Here's what I remember from John Chambers' impressive 2014 keynote at Cisco Live. Not all of his predictions have come true. IoT/IoE has a long way to go to become a multi-trillion dollar industry. Cisco didn't turn out to be like IBM, HP or Dell, but much better than all of them. What I remember the most is what happened after the speech. As the crowd was leaving, I saw a group congregating near the stage. They were are all surrounding John Chambers. He was in no hurry to go anywhere. People were talking to him, taking selfies with him. Some complained about partnerships, others about products. To all the complaints, he gave his card and said, "Call me". Not, call support, bizdev, or someone else. Just, "Call me". That was impressive.
Connecting the dots packs powerful advice for all of us in the technology industry bookended by the stories of West Virginia, IBM, Wang labs, and JC2 ventures. Since I just finished completed listening to the audio book, here are the things I remember.
- John reviewed and followed up on critical customer situations every day for the 20 years.
- Meeting the customers often, listen to their complaints, needs and feedback. That can guide your acquisition and strategy. Many of the acquisitions were guided the customer needs and suggestions.
- It's time for a change if your company isn't listening to customer complaints. He quit IBM when his boss wasn't listening to customer complaints.
- Quite a good chapter on acquisitions -- Cisco acquired about 180 companies. Only acquire if you have a vision for what you're going to with the product and PEOPLE from that company. A Merger of equals never work.
- Cisco is not about the switches or routers, it's "Changing the Way We Live, Work, Play and Learn".
- Look forward. Think tomorrow, not yesterday.
- Re-invent yourself every few years.
- Startups have to make the impossible possible, unimaginable a reality. Not just rip & replace.
- Cybersecurity is a problem. Big problem. For everyone.
- Embrace, drive and create change.
- The world is flat. Really flat, maybe tilting away from the US.
- Digitization has just begun.
- Even with all the advice, recommendations you get, leadership is a lonely place.
- Sometimes, you can be too early for a market (Wang for PC) and consequently, back-off when its time really comes. Timing is important and tricky.
- Leaders without foresight will create a big downfall.
- It's important to be human. He shared his own challenge with dyslexia when he saw a girl having difficulty to speak in front of the class.
- Use play books and checklists for everything. Strategy, sales, acquisitions.
- And he voted for Hillary Clinton.