Failing fast and our work with VR in technical learning

Cisco Blog >Digital Transformation

Digital Transformation

– August 16, 2017 – 6 Comments

I know a lot of bad words that begin with the letter “F,” but failure is NOT one of them. For sure, there do exist inexcusable failures in an organization: failure to meet your sales targets, production targets, operational expense targets, etc. It is easy for us to become so caught up in our search for success that we can forget how to fail.

At Cisco, we have thousands of Systems Engineers and Architects serving our valuable customers and it is widely understood in the industry that they are a formidable team. We have seen some tremendous successes over the last 30+ years. However, as we’ve grown, a new challenge has developed. How do you create agility in a large organization? This agility is more crucial now than it ever has been in my 2+ decade career at Cisco. Cisco’s transition to software and programmability is well documented and it has a tremendous impact on our Systems Engineers and Architects. Not only are we evolving our team with software skills in Networking, Security, IoT, AI and other areas, we are constantly evaluating the technology landscape and preparing for AR/VR, Blockchain solutions and many, many other impactful technologies. Rapidly developing technologies and rapidly shifting markets require us to be agile and rapidly adapt. How do we do that?

One part of creating an agile organization is experimentation, and with experimentation comes both successes and failures. We’re embracing both as we explore new ways to interact with our customers. Can we bring a new, rich experience to our customers that allows us to leverage our best experts virtually? Video has been an incredibly transformative technology for us, but we’d like to up our game.

We began experimenting with Virtual Reality a few months ago. Our hypothesis was that we could leverage the technology to have a realistic, life-like experience with our customers while embracing the productivity and agility of being remote. We deliberately used a very small budget and some very resourceful people to throw together an experiment. Leveraging a cinematic-quality VR camera, we captured recordings of SEs demonstrations and various other interactions.

In this photo (left to right): Jason Tamasese (Cisco), Aaron Jackson (camera man), Dave Wilson (Cisco)

What did we learn? For one, I learned I need to change my delivery when presenting to a VR camera. (Talk about failure!) More importantly than my ego, we learned that the technology isn’t quite ready for the experience we were hoping to develop, but we learned a great deal. From some initial small failures, we are now achieving great successes. Check out some of the great videos we created along the way below. The lessons we learned in the process are giving us new focus to our experimentation and new ideas for bringing value to our customers.

Here is to failure! May we fail fast and often.

Note to desktop users: We recommend using the latest version of the following browsers for the best video viewing experience: Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Edge.

Note to mobile users: For the full 360o video experience, please use the Vimeo app (iOS, Android) to view the following videos.

Select Video Quality: Also, for the best 360o experience, click the “HD” button (on the bottom right of each video clip) and select 1080p or 720p HD playback. Otherwise the video may appear blurry.

#CiscoSE Demo: Cisco SDA & ACI

#CiscoSE Demo: Cisco Collaboration

#CiscoSE Demo: Smart & Connected City

Virtual Reality: #CiscoSE & Cisco DevNet

#CiscoSE Demo: Cisco Data Center

Virtual Reality Talk: Cisco Cybersecurity

#CiscoSE Demo: Cisco Spark Board

Virtual Reality Talk: The Cisco Meraki Story

Virtual Reality Talk: Cisco Emerge

Virtual Reality Talk: Cisco Meraki


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  1. Fredrick Da-Costa

    August 30, 2017 at 7:39 pm

    Sir Michael Koons! I really do appreciate your concerns on being Agile and Failing Fast. As an Entrepreneur, Founder and Business Consultant, I found out that “SACKING” is the result of FAILURE (due to missed quotas or under-informed decisions) in Large Organisations, while Failure is “EMBRACED” in any Start-up. Sir Henry Ford said “One who fears failure limits his activities. Failure is only the opportunity to more intelligently begin again.” Thank you for sharing the videos.

  2. Glenn Rothberg

    August 17, 2017 at 2:57 pm

    Hi Mike, In hi-tech you’re working across disciplines. Welcome to your mentions of failure, experimentation, agility, programmability, learning, and virtual reality. These activities and outcomes all have something in common. They all belong to idea combinations. There is a broader framework of idea activity. It’s not just about “new ideas for bringing value”, it is about what happens to ideas, including those with which you are engaged, and the ones that haven’t yet been included. Arriving at what I call “The Breakthrough Passage”is a great place to be. Many get there. But it requires further idea activity to get through to value capture. Many have. Best wishes on the journey.

  3. Marcus Moffett

    August 17, 2017 at 1:42 pm

    Great post Mike and well said! We have to change or disrupt the way we think about literally every aspect of how we go to market as an engineering team. “Masters of Transition” is a great way to capture who we are….let’s do this!

  4. David Fernandez

    August 17, 2017 at 1:38 pm

    Awesome Videos! As a VR enthusiast and a GSX for good finalist, I am humbled to see where you’ve taken it. I’m sure once we bring this 360º immersive experience into and out of the classroom we will find many challenges. Looking forward to overcoming them!

  5. Christopher Lunsford

    August 17, 2017 at 5:50 am

    Awsome article Mike!! As usual, you are spot-on. If we don’t have some failures (and learn from them), then we aren’t pushing ourselves. We have to test our limits and be bold to deliver innovative solutions for ourselves, our customers and our partners. In connection with our transition to programmability, I’ll codify my comment on the process: # Ideation and proof-of-concept result, cost, value = experiment() # Iteration while value and justified(cost): if result.failure() or result.success(): new_knowledge = result.learn() result, cost, value = experiment(new_knowledge) # Innovation if result.success(): yield_innovation(result, value) gain_experience() next_project()

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