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How Cisco ignited a company-wide Startup Culture

Sophia Hübner
Friday, Jan 4, 2019

The Challenge: Disrupt or be disrupted

Technological change, societal demands, hyper-competition, and the digital transformation of the economy have increased the pressure upon companies to shift from incremental innovation to disruptive and strategic innovation: Today it is all about disrupting or being disrupted.

Cisco exemplifies a company who continues to disrupt its marketplace. In 2015, Cisco kicked-off its first and unique company-wide Innovate Everywhere Challenge. The goal was to drive global disruptive thinking, capture game-changing innovation opportunities from Cisco employees, help them grow and enhance employee experience, empowerment, and collaboration across all functions. Along the lines of "Team up, Disrupt, and Innovate", Cisco established the Innovate Everywhere Challenge as a vehicle to shape its future growth.

Supported by ITONICS collaborative innovation platform, the Innovate Everywhere Challenge is now a best practice for innovation management at Cisco.

Cisco Innovate Everywhere Challenge - Success Story


Innovation bei Cisco

  • Innovation = Cisco’s DNA
  • Innovation is the job of every employee. It transcends traditional business unit silos.
  • The annual Innovate Everywhere Challenge calls out to all 74,000 Cisco full-time employees to „Team up, Disrupt, and Innovate“.


  • Engage a global community and promote disruptive thinking across all business units and functions, geographies, and grade levels.
  • Identify disruptive ventures and help them grow.
  • Create a company-wide entrepreneurial mindset and drive innovation further into the corporate culture.

    Innovate Everywhere Challenge Cisco in Numbers


The Solution: A company-wide cross-functional innovation competition on one collaborative platform

The Innovate Everywhere Challenge consists of four phases running over a period of eight months - supported by the collaborative innovation management platform ITONICS Enterprise.


1. Ideate - Spark ideas and team up

Who: All Cisco employees
What: Team up and submit venture ideas that are categorized by market, technology, and business models to the innovation platform ITONICS Enterprise

2. Validate - Is the venture valuable? Should it be built?

Who: 30 semi-finalists
What: Selection of 30 semi-finalists by 120 expert judges after a preselection through employee token investment

3. Fund - Sell your venture

Who: Six finalists
What: Looking for internal executive sponsors and live pitching the ventures before a panel of internal and external industry leaders regarding the feasibility, viability, and desirability of the ventures

4. Build - Find product-market fit

Who: Three winners
What: Growing the ventures and preparing the integration into the Cisco organization supported by a 25.000 seed funding
"Using a collaborative platform, we were able to implement the Innovate Everywhere Challenge as an integral part of our innovation management and engage a world-wide community to team up and innovate together. We achieved a Cisco-wide cultural change and created an interconnected network of innovators.”
- Alex Goryachev, Director of Innovation Strategy, Cisco

About Cisco

Cisco is a global market leader in the IT and technology sector. When it comes to the development and linking of networks or the automation and integration of IT-based products and services, Cisco – with its more than 30 years of experience – is the enabler in an increasingly digital world. Founded in San Francisco in 1984, this company today has a global headcount of more than 74,000 employees working at more than 380 locations. Cisco constantly seeks to transform how people connect, communicate and collaborate.

Cisco Innovate Everywhere Challenge - Success Story

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