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Cisco and the future of collaboration: What’s to come?

Disclosure: Cisco is a client of the author.

Cisco (working with Forbes) this week put together a panel of experts to talk about the future of collaboration. The panelists included Mike DeFrino, CEO of Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants; Edward Wagoner CIO Digital at JLL Technologies; Shari Slate, the chief inclusion collaboration officer and vice president for inclusive future and strategy at Cisco; and Aruna Ravichandran, vice president and CMO for Cisco Webex. 

Typically, with these kinds of roundtables, the most exciting comments come from the executives representing the customers; the vendor usually just wants to push product. This time, however, the most insightful comments came from Cisco folks, particularly Slate. Most users know what a product does, but they don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what it could do; when it comes to communication and collaboration, people who focus more on human behavior should have a better sense of what is to come.

Two of the concepts the Cisco execs hammered on were empathy (by Ravichandran) and inclusion (by Slate). So let’s talk about those two ideas and what they mean for the future of collaboration tools in general, and Webex in particular. 

Inclusion and teamwork

It’s been my observation that when you have a team working together often, it is the oldest and most outspoken employee who drives the effort, regardless of experience. Winning an argument is more important than getting the correct answer. The working groups suffer for it — ironically often damaging the leader’s career — and women in particular are often ignored or cut out of the discussion.

In online meetings, the leader is often the moderator. It isn’t unusual for them to mute dissenting voices, or people who actually have a better understanding of what’s being discussed than anyone else.  It often seems like those with the least knowledge on a subject are the most rambling, which can waste the team’s time and lead to bad decisions. Cisco’s Webex can capture and report on who speaks and how often, providing statistics the employee and manager can use to try to address this problem.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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