“We want a culture where it is unacceptable not to share what you know,” he says. So he promotes all kinds of social networking at Cisco: You can write a blog, upload a video, and tag your myriad strengths in the Facebook-style internal directory. “Everybody is an author now,” he laughs. Blog posts are voted up based on their helpfulness. There are blogs about blogging and classes about holding classes — all gauged to make it easy for less-engaged employees to get with the program.
The goal is not just tech for tech’s sake. For Mitchell and his bosses, vice president of IT, communications, and collaboration technology Sheila Jordan and chief information officer Rebecca Jacoby, Cisco has become a laboratory of connectedness and productivity. They are teaching people to use the stuff that Cisco sells — the routers, switches, IP telephony, data centers, mobile devices — by starting with their own people. As chief marketing officer Sue Bostrom puts it, the first wave of the Internet was an exercise in installation: “Really, it was all about just getting people online.” In the second wave, the job is to show people how to best use the tools, she says: “Now that I’m on, what can I do?” So that Facebook-style directory at Cisco serves not just as a way to make lunch plans or find a second baseman for a softball game. It is a real-world, real-time sorting apparatus, designed to help anyone inside the company easily find the answer to a question, a product demo, or precisely the right warm body to speak to a waiting customer or present at a conference — in any language, anywhere around the globe.