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Yesterday morning, Cisco Systems’ charismatic Chairman and CEO John Chambers addressed the World Business Forum taking place this week in New York. After taking the crowd of CEOs and senior vice presidents through some of the company’s accomplishments – annual revenues have shot from $1.2 billion to $35 billion over the past decade – Chambers quickly moved on to his high-adrenalin vision of the future.
In Chambers’ view, business is on the verge – not in the midst – of a dramatic transformation, a huge leap forward in productivity built on collaboration made possible by Web 2.0-style tools similar to YouTube, FaceBook, and Wikipedia but adapted to the corporate environment. “Our children, with their social network[ing], have presented us with the future of productivity,” he emphatically told the crowd of about 4,500 executives.
Normally this might sound like cheerleading for the already well-established ideas of figures like Don Tapscott, C.K. Prahalad, and Clay Shirky. But, Chambers gave some rare insight into the use of such tools inside Cisco and the repercussions they are having on the company’s ability to pursue many projects at once.
According to Chambers, use of internal wikis to share information between business units has jumped; in January just 4% of the company’s employees used the tool, now that figure is around 30%. Meanwhile, use of Cisco’s C Vision, an internal YouTube-like video sharing site, has risen ten-fold in the last seven months. Chambers said use of tools like these is enabling the company to drastically increasing the number of major projects — the creation of new business in particular — being worked on at once, from two a year to more than 24 annually. Chambers analogized these jumps to the gains the company saw in the mid-1990s as the internet began maturing.
If that is indeed the case, we should be looking for unexpected surprises coming out of Cisco over the next few years. For more on Cisco’s collaboration initiatives, check out these videos.
What comes next? The Bloomberg Businessweek Innovation and Design blog chronicles new tools for creativity and collaboration, innovation case studies in both the corporate and social sectors, and the new ideas that have the power to change the way things have always been done.