Sunday, August 02, 2009

Corporate Right of Passage -- A Note to Techies

Today, I'd like to offer just a short mention and recommendation to read an interview in the Sunday NY Times with Cisco CEO John Chambers (see In A Near-Death Event, A Corporate Right of Passage). In this interview, Mr. Chambers discusses how Cisco's near brush with failure made it a better company. He also discusses how capitalizing on modern modes of communication -- video blogs, distributed communication, and relationship building -- is increasingly important to success in today's world.

Mr. Chambers also mentions something else that I found interesting. In this interview, he notes that "when there’s an accident happening, that’s when you’ve got to be the calmest. And yet that’s when most people are not." This made me think back to a blog I posted on July 15 (see Geoengineering) in which I questioned Eugene Kleiner's assertion that "There is a time when panic is the appropriate response." In contrast, Mr. Chambers goes on to say "So I’ve learned when something with tremendous stress happens, I get very calm, very analytical." Nice to know that I'm not alone in that regard.

There is one other important learning point in the Chambers interview and that is the ability to admit mistakes and failures. Unfortunately, such candor is anathema in the utility and regulatory environment that I am presently part of, especially with regard to renewable energy and public policy. Apparently it borders on sacrilege to question the all knowing legislature, Commissioners, and executive branch policy makers. But, we're learning as we go and their credibility would go much farther if they could only admit "Well, we screwed that one up. Let's fix it and move on." I'm hoping for too much.

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