As promised, here is another excerpt from my upcoming book, The New Polymath due in June. This time it is from the case study on Cognizant. Cognizant has earned the right to be called polymaths when it comes to leveraging “exotic” sources of innovation - they harness and integrate talent pools from many parts of the world to service a wide range of industries and technology platforms.
BTW - The text is pre-copy edit and likely to go through some changes.
""The third chapter has seen Francisco D’Souza take over reins, in 2007, as chief executive officer of the company. At 38, that made him of one of the youngest public company CEOs around. It has been a trial by fire, as the world economy tanked soon after. But Cognizant has maintained its growth in spite of the turbulent climate, staying focused on its reputation for operational excellence and distinctive industry acumen. The continued growth also qualified Cognizant for Fortune’s 2009 list of “supercharged performers.” "
"The last few years have given D’Souza even more appreciation for the modern-day version of the competitive advantage of nations.
There are specialized pools of talent—some are regional, some are industry based, some language based—you learn to harness. Take voice-based services. Philippines is grabbing the global leadership from India. Hungary is doing that around many European languages.
But such competitive advantage is fleeting. Bangalore can no longer be as competitive around application management services as other Indian cities, so it is diversifying by attracting entrepreneurs in a number of other areas. You see that with Silicon Valley—different genre of start-ups every few years."
"The larger Western firms had plenty of their own opportunities to develop a global delivery model like Cognizant did in its first decade. Accenture (back then, part of the Arthur Andersen family) had helped SGV, an affiliated firm in the Philippines, set up a software development center as far back as 1986. That could easily have been leveraged and expanded as a link in Accenture’s global delivery supply chain. That talent base was used primarily to service its Asian clients. EDS set up a subsidiary in India in 1996 and did business with local branches of Western companies, such as GM. It eventually bought a majority stake in MphasiS, another Indian outsourcer, in 2006. Through that decade, the storied firm that Ross Perot had built stagnated in revenue growth and eventually was sold to HP in 2008. IBM had reentered the Indian market in the early 1990s but did not start to bulk up local hiring until a decade later. Also, none of these firms could come anywhere close to Cognizant’s TIB model. In general, their own Western staff looked at their global colleagues as “commoditizing” their brand."
"Cognizant 2.0 has helped knit our organization together, essentially making distance and geography a nonissue.
In a Harvard Business School case study on Cognizant 2.0, Robert G. Eccles and Thomas H. Davenport describe how Cognizant employees who blogged and were otherwise active in the community reported ”higher levels of satisfaction and engagement with their jobs”. According to research house International Data Corp., Cognizant 2.0 is “a ‘game changer” for Cognizant, helping to shift the competitive field from labor arbitrage to intellectual arbitrage."
"D'Souza's clients, of course, expect him to be the tour guide. Born in Kenya, he is intimately familiar with the Serengeti, where guides take you in hot air balloons to watch the spectacular annual migration.
D’Souza provides his clients a much wider “balloon”—and the view is even more spectacular. It allows you to see pockets of innovation around the world—especially those coming out of left field."