LIVE FROM CES 2015: Only 40 per cent of today’s major companies will exist “in any meaningful way” ten years from now due to the impact of major technological change fuelled by the Internet of Things. That was one of the messages Cisco CEO John Chambers conveyed in a keynote session this morning titled “Fast Innovation – Disrupt or be Disrupted.”
Chambers shared a stage with Comcast Cable president and CEO Neil Smit, and Bosch chairman Werner Struth, but it was the Cisco boss who characteristically delivered the most memorable soundbites and insight into the changing tech world.
“If we all run our company in the future as we’ve run it in the past we’ll need three new CEOs. And our governments need to do the same” he commented.
“Change is really hard but it’s going to be required for survival. There’s a lot of very high rewards and clearly a lot of challenges, but the digitisation of every company is going to require that change… You watch a great company like Walmart have to reinvent itself virtually and physically to survive – their CEO knows they have to move dramatically or even the most powerful company in the world will get left behind.”
Chambers reflected on the restructuring Cisco has undertaken recently in an effort to ensure the company remains a major player in the tech space. “We’ve changed more in the last year ready for the future than we have changed in the last 5 years. We laid off 6,000 people and hired back another 6,000… Long-term planning at Cisco is now three years.”
But Chambers warned success isn’t just about adopting new technology. “You have to change people and culture too. The tech might actually be the easiest part… We need to think with more of an entrepreneurial spirit… we have to think more like startups.”
Chambers also touched on the need to understand security and privacy issues around “digitising everything.”
And he was asked which countries are best positioned to react to the changing environment: Chambers cited German chancellor Angela Merkel’s strategy, while singling out India within the world’s emerging markets. Israel was also high on Chambers’ list, who added he wouldn’t bet against France – “They are in tough economic times but their leadership understands they need to move fast and I’d not be surprised to see them digitise quickly.”