The Multiplier Effect: How Our Impact on the World is Amplified When We Work Together

This year's Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting theme, "the future of impact," has me thinking about what we as leaders can be doing to future-proof our economy to create an even better world for the next generation. This is no small task. In the spirit of the CGI Mission, we must first take a step back and figure out what we can be doing today to help translate our big ideas into action. In my view, the answer starts with nurturing great talent to encourage innovation and giving back to the community to help solve our most pressing issues as a society. I learned early on in my career the importance of "paying it forward" and mentoring young minds -- this is the way of Silicon Valley. With success comes responsibility and we will have a lasting effect on the world by improving the overall quality of life and shaping those who will lead us in the future.

Make giving back part of your DNA.

I believe that those who have been most successful in life have an obligation to give back. Giving back is not only the right thing to do, but is also the source of unparalleled gratification. It creates shared value for everyone, from employees and customers to partners and shareholders. When people rally together around a social or environmental issue, they not only address an immediate need, but they also get the ball rolling toward achieving longer-term solutions to pressing challenges. We like to lead by example and hope that when others see the value we place on working to improve our world -- and the impact that it has -- that it will encourage others to do the same.

This leads to what I call the "multiplier effect." Every effort to give back makes a difference for someone. When people come together and work toward a common goal, that impact is in turn amplified to an exponential degree. Over the past 10 years, CGI has been a valuable venue gathering likeminded individuals and organizations to take action on challenges related to education, healthcare, climate change and more. Members have together made more than 3,200 commitments, collectively improving the lives of more than 430 million people in over 180 countries.[1] This is just a snapshot of what's possible when giving back is part of your DNA.

"Take for example Cisco's 2014 partnership with the National Service Alliance and related ecosystem funders, the Lumina, Joyce, and Einhorn Foundations, aimed at making Service Year opportunities a rite of passage for young Americans. We were able to leverage our core competencies as a global IT company to provide the technology platform supporting this effort, while our partners drove other aspects of the commitment based on each organizations' strength and mission. This is just one example of how we can each do our part to work toward creating a solution for today's challenges. Together, the goal can be achieved even more efficiently and quickly when we join forces."

Invest in the leaders of the future.

Mentorship has always been an important to me, both in terms of my career and personal life. I've had some really brilliant mentors, including my parents and An Wang, founder of Wang Laboratories, all of whom helped shape the person I am today. They inspired me to "pay it forward" by fostering strong relationships with incredibly talented mentees. The best part of teaching young people is watching them grow along their journey and helping them realize what they're capable of doing. Mentors can be an invaluable resource, whose insight and support help bring mentees' biggest ideas to fruition with speed.

Mentorship is essentially a gift that keeps on giving. We can continue to multiply our positive impact on the future by making an effort today to nurture young minds, share knowledge and spur innovation. Offering time to mentor creates an opportunity to use your experience and guidance to help someone else achieve great things. You'll play a key role in helping others build the confidence needed to accomplish their goals successfully, which will mold the way our world looks and works in the future. I've found this to be especially true at CGI, which lends itself to this type of collaboration and knowledge sharing. Over the past 10 years as a member, I've had a chance to meet and exchange ideas with the next generation of commitment makers. My conversations with other members has had a profound effect on our own CSR efforts at Cisco, as their ideas have inspired us to continually think about how we can raise the bar and make an even greater impact.

Embrace new learning experiences.

I've always said that you have something to learn from everyone, and this includes your own mentees. Mentor-mentee relationships are so valuable because you never know what the other person might teach you. One of my greatest mentors, Jack Welch, former chief executive of GE, encouraged reverse mentoring, where executives at the highest levels engaged junior employees to teach them new skills. This is how Jack learned to use the Internet.[2] The chain effect of mentorship will accelerate innovation and make amazing things happen.

So how do we have a meaningful, lasting impact on the future? I believe the answer boils down to finding ways to work together. Whether we collaborate through corporate citizenship or through mentorship, we can achieve so much more, drawing upon diverse experiences and areas of expertise. Our world faces many challenges today. By making a commitment to work together, we can create the new ways of thinking and doing things required to realize the most impactful solutions in the future.

[1] Clinton Global Initiative: CGI Model

[2] The Wall Street Journal: "Reverse Mentoring Cracks Workplace," Leslie Kwoh, November 2011