.  We held a combination in-person and Telepresence video event in January that was well attended by our North American and European geographies.  Of course, that means that it was in the middle of the night for our APAC colleagues.  Ah, the joys of a global business. Read More »

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