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Collaboration is Hot … A Report From Duke University Fuqua School of Business

November 11, 2011 - 5 Comments

I had the distinct pleasure this week of participating as a speaker at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. Professor Tony O’Driscoll, Fuqua’s executive director at the Center for Technology, Media and Entertainment and a Cisco customer, hosted a “social business immersion day” with a very stimulating line-up of guest speakers.

Among the speakers were Alan Morrisson, Center for Technology and Innovation, at Price Waterhouse Cooper, and Sandy Carter, vice president and social business evangelist at IBM. Let me share with you some of their remarks.

Alan’s comments were focused on how companies are using social technology to get work done.  He noted that “social business” starts with connected employees.  What’s different in today’s world from five or more years ago is that with multiple wireless devices and multiple connections around the world, work is “always on” – there is no off button!  But his key point was that the social connection and conversation needs to happen where the work flow is – which is so true.

In a separate presentation, Sandy also had some very compelling points of view.  She categorizes IT into five different eras:  the mainframe era, the departmental era, the PC era, the Internet era and now – social.  She forecasts that the social era will represent $200 billion by 2015 and will have more impact on the workplace than the Internet era – very interesting to think about, particularly when you consider the revolutionizing impact the Internet has had on our world.

Sandy defined social with a social agenda as follows:

A – align your culture to achieve business goals

G – gain social trust

E – engage through experience: integrated, interactive and identifying

N – network your business process

D – design reputation and risk management

A – analyze your data

She also believes that gaming is the new way to drive employee engagement – this is the next big trend. Why gaming?  Because it moves you from spectator to participant.

It was gratifying to hear Sandy talk about how collaboration and social business are helping to:

  • Achieve improved customer service and satisfaction (we’ve achieved this with our support site)
  • Speed R&D and time to market (our deployment of Cisco Quad has also had this result)
  • In the area of HR talent, deliver cost reductions and increased engagement with knowledge workers and experts (we’ve found this to be true at Cisco by using Quad to enable employees to identify experts, and connecting them using Click to Call and Click to Chat functionality).

I presented Cisco’s social enterprise strategy and how we’re deploying it globally.  I received many, many questions from the MBA students, who were extremely engaged.  They really “get” social business.  In fact, their questions validated what Cisco is doing to address millennial workers.  Duke’s MBAs epitomize the results of Cisco’s recent Connected World Technology Report, which found that more than half of college students want access to social media at work (and would refuse employment if it wasn’t allowed), and want connectivity anywhere on any device – the right to work remotely is very important to them.

So, it was back to school for me – an opportunity to learn from everyone who participated, and connect with a savvy student audience which I always find refreshing.

Happy Collaborating!



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  1. Sheila,

    Pleasure was all ours. Your passion for the potential of Social Business is infectious!

    All the best and thanks so much for sharing your insights and experience with our students.

  2. I thought your presentation during Immersion Day was one of the best and I took a lot of notes throughout the day! Thanks for taking the time to speak at Duke.

  3. Sheila,

    Thanks for sharing your experience at Duke and especially Sandy’s insights.

    Your comment about how you “received many, many questions from the MBA students, who were extremely engaged. They really “get” social business.” is spot on. That group does “get it”, because learning at a modern university is a collaborative process and culture.

    The really intriguing question is how do we get the baby boomer generation to “get it”, because our experience in this area and Dr. Morten Hansen’s research has shown that the vast majority of that generation, which holds most of the positional “power” in large Enterprises, not only don’t use the tools, they also tend to cling to narrow NIH perspectives that limit their willingness to collaborate with a cognitively diverse group of insiders and outsiders to gain important new insights that can drive the innovation they say they want.

    The really challenge is the one you have already identified, how to get the process and workflow work done up front before the tools go in. After they go in, the real work of getting people to leverage those new processes and tools to do their work differently and better.

    Experience has shown us that without a more rigorous leadership, training, and coaching/mentoring commitment to drive it in to the DNA of the organization, the actually results are severely constrained.

    Your thoughts?

    Thanks in advance,


    • Jim,

      I couldn’t agree more. We have a bifurcated workforce where the younger, millenial generation, has open communication and collaboration in their DNA. They know how to share information to arrive at the best solution for the larger team. What’s inhibiting us from tapping this fountainhead of knowledge and insights is the natural predisposition of Baby Boomers to be very guarded with information and sharing information.

      Cisco and the high tech industry in general (with notable exceptions such as Google and Facebook) need management training focused on “crossing the generational divide” to tap the value of the whole company, all generations, to maximize our business impact to our shareholders and our contribution to society.

      Good thinking,

  4. Hi Sheila,

    As a recent Fuqua grad (2011) now at Cisco, I’m very happy to see that Fuqua is bringing in industry thought leaders on social media. I’m also glad that you think we’re “savvy” 🙂

    Great blog!