Cisco Innovate Everywhere Challenge game show

Cisco ended the Challenge with a game show to reveal the top 3 winners.

Cisco recently ran an internal innovation challenge for employees — its first ever.

I was honored to work on the program as an entrepreneurial coach with Alex Gorbachev, Cisco’s innovation director.

We learned a lot about how to stoke up thousands of employees and get them to produce new ideas.

Below you’ll find a Q&A with Alex from Innovation Leader, “Lessons from Alex Goryachev on running Cisco’s first company-wide idea challenge.”

Cisco Innovate Everywhere Awards

Winners of the Cisco Employee Challenge received cash, funding and time to work on their innovations.

Get the full story here. Hear the podcast here.

Here’s how the Innovation Leader story begins:


Innovation Leader: Cisco is one those companies in Silicon Valley that everyone thinks of as a pretty innovative place. Can you talk about the environment and the culture at Cisco before you started the Innovate Everywhere Challenge, and what you were trying to address?”

“Alex Goryachev: Sure. We’re an amazing company with 30 years’ history of innovation. It’s a phenomenal place to work. Obviously, as we age, as any company, we are getting older. As we get older, we’re certainly getting smarter and wiser, but we get slower as well.

“There are a lot of people, over 70,000. At the same time, the industry is going through a rapid shift. Every day, we’re discovering new startups, new competitors. We’re challenged in every marketplace where we operate. I know our experience is probably not very different from other companies. The world is changing, and it’s changing overnight.

“The new ideas, they’re rapidly coming from everywhere. The change is really exponential. …We wanted to make sure that we increase [our] speed, and we create a new culture of innovation.

“There are a number of amazing innovation programs at Cisco…[but] they’re very siloed.

“We have programs for engineering that are best-in-class. We have engineering people that are innovating with engineering people, or we have things for marketing, where marketing people are talking to marketing people. All of those things are happening within either a given function, or a given geography.

“You really don’t have a cross-pollination of ideas. …What we wanted to do is mix things up a little, and just think outside of our functions.”

Read the rest of Alex’s interview here.

Read my blog on Cisco’s Innovate Everywhere program here.