Outgoing Cisco CEO John Chambers says what separates winners from the losers is speed and the willingness to reinvent themselves.
"It's how fast you move ... your ability to understand your industry, transform your company very well," Chambers said Friday on "CBS This Morning." "Cisco has been up and down probably five different times over 20 years. We usually have three or four years to recover. Now you have a year to recover in lead. So it's going to be about pace of speed, it's going to be about thinking like a start-up."
Chambers took control of Cisco 20 years ago, and on his watch, the company grew from slightly more than $1 billion in annual revenue to $47 billion.
In one of his last appearances as CEO, Chambers offered a blunt assessment at Cisco Live, warning conference attendees that "40 percent of businesses in this room, unfortunately, will not exist in a meaningful way in 10 years."
Companies get left behind, he told the "CBS This Morning" co-hosts, and used Amazon as an example of a company that disrupted the landscape of retail stores.
"[Cisco] had probably 15 years ago, 50 good competitors. None of them exist today. This will be more the norm," Chambers said. "But the neat thing is, this is what America does the best. We are an entrepreneurial nation. We move with tremendous speed."
However, he said, the country hasn't kept up.
"In the first generation of the Internet, we generated 22 million jobs in the '90s, grew GDP over a six-year period in the mid to high teens. ... Today's leaders are countries like France, Germany, India, China, Italy and Great Britain," Chambers said. "So I think we need a national program to get us back on track in terms of leading the second generation of the Internet."
Chambers referenced Cisco's partnerships with France, which he described as one of the countries being the "farthest along" in terms of "digitizing a country."
"You put the electricity of the whole country on the Internet. You train 200,000 French men and women in the Internet of things to make this transition," Chambers said. "You partner on security, you partner on job creation with MEDEF, which is their equivalent of the American chamber of commerce, to create a million jobs. And you have leaders who are willing to take good business risks, and very candidly, aggressive programs and to partner with an American company to make those changes occur. You see the same changes occurring in Germany with Merkel, where it's all about job creation, GDP growth, inclusion of minorities."
Chambers said every company will become a technology company and change "every industry."
"It's like getting phones. If you only have two phones, the power is four-squared," Chambers said. "If you have 500 billion devices connected to the Internet, it will change supply chain. It will change how things get built. It will change how your viewers received their products."
The key takeaway, Chambers stressed, was that "you've got to disrupt or be disrupted."
"And it's going to occur at a much faster pace than we've seen," he said.