Cisco unearths its inner startup culture via companywide innovation contest

Nearly half of Cisco gets involved in Innovate Everywhere Challenge

Q&A sessions, at Cisco headquarters in San Jose. Winning teams earned $25,000 in seed funding and another $25K in prizes, plus they were given an option of entering a full- or part-time innovation rotation program to last three months. Cisco worked with these teams to find possible fits within the company for their ideas, and set up concierge services to streamline access to IT, legal and other necessities.  One gratifying outcome for Goryachev is that so many of the winning teams’ members met online, and probably would not have interacted if not for the competition.

Winners of the first Cisco Innovate Everywhere Challenge were:

*Enterprise Virtual and Augmented Reality (EVAR): This team has designs on integrating third-party virtual and augmented reality technology with Cisco’s collaboration offerings such as Spark and Telepresence.

*LifeChanger: Focused on helping employers bring more disabled workers into the fold by enabling them to work remotely via Cisco collaboration technologies.

*Rainmaker: A logistics platform for coordinating complex digital media campaigns, assuring that high priority assets don’t get bogged down on busy network pipes.

Eight-year Cisco veteran Phil Trease, a systems analyst and user experience expert in southwest London, says the EVAR team initially connected during an earlier hackathon and that the Innovate Everywhere Challenge enabled the members to take their ideas to a new level (read more in my interview with Trease here). "We want to see past the 'Wow!' [of VR and AR] and how we can use it to bring business value," he says.

JUST THE BEGINNING

Encouraged by results from its initial Innovate Everywhere Challenge, Cisco is plotting another one late this summer and will shoot to run roughly two such challenges per year.

And in light of Cisco benefiting so much from Adobe having open sourced its Kickbox, Goryachev says Cisco will do its best to share knowledge learned from its experience with others. It has published a whitepaper on the Innovate Everywhere Challenge and Goryachev says he has already begun fielding calls from other companies looking to follow Cisco’s lead.

“Every single company was a startup at a certain point in time,” he says. “So how do we keep that energy in a large enterprise? I think we’ve accomplished that, but now the question is: How do we maintain that and keep it interesting and challenging for our employees?"

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