Outgoing Cisco CEO John Chambers used his final keynote at the helm of the company this week to tell business leaders to innovate and reinvent themselves or risk dying. 

The bullish Republican, voted one of the top 25 most powerful people in the world by CNN, said firms must embrace technology and be brave or they will be overtaken by their competitors. 

Cisco CEO John Chambers ©Cisco
Cisco CEO John Chambers ©Cisco

"Companies fail because they keep doing the right thing too long,” said Chambers at the annual Cisco Live conference in San Diego. “Disrupt or be disrupted.” 

Chambers, due to step down this summer after 20 years as Cisco CEO, said businesses will need to focus on acceleration, simplicity, operational rigour and culture if they are to succeed in today’s digital age. 

“If you don’t change you’re going to get taken out by companies that look Silicon Valleyish," he added.

He argued that "fast IT", something Cisco actively aims to produce, is key for companies looking to transform into digital enterprises. 

The CEO, who will remain on the Cisco board, said he was alarmed that only seven percent of CEOs have what Chambers described as a digital strategy. 

He said that the US has led the technology revolution during his tenure at Cisco but said the next digital era could be led by different countries, singling out the digital agendas being set by UK prime minister David Cameron and Germany chancellor Angela Merkel for praise. 

Incoming CEO Chuck Robins will take the helm after a probing 10 month vetting process which has taken place largely under the public eye. 

Chambers received two standing ovations from the crowd as he exited the company.

Cisco believes the 'internet of everything' market has the potential to create $19 trillion (£12 trillion).