Why this Cisco leader believes every employee can build our boldest innovations
This is a post by Jerome Sanders.
Failing with open ears.
Q: What drew you to Cisco?
Karishma: Cisco loves running towards challenging problems and consistently hires skilled individuals to solve them. I was excited to work with the talented employees, and after chatting with Cisco’s leadership team, I knew the company was committed to solving critical industrywide challenges.
I’m betting on Cisco to change the course of many markets over the next few years and deliver significant value to customers.
Q: How would you describe transformational innovation?
This kind of innovation births an ecosystem of new companies that can create value and thrive in ways that weren’t possible before. Eighty-five percent of internet traffic travels across Cisco’s networks. Our networking infrastructure laid the foundational building blocks for an entire industry of companies to be created.
Q: What does the process of innovation look like to you?
Karishma: Innovation is a two-part process: exploration followed by experimentation. We had to paint a vision of a bold future that was not well understood, experiment, and create a playbook.
The exploration phase starts with a unique insight into a problem. Passion and curiosity then drive innovators to persistently question “why/why not” to deconstruct the problem down to its core truths. Once these first principles are deeply understood, the innovation process switches to creative problem solving.
Q: What is your vision of how Cisco incubates ideas?
It’s no single person’s job to innovate — simply because it can’t be done. And great innovators enlist open-minded people to join them in their pursuits. Innovating at Cisco where there are so many experts around us in different areas — from technology to product to sales — is a blessing.
Q: Having led innovation programs at Google and Uber, what would you like to incorporate into Cisco’s culture of innovation?
Karishma: We have to foster an environment where people can be vulnerable and let their imaginations run free to share and build on raw ideas. At every company I’ve been at previously, we have learned to dispassionately kill ideas. We want to be open to crazy ideas and build the muscle to quickly test them, so we can objectively abandon a hypothesis that’s proven wrong to move on to more fruitful bets.
Q: What would you say to an employee who doesn’t yet have an idea?
Karishma: Host a “bad idea brainstorm” with the cross-fertilization of about six people from different business groups centered on a problem you’re passionate about. You’ll be surprised how bad ideas can get built upon with diverse perspectives and take on whole new exciting forms in just an hour.
You want to gain feedback early and often, so follow up after the brainstorm with people who deeply feel the problem to learn the nuances of what needs fixing and iterate your solution. By refining our innovation skills, we can all play a part in charting the course of Cisco’s future, together.
Nov 21, 2020 at 17:14