When John Chambers became CEO, Cisco was an unknown brand with one product, 400 employees and $70 million revenue. When he left two decades later in 2015 Cisco was a $47 billion tech giant with over 70,000 employees… and along the way he created 10,000 millionaires! I was fascinated with John’s concepts of connecting the dots and asked him about vision, M&A and the future:
Reiss: How can CEOs see the future to develop the right vision in our digital, fast moving world?
Chambers: Leaders need to pay attention to broader shifts in technology AND the market. When both occur at the same time, that is when you can catch the market transition to quickly lead rather than slowly follow.
Reiss: At Cisco, you acquired 180 businesses, and today you are involved with many partnerships. What advice do you have on M&A partnerships?
Chambers: My biggest piece of advice is to find acquisition and / or partner companies that have a very similar corporate culture and vision of how the industry is going to evolve. That will help ensure they can play a role in making your own company’s long-term strategy successful.
Reiss: What role will AI play in our future?
Chambers: AI is already playing a role in our daily lives, and that will continue to be true in the future. While I do believe that AI and digitization will impact jobs, I also believe that is why we need to foster entrepreneurship. Startups will be the core drivers of economic growth and job creation in the future.
… John finished by telling me one of his true deeper beliefs, which I believe many CEOs use, and that is to act like a teenager – curious and never thinking anything is impossible – and to think like a dyslexic, because by not seeing all the little sequential pieces, you are able to spot the patterns and see the end of the chess game before you even make your first move!