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Cisco executive advises embracing change
By Gale Horton Gay
Jun 13, 2014, 20:36

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Carlos Dominguez is a senior vice president at Cisco Systems and a self-described technology evangelist who travels the world counseling leaders on embracing change and not fearing technology.

However, if you ask Dominguez how he got his start on the road to such a forward-focusing career, he laughs and reflects on his youth growing up in Union City, N.J. He points to his father, a Cuban immigrant, who was very much an “early adopter” of technology, who always had the latest camera or other electronic device. He fondly recalls when his parents purchased an RCA console television with a wireless remote control. All the neighbors came by—as was the custom in the community he referred to as “Havana of the North”—and young Carlos hid behind a sofa, manipulating the remote control.

“I remember the sense of joy and power being an early adopter,” said Dominguez.

With two decades of experience at Cisco (the multinational corporation that designs, manufacturers and sells networking equipment) under his belt, Dominguez is now an in-demand speaker (logging 550,000 airline miles in 14 months in 2006) who advises executives and motivates audiences. His pitch is about embracing change and creating environments in which is it is welcomed as well as how technology is changing how we communicate, collaborate and how we work.

He said too many leaders, entrepreneurs, companies and institutions are weary and resistant to change, putting themselves at risk of becoming out of touch and potentially out of business.

He cites a report from Fast Company magazine that notes that in the not-too-distant future a significant number of current Fortune 500 companies will no longer exist.

“We are living in a world where scale at a company level has less value,” said Dominguez. “Think of an individual creating an iPhone application, putting it in the Apple App Store and millions of people having access to the software. You don't have to worry about distribution or collections, etc. The platform allows anyone to be able to participate in the game. That’s never happened before.

“In addition, technology is changing our world very quickly. People have more power than ever, and they are not tolerating big company decisions without challenging them. Bank of America recently wanted to charge its customers $5 for using their debit cards, and the world didn't accept it. It created a big PR problem.”

Dominguez notes that an evolving new environment brings new rules and new realities.

“Unless we adapt to the world, obsolescence is guaranteed,” he said.

Dominguez said great companies of the future will:

• Move fast and be nimble.
• Create a culture of adaptability.
• Make everything simple, their products and how they are used, process, etc.
• Value and empower their employees.
• Build a culture of collaboration.
• Leverage diversity.
• Leverage customer contribution and feedback.
• Reward and develop creativity within the company.
• Make innovation everyone's job and be relentless innovators.
• Be passionate at the core - you need this to implement innovation and a culture of change.
• Experiment constantly, having 10 to 12 experiments going on at all times.
• Take time to see where the world is going and what they need to do to remain relevant.
• Leverage the tools that are available.

Dominquez points out that generally individuals are resistant to change.

In fact, during his speeches and presentations he often asks audiences a number of questions about situations that challenge people to do things differently. One of his queries concerns the percent of people who change their diet and exercise habits following a heart attack. Dominguez said the answer is 20 percent.

“Only one in five changes when their lives depend on it,” he said, adding that if they are unlikely to change for self interest why should leaders think they will change to benefit an organization or corporation.

The world is different. How we communicate is going to be different in the future. It’s all about adapting, learning from it.

So what can leaders do to make their workplaces “change friendly?”

“Reward and recognize” creative efforts said Dominguez. “Create a culture of innovation. Do it with passion and a purpose that is bigger than the company. At Cisco we want to change the way people live, work, learn and play.”

As for what individuals who find themselves working in a change-averse environment should do, Dominguez suggests: ‘”You have to inspire people to see the vision. You need to light a fire of passion inside of them. Passion will help them get there. In addition, I would make sure that you hire people who have the profile of adaptability. Are they using the latest tools available? Are they trying new things?”

Dominguez has been going through an evolution himself.

He previously ran Cisco’s Worldwide Service Provider Operation and was vice president for U.S. Service Provider Sales. Under his leadership, Service Provider grew in revenue from $500 million to $2.5 billion. Prior to that, he led Cisco’s enterprise line of business in the northeastern United States, where he established Cisco in strategic markets such as financial services, media, government, and pharmaceuticals. He also has held management positions at Timeplex, Inc. and at New JerseyBell/Bell Atlanticom.

He serves as a member of the CDC Foundation, which connects the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to innovative ideas and expertise from outside partners. He’s also a board member at the Institute of Large Scale Innovation, a group of international leaders who use innovation to help solve complex global challenges.

The father of three daughters, Dominguez said he tells his children and young audiences at colleges and universities that he addresses that “It’s a most incredible time to be alive,” encouraging them to appreciate and understand their unique environment. Generation Y, he said, is constantly connected, having grown up in a digital age.

He counsels them to find ways to use the tools they are so knowledgeable about and comfortable with such as social media to bring about positive change in the world. He points to the Arab Spring uprisings that were fueled by social media. And with more and more people using their telecommunication devices as virtual broadcast stations, Dominguez cautions that responsibility comes along with these powerful tools.

“Do it with ethics, grounded in fact,” he shared. “Be careful what you post.”

He said Cisco is looking to this generation to do what he termed “reverse mentoring” of executives on social media--how to use it and showing them the benefits.

“They are also the beta testers of new products for us,” said Dominguez.

He describes Generation Y as “very adaptive. They give incredible feedback. They are very opinionated.”

Dominquez is optimistic about the future and the potential for new technologies to transform our lives with greater connectivity in government, health and education.

“Our lives should be easier,” he said.

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