Meet the Exec: Maciej Kranz FEATURE
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Innovation drives technology forward and few know that more than Maciej Kranz, Cisco VP of Corporate Strategic Innovation. He shares his insights into what it takes to bring big ideas to life.

Maciej Kranz, Cisco's VP of Corporate Strategic Innovation lives and breathes innovation. It's not only his job, but also his passion. He's seen time over time how innovation can change the world and save lives. Kranz recently talked with Focus Magazine and shared how important IoT is to the healthcare industry.

Focus Magazine: Why is innovation so important to Cisco?

Maciej Kranz: I've been at Cisco for 18 ½ years and have seen that every few years we face a major technology or business transition. Right now, we as a company and the entire industry face many across-the-board disruptions. So we need to anticipate, proactively address and even drive such transitions and continually find better ways to meet customer needs. Which is why, innovation is not an add-on. It is an essential element of our strategy and culture, an essential part of our DNA. Innovation is happening in every function at Cisco and part of my group's mission is to continually instill a mindset of innovation across the company.

Focus Magazine: You are responsible for bringing big ideas to life. Can you explain how you do that?

Maciej Kranz: My team focuses on three areas. The first one is incubating new businesses in something we call "white spaces." When we spot an area that could be a market transition, or new technology that could revolutionize any part of Cisco's business, we assign our top business and technical talent to research this area with other experts. Then, we start building prototypes to get hands-on experience, eventually developing business cases, and finally we work cross-functionally with other Cisco teams to incubate these businesses.

Secondly, we co-innovate with customers and partners via Cisco's network of global Innovation Centers. Most large companies have "innovation centers," but often these serve as technology or solution showcases, R&D facilities or seminar spaces for lectures and education. Cisco Innovation Centers have a single mission: bring together governments, customers, partners, local startups, and academia as well as our business units and services teams to co-innovate scalable solutions to business problems. By working with customers and partners in the geographic regions where they are based, we can be both global and hyperlocal. We can co-innovate solutions based on horizontal technologies that address specific local requirements.

Finally, we're enabling Cisco employees to become entrepreneurs by building a startup culture internally. This seems like an oxymoron, but as a large corporation with 70,000 employees, we do need robust and streamlined processes. However, to thrive in a world that is constantly changing, we also need to instill a startup mindset and entrepreneurial skills across every function. We need to nurture creative thinking, which in turn can lead to dozens of new solution and business ideas. What's amazing about such efforts is that they bring our employees together in a truly cross-functional, company-wide experience. It's really the best of both worlds – combining the resources of a big company with the entrepreneurial mindset of a startup.

We're now in our third year of the Innovate Everywhere Challenge. In the last two years, more than half of all Cisco employees participated in the challenge and about 2,000 startup ventures were submitted. After refinement, now more than a dozen of these ideas are in various stages of implementation and monetization internally and with external customers. The amazing thing is that these ideas came from virtually every function. Some were pure business concepts, some technology solutions, while others focused on process improvements. As just one example, Team LifeChanger combined collaboration tools with specialized audio and visual devices to help the disabled work remotely. Cisco uses the solution now, many customers are considering it, and it's been adapted to the Cisco Networking Academy program.

Focus Magazine: You literally wrote the book on the Internet of Things. Why is IoT so critical to businesses?

The impact of IoT is already profound as the data generated by devices not only makes businesses more efficient in the short-term, but also transforms them in the long-term with new value propositions, new markets and new business models. Maciej Kranz: IoT is effectively the next wave of the Internet where every device is connected. The impact of IoT is already profound as the data generated by devices not only makes businesses more efficient in the short-term, but also transforms them in the long-term with new value propositions, new markets and new business models. Increasingly, IoT is becoming the foundation for other transformative technologies including fog computing (distributed cloud), blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI), and more.

What excites me is not only the vision, but the journey getting there. I firmly believe that anyone can have a great idea, but few people actually have the opportunity to turn it into a game-changer. I'm fortunate because I've experienced both.

Focus Magazine: You can use IoT to improve just about any industry—but let's talk about healthcare. How important is IoT to healthcare?

Maciej Kranz: Most IoT implementations today focus on improving efficiency and profitability in the business-to-business environments. But what makes IoT so compelling in healthcare is that it can actually improve quality of life and even save lives.

IoT is already helping us have longer, healthier lives and better care for our loved ones. For example, by connecting TelePresence, collaboration tools and medical devices we can open up new possibilities for remote office visits, diagnostics, and real-time monitoring of serious conditions, which lowers costs, speeds recovery and increases convenience.

Recently, Cisco sponsored the documentary called Detected. It tells the story of the iTBra, an application of IoT and AI that revolutionizes early detection of breast cancer. This has the possibility of saving tens of thousands of women's lives each year. The wearable, compared with mammograms is a more comfortable and private way to monitor for breast cancer. It contains 16 sensors that monitor and detect changes in breast tissue. After wearing the device for a couple of hours, the data is analyzed through predictive analytics (AI) and the results are sent directly to a woman's doctor for analysis.

Focus Magazine: What originally got you interested in IoT?

Maciej Kranz: Having seen the initial explosion of commercial Internet in the 1990s, I knew that at some point we would move beyond connecting computers and smartphones. IoT was the promise of every device being connected for incredible benefits. It was the once-in-the-lifetime opportunity to kick-start the next wave of the internet and to transform virtually every industry. It was just too attractive not to jump in with both feet.

Focus Magazine: What do you think would surprise people about you?

Maciej Kranz : I have four children and an amazing wife. Even though technology is prominent in my job and everyday life, my focus has always been on people, teams and relationships.

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About Liza Meak @lizameak

Liza Meak is a Manager of Social Media Communications at Cisco. She writes and produces content for The Network, Cisco's technology news site.