I think the article “Cisco’s CEO on Staying Ahead of Technology Shifts” was my favorite article to date that I have read for Strategy Development. It was amazing to read about how John Chambers grew to be in the position he is currently in and what it took for him to get there. During his first couple of jobs, Chambers learned that if even amazing companies missed a market transition, this would lead to their ultimate demise. At IBM, their missed opportunity was their slowness in identifying and adapting to the shift of mainframe computers to minicomputers. This was because IBM stopped listening to their customers which is a huge “no-no” in this industry and resulted in the layoff of many employees. At Wang, Chambers watched five rounds of layoffs that lasted for about a year and a half. These company’s failures led to his start at Cisco. Within four years of being there, Chambers became the CEO.
During his time with Cisco, Chambers has overseen many shifts and transitions within the technology world. One could say that this is the reason why Cisco is still thriving as a company today. Others could say that their main reason for survival is their ability to listen to their customers and help them achieve what they want and need. Chambers approach to new trends is also quite unique but seems to work for the company. When Cisco senses a shift early, they will spend time with their research and development team to develop new technology. They also may use the option of making an acquisition. The most interesting way they approach new shifts is what they call a spin-in. They have a group of workers work on a project and have them work as if they were working in a start-up. They also receive financial bonuses as they hit a milestone. This helps them acquire new talent and they are provided with fresh ideas. This type of mentality could help many companies achieve their goals and provide new talent even for old companies.
Reading this article made me think about my old company. There, we manufactured hummus and were required to keep up with our competitors. Though we dominated the hummus category by being 63% of the consumer’s choice within the market, we still had to figure out new and innovative ways to get our hummus out there because the risk for completion was always apparent. The change I want to touch on was the inability to have an organic product. When the company first started, there was not a huge rush to become organic because the company and the market was so new to America. Hummus was always a big food category in Israel, but up until recently, not as big in America. Eventually, as the years went on and as the demand for hummus grew, organic food because super trendy. The company I worked for did not really care until we tried selling our product to Whole Foods. This would have been a huge sale, but Whole Foods did not want to sell my company’s products because the hummus was not organic enough. This was a huge blow to my company and this was when they really started to listen to what consumers wanted. What they wanted was a food that was healthy and organic. Because my company decided to listen to their base, they were able to come up with technology and ingredients to create a non-GMO, organic product that could be put on the shelves. Sometimes, like in Cisco’s case, the best thing a company can do is to listen.