The Underlying Message of John Chambers Keynote at Networkers

I was impressed by John Chambers keynote at Networkers the week before last, except for his purple tie and pink shirt (what?). But what really struck me was an underlying message - that I'm pretty sure John was cognizant of - but I'm not sure the rest of the audience was. That message was human freedom. While I won't delve into my beliefs on every political issue, I happen to be a strong libertarian and constitutionalist. Above all, I love individual freedom and liberty as outlined and protected in our Constitution; be it civil, religious, or economic freedom (especially economic, which is often forgotten today). So, I was impressed that Chambers showed how technology, in this case Cisco technology, was opening up new markets and countries around the world. Via communications - voice, mobile, telepresence, wikis, Web 2.0, etc - people were communicating and sharing ideas. People now have a voice via the Internet and communications technology and with all the different ways to communicate, oppressive regimes will struggle more and more in the future to control those people. This leads to an explosion of ideas and freedom, brought on by the people themselves. Why do you think the printing press was so important to the American Revolution? Because it allowed an easy exchange of ideas between people, leading to an uncontrollable urge for more liberty. Yes, we've heard this before when the Internet first popped on the scene 15 years ago, but now it's different. The technology available today is so much better and interactive than static web pages. You have blogs, wikis, mashups, communities, voice, microblogging, and - above all - video. Easily accessible video that can be seen around the world in minutes. The power of video to shape world opinion cannot be overstated. All of these allow people around the world to communicate and demand more freedom and liberty and appeal for support from the rest of the world. Now, John did touch on something important to human freedom and liberty; that is laws (or rules in Cisco's case). John mentioned how Cisco has rules about their communications technology, such as one wiki site instead of many. But, beyond that rule of a single wiki server, Cisco employees are free to do what they like on the wiki server, communicating and building new content. This is analogous to what protects and stabilizes our republic: the rule of law. We have laws, based on the limits of the constitution, to provide order to our society. These are important to prevent anarchy and to protect freedoms like property rights (you want stealing to be illegal so people don't take you stuff, reducing your economic freedom). Beyond that, you are free as an individual to do what you please. I think these concepts Chambers was discussing is a key part of Cisco's new organizational models. Gone is top-down management - along with a bunch of top-level executives - and in are councils and group leadership to make key business decisions (sounds a lot like self-government doesn't it?). The challenge for Cisco is to balance this new leadership paradigm, and organizational society, with the needs of a rapidly changing marketplace. Councils and group leadership tend to be slow to make decisions since opinions need to be heard, topics debated, and compromises reached (notice how slow Congress or your local town board works). Freedom takes time and responsibility. This should be an interesting future for Cisco, IT, and for people around the world.

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