In today’s hyper-fast, hyper-competitive digital age, it’s increasingly clear from talking with customers and partners that leading companies must share and leverage each other’s best practices.

No single company – no matter how big and successful – can navigate today’s mass digitization of business and society alone. That’s why we at Cisco are finding that Inclusion is the New Innovation.  This is as true for unleashing the potential of technology as it is for tapping the diverCiscoSpark2 compressedse talents of people.

I know this through my role in leading Market Acceleration for Human Resources at Cisco. We engage with key customers and partners to explore and co-create new business outcomes that not only improve performance but also spark new approaches to innovate a t the intersection of inclusion, diversity, collaboration, and technology.

From these engagements, I have learned that all types of organizations are challenged by seismic shifts in the workplace – demographics, diversity, distributed leadership, flexible work styles, collaboration, and much more. HR strategies must get in front of all of this, and digitization, to drive competitive advantage.

At the center of all this positive disruption are people — their brilliant ideas and solutions. That’s why I am so excited about Cisco’s large presence this year at the South by Southwest Interactive (SXSW) festival in Austin, TX – one of the world’s largest gatherings of creative forces.

compressedAt SXSW Interactive, March 11-15, leaders from Cisco’s Inclusion & Collaboration organization, along with the Collaboration Technology Group (including Tropo), Talent Brand and Web Vertical groups will be there to listen, learn and share best practices with some of the world’s best coders, developers and business minds.

Here are some of the areas where we will be interacting with attendees at SXSW:

  • This Friday, March, 11, from 12:30 – 1:30 p.m. (CST), Cisco’s Shari Slate, VP and Chief Inclusion & Collaboration Officer, will co-present with Adam Quinton, CEO of Lucas Point Ventures, on, “Diversity & Tech:  Breaking Down Unconscious Bias,” at the JW Marriott, Salon 6, 110 East 2nd Street.  In a thought-provoking and interactive experience, they will explore unconscious bias – what it is, what it isn’t, and why it matters in the tech industry – as well as how to create an environment where everyone can thrive.
  • The following Sunday, Cisco will open the doors for two days (March 13 – 14) to a pop-up venue called, Spark Haus. Born from the new CiscoSpark Haus Spark collaboration platform, Spark Haus is all about bringing people, technology, and ideas together, and we look forward to presentations, demos and idea exchanges with a new generation of coders, developers and business leaders.  Speakers include Cisco’s Jason Goecke, GM, Tropo Business Unit of the Collaboration Technology Group, forward-leaning executives from Uber, IBM, Dropbox, Built.io, iRobot, and Vena, and yes a world famous astronaut.
  • On Monday, March 14, Shari Slate will moderate another panel on Women in Tech, from 12:15 – 1 pm (CST) at the Spark Haus. Panelists include Holly Gibson, Executive Director, Women Who Code Austin and Olivia June Poole, Co-Founder and CEO of VINA, among others. This promises to be a lively and interactive executive discussion that goes beyond the predictable and digs deep into what it really takes to make the shift – and create bold new possibilities for our organizations – for ourselves – and across industries.

Throughout SXSW, we will be creating many other impactful experiences – what we call Moments that Matter – with customers, partners and other thought leaders. We are all faced with the universal challenges now of putting strategies into place that foster a culture of innovation.

And in harnessing the true potential that comes from the people, leading companies worldwide are discovering how Inclusion & Collaboration ignites performance, engagement, and innovation – Inclusion is the New Innovation.

I can’t wait to listen, learn and share ideas with others at SXSW, where a festival of new innovations will take place.

What are your thoughts on how inclusion and diversity can ignite innovation?