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The People Imperative: Rethinking our Future

The People Imperative: Rethinking our Future
How do you set your organization up for success in this digital intelligent world, and where does it start? Rola Dagher, President of Cisco Canada, reflects on Cisco’s own transformation journey and key areas of focus.
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The People Imperative: Rethinking our Future

Rola Dagher
President Cisco Canada

October 01, 2018
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I was absolutely thrilled to attend Elevate Techfest last week in Toronto where I was able to provide my insights on a challenge that continues to confront many leaders today – how to rethink our future amidst all this disruption.

We live in a hyper-connected world. According to a recent report, there will be over 55 billion IoT devices by 2025, and with all that data being generated through each new connection emerges an opportunity to reimagine what’s possible. This era is likened to an industrial revolution – in terms of impact – but it’s coming at us at digital speed and at the root of all this disruption lies technology.  More specifically, it’s the confluence of all these emerging technologies that is transforming industries and leaving them completely unrecognizable.  Just last year, Gartner surveyed 400 leaders across 30 companies, and 50% of all CEOs expected their industries toundergo complete transformation within the next decade. 

Where does that leave us? How do we as organizations, big or small, navigate this change? How do we rethink our future?

At Elevate Techfest, I called out three vital approaches that Cisco lives by every day, which have allowed us to steer through all this disruption and stay on top.

1.         People and Culture 

2.         Simplicity and Speed

3.         Customer Obsessed 

For the sake of brevity, I’ll expand on the first pillar: our People and Culture.   

At the core of any organization’s transformation journey is its people and culture. Your human capital is a key driver of your success. At Cisco, we lead through our people by ensuring they are empowered and connected to make a lasting impact on our customers and partners. We understand that the workforce of the future won’t be constrained by geographic boundaries. Rather, they’ll be fluid, agile and diverse teams that will break traditional boundaries.  

Cisco Canada, for example, has over 1,700 employees across the country who aren’t interacting face-to-face with one another everyday, but are perhaps more connected than ever.  Through an immersive collaboration experience from our platforms like WebEx Teams, we have created digital spaces for teams to connect, strategize, and innovate, regardless of their physical location. And we’ve seen tremendous results. From a global standpoint,employee engagement has increased by 17%, which has produced unprecedented productivity, collaboration, and innovation. 

But technology alone can only get you so far, it’s the people behind the technology. As an organization, your success will be based on the talent you have acquired. But first, you must ensure you have properly defined talent. As we move into the world of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and automation, tasks may soon become automated and replaced by a simple algorithm. What will keep your organization afloat and successful is the ability to identify talent that embodies everything it means to be human. In other words, you need to hire for Emotional Quotient (EQ) and train for Intelligence Quotient (IQ). Ensure that your people are leading with the most human and emotional traits like compassion, empathy, and critical thinking. Those are the traits that will define great talent today, and well into the future. 

I am not a technologist, nor did I study technology. But I am fluent in people, and obsessed with the success achieved by our customers. Understanding and empathizing with their challenges, being a trusted and compassionate partner and advisor, and leading with the impact technology brings to their organizations are all important areas have positioned me well in my role as President of Cisco Canada. 

Amidst all the uncertainly that accompanies us in the digital age remains one simple yet fundamental certainty:  What’s worked for us in the past will not in the future. Entrepreneurs, employees, and business leadership, across all sectors and industries, must rethink and unlearn their approach towards their people and culture. The people imperative will define success in the future and as I believe it’s defined ours today. Let’s embrace it and lead through it. 

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