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Cisco Innovate Everywhere Challenge

How Cisco ignited a company-wide startup culture using the ITONICS Innovation OS.


employees participated

participants worldwide
ideas submitted
"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
Cisco Innovate Everywhere 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.

To avoid being displaced by more agile competitors, leading companies must reinvent themselves from the inside out, again and again, and incorporate innovation into their DNA. The entrepreneurial passion, speed, and agility of a newcomer must be regained while continuing to grow like a large corporation.

Today it is all about disrupting or being disrupted!

Cisco Overview Case Study

Innovation at Cisco

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: drive disruptive thinking, capture game-changing innovation opportunities, and enhance employee collaboration across all functions.

Supported by the ITONICS Innovation OS, the Innovate Everywhere Challenge is now a best practice for innovation management at Cisco and won the Innovation Leader’s Impact Award which honors extraordinary innovation programs and their outcomes.

  • 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".


"Our innovation strategy enables us to cultivate great innovation opportunities internally. The Innovate Everywhere Challenge‘s overall goal is to capture disruptive venture ideas from employees and help them scale. It is also a way to develop entrepreneurship skills and make a meaningful difference at Cisco"
Mathilde Durvy, Innovation Program Lead, Cisco


A company-wide innovation challenge on a digital platform

The Innovate Everywhere Challenge consisted of four phases over an eight-month period - powered by the ITONICS Innovation OS.


1. Ideate

Cisco employees worldwide are invited to participate, team up, and submit ventures to the innovation platform ITONICS Enterprise.

The “(Co-)Founders” create and submit ventures, “Angels” can invest tokens to select the best ventures and help them to succeed.

The platform ensures a quality gate and selfassessment. Besides stating a problem and providing a solution, the ventures submitted are categorized by market, technology, and business models.

2. Validate

120 expert judges select 30 semi-finalists after a preselection through employee token investment.

The semi-finalists are invited to participate in a three-day workshop to further develop their ventures using design thinking and lean startup methodologies.

3. Fund

The third phase is all about convincing. The six finalists receive an award of $10,000 as recognition and start looking for an internal executive sponsor.

The finalists live pitch their ventures to a panel of internal and external industry leaders including a Q&A session to identify the winners of the challenge. In a company-wide live broadcast, the judges ask the teams probing questions regarding the feasibility, viability, and desirability of their ventures.

4. Build

The three winning teams receive $25,000 in seed funding and an additional $25,000 in team recognition. Other semi-finalist teams that secure a sponsor receive up to $10,000 in matching funds.

Over the course of three months, the winners have time to grow their venture and prepare the integration into existing Cisco organizations.


  • The innovation program was awarded with the Innovation Leader’s Impact 2018 Award.
  • Open engagement, cross-functional team building, and exchange are facilitated via the open collaboration platform.
  • 36,600 employees (49 % of Cisco’s workforce) from 89 countries and every single function engaged in the challenge.
  • More than 769 ventures were submitted and reviewed by over 120 expert judges.
  • Over 20,000 employees invested more than 168,000 tokens and provided over 5,700 comments.
  • Addressing key markets, new technologies, and business models created a more targeted challenge focused on capturing game-changing opportunities for Cisco.
  • The challenge spawned an entrepreneurial workforce across all functions, geographies, and grade levels ready to take risks, fail fast, and move forward quickly to the next innovative idea.
  • Participants were equipped with a wealth of online and in-person resources, including design thinking, lean startup methodologies, pitch coaching, and internal as well as external mentors.
  • A quality gate and self-assessment helped progress the best ideas.
  • 20 executives sponsored ventures with seed fundings. The winning teams received $25,000 in seed funding and an additional $25,000 in team recognition.

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About Cisco

Cisco is a global market leader in the IT and technology sector. 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.

Learn more about how innovative companies implemented a world-class innovation ecosystem. Get a free demo!


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