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The Sheep of Silicon Valley


December 18, 2009 - 38 Comments

Have you seen them?  They actually exist.  Right in the hustle and bustle of Silicon Valley…about a 5-iron from Cisco campus.  Located just north of 237 and west of Zanker Road are:  The Sheep of Silicon Valley.  You can see the traffic of 237 on this video…and you can even see some of our (unnamed) competitors’ buildings…and others are nearby.

To be sure, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  And, noone knows followership better than the actual, and proverbial, sheep. 

But INNOVATION is what is the life’s blood of Silicon Valley.  Not sheep.  Not followership.  These actual sheep (see video again), literally across the street from Cisco, made me think of some of those in the networking industry.  As we celebrate our 25 years as a company, we have more competitors than we’ve ever had, and in essence, one competitor will say: “our box is better.”  Another will say: “we know this (or that) geographic market better.”  Still, another will say: “buy our entire company (PLEASE!!) and together we’ll be great.”  And, one has said, “networks can’t be that different than printers, can they?” 

Networks are the most important part of a company’s infrastructure.  It is the platform for business, communications, commerce, collaboration, video, voice, data, virtualization…you name it.  Which brings me to my point: Cisco invented the router.  The network is what we do.  Noone does it better than Cisco.  So, while we are always pushed by our customers (and engineers) to innovate, we don’t focus on our competition…we focus on customers and their business needs.

As I drive past these (actual) sheep every day on the way to and from work, I think about what they do every day and I honor them.  Like Cisco, they are good at what they do.  Like Cisco, they have been doing it for years.  And, like Cisco, they always have to be worried about the up and coming goat next door who is trying to take their job on a daily basis…but they know if they continue to execute and continue to focus on the customer, they’ll be just fine.

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38 Comments

  1. cisco have a lot of innovation, but do not forget about green tech for the better world for our childrenhappy 25th anniversary

  2. And what happens to the sheep if the land is sold?, silicone slaughter?

  3. You guys are doing an amazing job! Wish you successful next 25 years!

  4. 25 years old, born, survival, and development is indeed a feat :)

  5. This is inspiring story. Innovation, but also motivation and inspiration are fundamentals to success these days. And as you said, don’t look too much at competition - look at the people, find out what they need, satisfy their needs with innovative approach and make them your followers, your customers.

  6. Those sheep are cute! I often wondered whether any of the rolling green pastures near to dense technology centers would be occupied by livestock, and it appears they do!

  7. You guys are the wolves, and the competitors are clearly the sheep my friend! While other people struggle to follow the leader, you guys @ Cisco keep pushing forward to new technology that is changing the world. Kudos!

  8. Cisco erfand den Router. Das Netzwerk ist das, was wir tun. Niemand macht es besser als Cisco.""Congratulations on 25 years"

  9. Interesting analogy, with Cisco being at the forefront of innovation in the industry, thus being the very opposite of sheep!

  10. INNOVATIONS too little, is the reason why in Germany so poorly. It is a mistake to believe that we can rest on the past.Greetings from Germany

  11. Totally agree. Without innovation you hear about all the big companies that let the little guys take over. Later on they turn into the big companies and leave the others at the side of the road.

  12. Age of 25 years is already very mature for my blog .....and must have been inhabited by people very professional ....survived to the age of 25 is .....I will continue to visit your blog ....

  13. I like Cisco since 10 years because your innovations and excellent support. Congratulations for your 25.th anniversary!

  14. Vor langer Zeit Albert Einstein sagte: Um ein tadelloses Mitglied einer Schafherde man muss vor allem ein Schaf.Dies deutet darauf hin, dass nach Ihrem Artikel wird ein Schaf unter schließt innovativen Ideen.Ansonsten manchmal eine Menge Schafe"" sind erforderlich, um die Aktionen auf innovative Ideen auszuführen.Sind wir nicht alle ein bisschen Schaf?"

  15. This is too funny. The latest in high-tech and old-school sheep farming in the same backyard. Congrats on a successful 25 years!

  16. Stumbled in here by accident, amusing post. Congrats on 25 years, keep up the good work

  17. network is important to implement, you name it, important for commerce, communication, data virtualization, and etc.

  18. You are so right about innovation! It is the lifeblood of any new company and is made by making a new path, not following the old. What is the next big thing? Who know's...but it definitely won't come from another sheep. Good read!~Drew"

  19. A long time ago Albert Einstein said: In order to be a faultless member of a flock of sheep you have to be mainly a sheep.This indicates following your article that being a sheep excludes having innovative ideas.Otherwise sometimes a lot of “sheep” are needed in order to execute actions based on innovative ideas.Aren’t we all a little bit sheep?

  20. i congrat you for the 25 years! this is cool =)maybe you can feed them once and a while :) im sure they would like a carrot or something like that :)

  21. This is inspiring story. Innovation, but also motivation and inspiration are fundamentals to success these days. And as you said, don't look too much at competition - look at the people, find out what they need, satisfy their needs with innovative approach and make them your followers, your customers.

  22. I thought the sheep of Silicon Valley was an industry joke...but real they are! I concur, innovation is what will always allow companies to grow and strive forward, and stand above the rest in difficult trading times. Congrats on 25 years as a company!

  23. I agree with you about networking. Networks are the most important part of a company’s infrastructure. In Every platform of business, network is important to implement, you name it, important for commerce, communication, data virtualization, and etc.

  24. Haha.. I thought the story was going to be about how silicon valley companies have run out of new ideas and now follow each other like sheep..lol.

  25. Congrats on 25 years of innovation. Found this article quite amusing! Random sheep....

  26. Congrats for celebrating 25 years and i like the metafor of the sheeps :D and i agree the status quo works

  27. Did I miss something? what eventually happens to the sheep?

  28. It will amazing if it could mix together with the cows.

  29. No one would disagree that innovation is a good thing, but I'm a little tired of people referring to their competition as sheep. It's really negative, and it implies that people are just trudging along, complacent, and dull. Here's the thing - the status quo works. If it wasn't people wouldn't do it. I know it's not glamorous, but I don't think it deserve the sheep epithet.

  30. Strange but true metaphor.

  31. Congrats for celebrating 25 years Technology Innovation..You are good at providing network architecture and solution to Telcos (telecomunication) companies...I hope you keep evolving and growing better...happy new year as well..

  32. Will Cisco be offering wool sweaters as promotional products in the spring? :)Cisco note: GREAT idea...I'll talk to marketing. : )

  33. That's probably the main reason why Europe is slowly sinking. It lost its appetite for innovation.

  34. I currently completed My graduation in telecomm field, and still learning more technologies to start my own firm. Most of my friends have got the job in silicon vally. If I fail to do some innovative then I will try my way toward the normal networked life rather than being a ship. What is the future of cisco in upcoming networking world as you are telling there are more competitors for cisco. can you help me?

  35. This is why these sheep are here:http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/weird/Sheep_Go_to_Heaven__Goats_Go_to_Hill_Bay_Area.htmlDifferent locale, but same job.

  36. Strange but true metaphor. You have to watch out for the wolf in sheep's clothing"" as well."

  37. Like the goats next door, competitors keep us sharp. But few people find the same level of great execution that takes place at Cisco. And if you talk to employees of those other companies they don't have the same level of satisfaction as Cisco. In my twelve years, I've seen us adapt and lead in new markets. I believe that customer satisfaction consistently improves, and customer sat is what we are all gauged on as Cisco employees. And customers win.

  38. I do agree on the INNOVATION. Lot of company died simply because they're too comfort and no sign of innovating.