OODA Loop – John Chambers on Risk and Opportunity in the Modern Age

John Chambers is the legendary former CEO of Cisco, a company he helped grow from $70 million a year in revenue when he joined in 1991 to $1.2 billion a year the year he he became CEO at more than $48 billion a year by the time he retired in 2015. As a leader, John was always known for more than just revenue growth, he was good at building a organization that treated people well, including employees, customers and the community.

In this OODAcast we discuss John’s book, Join the dots, who shares his thoughts on leadership, including the leadership of organizations that need to disrupt themselves. The lessons in this book can help those who, at any stage of their career, improve their ability to lead innovative companies. John talks about many learning points from his career, including early lessons on how governments and businesses ignore transitions at their peril. He draws lessons from missed opportunities that include things West Virginia could have done differently, as well as missed transitions by IBM and Wang.

We asked John to elaborate on his ability to spot market transitions and assess their impact on business strategy and operations. This is a skill we are always looking to improve at OODA and have found its recommendations to be very consistent with our methods of listening carefully and seeking information from multiple sources and then dealing with reality as it is. it is, and not as you expect it to be. .

We also ask John for his assessment of the changing economic situation due to the pandemic. We discuss how his projections at the start of the pandemic played out. We then get his assessment of what lies ahead for the months ahead, resulting in advice that should be heard by any CEO looking to serve. He tells us that agility, a word he didn’t like because it sounded like marketing, must now be every CEO’s mantra.

“Agility is the watchword of today’s leaders”

John is currently the CEO of JC2 Enterprises, a venture capital firm he founded to invest in and mentor startups he believes are well positioned to become key drivers of economic growth and job creation in the digital age. We discuss his approach to finding these companies and framing them. The CEO of a key portfolio company, Guarav Banga of balbixwas interviewed for the OODAcast last year).

John concludes with advice for any leader looking to succeed:

“You deal with the world as it is, not as you would like it to be.”

It also reminds us all that

“The winners are those who haven’t done the right thing for too long. The winners are those who are willing to disrupt themselves.

Podcast version:

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