I was watching Cisco CEO John Chambers do his trademark walk-and-talk style keynote yesterday at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square as Cisco was kicking off its Collaboration Summit when suddenly John interrupted his pitch for collaboration.
“Do you know what the hardest change is in this?” he queried the audience rhetorically. “As any CEO will tell you, it’s the culture.”
John’s observation resonated with me in that the fundamental premise of The Culture of Collaboration book is that “without a culture of collaboration, the best processes, systems, tools and leadership strategies fall flat.” In the book, I also note that “the overwhelming reason why collaboration eludes organizations involves culture.”
Understanding the role of culture in creating a collaborative enterprise is paramount, particularly as Cisco introduces 61 collaboration products. Collaboration tools are key enablers, but they are far more effective in enabling collaboration in enterprises with collaborative cultures and processes. Cisco has been focusing on collaboration more than any other initiative as an organizational imperitive and in product efforts. Now the company is fixated on persuading customers that it has reached a milestone in innovating collaboration. With that in mind, Cisco vice president of enterprise solutions Alan Cohen, a history buff and blogger, noted that Cisco was announcing its slew of products on the 20th anniversary of the Berlin Wall’s fall and observed that it was one of the “biggest transitions in our history.”
As Tony Bates, Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Enterprise Group, highlighted Cisco’s major product introductions, he emphasized the increasing role of video in collaboration—from Flip Video camcorders to WebEx web conferencing to telepresence—and the interactivity of these tools. You can read details of the product announcements here.
At a cocktail party following the keynotes, Tony and I had an engaging conversation about how the role of video has evolved. I mentioned that when I was researching my first book, Personal Videoconferencing, in the mid-1990’s, there was considerable push back against real-time video as a viable business tool. People were scared of the camera, and there was a pervasive view that one needed to have highly-honed presentation skills to use videoconferencing. Tony observed that people are increasingly accepting that the way they conduct themselves in meetings and in one-on-one workplace interactions is good enough for many video interactions.
Currently, most telepresence and web conferencing interactions are scheduled. As organizational cultures evolve to support more real-time collaboration, video interaction will become more spontaneous. Then real-time video will transcend communications and become part-and-parcel of collaboration.