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Innovation is key to becoming a ‘people-centric’ business

When I think of “Inclusion and Diversity”, I automatically think about creating a diverse and inclusive workforce environment: providing all employees with learning and development opportunities, ensuring employees with disabilities have the right tools and resources and educating all employees on how to work with people with disabilities, sending out regular communications on techniques for how to strengthen inclusion and diversity in the workplace and so forth.

Reading this article from UTalkMarketing.com this morning over a cup of coffee made me question my own definition of “Inclusion and Diversity.” I came to the conclusion that my view on this subject was far too narrow – I was focussing on it from a purely internal perspective and needed to think outside of the box and include an external perspective too. Inclusion and Diversity isn’t just about making your diverse workforce feel included; it’s also about ensuring that your customers feel included AND that their voices and their business needs lie at the heart of your business.

The author of this article, Chris Beswick, argues that businesses need to develop a relationship with their customers, look at the world from their perspective and appreciate the problems they face and the things they aspire to. Instead of focussing on their own products and services, businesses need to put greater focus on their customers’ problems and tensions – it’s not “what you do”, i.e. what you sell; what you provide, but rather “how you do it”, i.e. how you fuel innovation and differentiation.

Yet Beswick argues that true customer-centricity is only possible if you first become people-centric. In his words the only way you can provide an exceptional end-to-end customer experience is to ensure that everyone in your organisation understands how to collaborate on solving your customers’ problems.

How do you extend Inclusion and Diversity to your customers? Share your thoughts below.

Do you have an Inclusion and Diversity story to share? Please send it to idblog@cisco.com.

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California Proposition 23: A Practitioner’s View

Advancing environmental stewardship is not a convenience, but a fundamental value for companies like Cisco.  The demands of business in a global economy are many, but social responsibility isn’t a “nice-to-do” that can be excused until another day.  Our customers, employees, shareholders and other stakeholders expect the highest standards of conduct from Cisco in our corporate governance, in our treatment of our employees, in our social programs, and in our environmental efforts.  Not just when it isn’t too much bother, but every day and around the world.  Sustaining progress on all these fronts requires perseverance, ingenuity, and most of all, long-term commitment throughout our organization as we also focus on the expanding needs of our customers for innovative products, solutions and services, and our shareholders expectations for increased revenue and profitability.

In September 2006, Cisco announced our first greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goal―to cut our air travel―at the Clinton Global Initiative.  In 2007, we joined the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Climate Leaders program, and later announced a broader, more aggressive GHG reduction goal covering not only our air travel, but also GHG emissions from Cisco operations worldwide.  Since 2003, we’ve also reported to, and are strong supporters of, the Carbon Disclosure Project, the world’s preeminent GHG reporting inventory.

We’ve had some success in reducing our emissions.  Through the end of our FY2009, we’ve cut our emissions (in absolute terms) by about 40% when compared to the commitment 2007 baselines.

Our progress has been the result of constant effort, extensive collaboration, and the buy-in of all the diverse business functions worldwide within Cisco―understanding the science of climate change, its potential impact on Cisco’s business, and our contribution to both the problem and the solution.  Our initial work was grassroots in nature, but lasting organizational commitment needed leadership, in Cisco’s case by John Chambers, our Chairman and CEO, and our senior executive-led EcoBoard.  A pleasant side-effect from what was borne of social responsibility has been Cisco’s development of new products and solutions that are helping Cisco and our customers to reduce our collective carbon footprint.

California’s AB32―produced by the legislature and Governor―is serving the same purpose for California as Cisco’s CEO and EcoBoard do inside Cisco, to provide consistent, long-term leadership to address both the problem of, but also the opportunities for reducing GHG emissions.  The approach embodied in AB32 is similar to the arc followed by Cisco.  Public reporting and verification is first to foster transparency and a common understanding of the problem.  Then reduction goals are set to address the problem and focus the organization.  Initiatives are created to take advantage of opportunities.  Climate change is an extremely difficult problem because of its direct linkage to energy use, which touches every facet of a modern society.  Economic downturns as well as the recoveries continually shift the challenges to progress.  But Cisco is maintaining its focus―redesigning business processes for improved efficiency and cost savings, and entering new markets to help our customers do the same, all while improving our bottom line.

Cisco’s success has depended on the perseverance, ingenuity and commitment mentioned at the beginning of this posting.  California’s success addressing our collective GHG emissions depends on a similar level of sustained commitment.  Climate change is complex and, if there are valid concerns with the impact of AB32, then the forum to address any such problems is in the open and public regulatory processes established by AB32, or with the legislature, or with the Governor―who already has authority in AB32 to adjust deadlines under certain circumstances.

Proposition 23 simply ignores the problem and misses the opportunities.  As a global bellwether and thought leader but also a part of the problem, California must be part of the solution. California must not cede leadership in either venture capital funding or the development of innovative green technology solutions to reduce the carbon footprint of our modern society.  Cisco’s success has been based on acknowledging the very real problem, engaging our stakeholders, and supporting the use of free-market forces to provide green technology solutions.  The same approach, embodied in AB32, will also work for California.

There are studies cited by backers and opponents of Proposition 23 pointing to job gains or losses from AB32 implementation.  Given the inaccuracies of doing any such analysis, it might be more practical to use actual experience as a guide.  Cisco’s focus is on the very real problem of climate change―which will not go away if Prop 23 passes―and our corporate responsibility to be a part of the solution.  Our focus is also on very real and substantial business opportunities, opportunities that also won’t go away with the passage of Prop 23.  These opportunities will simply be taken up to the benefit of other states, countries and regions.  Sticking our collective head in the sand won’t change reality, either the existence of the problem or the need for solutions. California citizens and companies can drive the global actions to improve energy efficiency and reduce GHG emissions, or lose moral and economic leadership by supporting the status quo.

Let me know what you think.

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Mobile Business: Green in Many Ways!

The rapid growth in mobile broadband traffic has made the mobile industry “green” in more ways than one! The pace of innovation and the rapid enhancements to the consumer experience are dizzying. But on Earth Day, I think it’s important that we also recognize Mobility’s contribution to protecting the environment. Thanks to mobile technologies, more people than ever are able to connect in environmentally sensitive ways. Mobile technologies enable rapid broadband network deployments that require little construction or environmental disruption. And those networks enable business and consumer interactions that formerly would have required extensive travel and significant greenhouse gas emissions.
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