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Building the Next Generation Company: Innovation, Talent, Excellence

10/15/2008 5:00 PM Kirsch 32"123
John Chambers, Chairman and CEO, Cisco

Description: While the ongoing world economic crisis has left many business leaders sweating (or worse), John Chambers is rolling up his sleeves in anticipation of an eventual recovery. After every economic challenge, he says, Cisco has come out with dramatic gains in market share. This time won't be different, if Chambers' bets pay off.

In the 1990s, he predicted that networks would transform the way the world works, becoming platforms for communications and other IT, and Chambers placed Cisco at the center of that transformation. Today, he envisions a Web 2.0 premised on collaboration and social networking that will similarly transfigure all business life. Since 2001, he's been positioning Cisco to catch this massive market transition, and indeed, is "betting the company's future on it."

In "phase two of the Internet," says Chambers, "Content will find me; I will not search for it." Any device, anywhere, will be able to receive any kind of content. We will be dealing with licenses for things like music, rather than worrying about compatibility issues between our digital tools and what's streaming through them. Web 2.0 will also bring "effective collaboration," by which Chambers means network"enabled visual tools, which will make "working together for a common goal truly possible." Expect much faster business processes and revved up productivity, says Chambers.

Based on Cisco's own experience in the past several years, organizations will completely restructure around these new capabilities. Indeed, he offers up his company as a paradigm of this vision. Once a hierarchical, command and control"based organization, Cisco is now much flatter, a company running "off of social networking groups." Councils with cross"functional responsibilities suggest and take on many more projects (from emerging markets, to video, and smart grid boards); from one to two major ventures per year, to this year's 26 launches. The next generation company is "built around the visual." Cisco employees do non"stop teleconferencing with collaborators around the world. The company hosts 2500 such virtual meetings per week. It also employs Webex, Wikis and blogging to move work along.

With this kind of communication and carefully managed process to match, "operations can be turned on a head," says Chambers. It's the recipe for market"dominating speed and scale. Chambers is "loading the pipeline" with projects that assume other companies will want what Cisco has and makes. "If we're right, we're developing a huge wave of revenue opportunity." Perhaps this is one reason why he's "an optimist on global productivity, global economy and our ability to handle the challenges."



About the Speaker(s): John Chambers assumed leadership of Cisco Systems in January 1995, and has grown the company from $1.2 billion in annual revenues to approximately $23.8 billion.

In March, 2004, for the second time, Chambers was given the "Best Investor Relations by a CEO" award by Barron's and IR magazines, and in April he received the prestigious "Woodrow Wilson Award for Corporate Citizenship" from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars of the Smithsonian Institution. Recently, Chambers was also named "The Most Influential CEO" in telecommunications byInstitutional Investor magazine and "The Most Influential Person in Communications" by Telecom Magazine.

Chambers has served as Vice Chairman of the President George Bush National Infrastructure Advisory Council (NIAC). On this committee, he provides industry experience and leadership to help protect the critical infrastructure of the United States. He served on President Bush's Transition Team, Education Committee, and previously served on President Bill Clinton's Trade Policy Committee.

Chambers joined Cisco in 1991 as senior vice president, Worldwide Sales and Operations. Prior to joining Cisco, he spent eight years at Wang Laboratories and six years with IBM. He holds a law degree and a B.S./B.A. in business from West Virginia University. He also received an M.B.A. in finance and management from Indiana University.

Host(s): Vice President Resource Development, Industrial Liaison Program

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MIT World — special events and lectures

MIT World — special events and lectures

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