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Mikael Eriksson Björling

Things that matters! About digital transformation, design, creativity and lifestyle in the Networked Society

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Consumers and Users

User and experience design—expectations on service providers

UXOver the last 20 years, we have seen incredible changes in our society. Both in the ways we work and the type of jobs and professions that are available on the market. We have changed, and the way we interact with each other has changed. Almost every day we meet a completely new type of experience in our daily-life, like self-driving buses or Tesla’s self-driving taxis.

In fact, many of the situations we find ourselves in every day are designed with a special focus on creating a great experience for us. However, even though there is a much deeper understanding and focus on this today, many companies have a hard time delivering it.

Experience-design needs to be a key focus

20 years ago, the dotcom era was in full bloom. At that time, the shift from printed design towards digital design really started. The designers back then interacted with new digital tools both for designing print and digital products, with the introduction of tools like Quark Xpress, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Macromedia Dreamweaver, Director, and Flash.

A whole set of new possibilities came with the new tools in the early 1990’s. But at that time there was less focus on the holistic experience, the customer and user journeys and their wants and needs.

It is easy to find prime examples of good-looking designs (esthetics) from the dotcom era, but those designs didn’t work because of little focus on the customers, the users, their contexts and their business models. Lack of usefulness, usability issues, and market timing were common mistakes, if you are curious about epic failures you can read more here. Today many  companies are aware of these things and there is a whole new trade around design. The next focus is all about user-centric designs that focus on the experience of the end user.

Multi-disciplinary team of UX and CX designers

At Ericsson Digital Services, we have a multi-disciplinary team of UX (User Experience) and CX  (Customer Experience) designers bringing skills such as interaction designers, visual designers, user researchers, data analysts, front-end developers and service designers, with one common focus. However, we need many, many more!

Tune in to the podcast with Dez Blanchfield and Didier Chincholle to get a deeper insight into what consumers expect today from their service providers, and how Ericsson Digital Services is helping to create intuitive experiences: Ericsson Future Digital Blog >>>

5 ways to master the new innovation game

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Assuming your organization has a creative mindset, and beyond the possible implications of emerging technologies, a key challenge lies in pinning down what is required from an organizational perspective for innovation to take place. To a large extent, this is the key challenge in the business world today and something that many organizations, especially larger ones, struggle with. What are the prerequisites for making innovation happen?

As part of my work with Ericsson and a recent study we conducted, we identified 5 ways to master the new innovation game. These are:

  1. Insight: Understanding people and understanding the problem
  2. Outsight: Keeping track of the world around us
  3. Innovation vision
  4. Culture as fuel for innovation
  5. Structure for creativity

Let’s look at them one by one:

Insight: Understanding people and understanding the problem

A key viewpoint that most creative thinkers will agree upon is that innovation is essentially about understanding human beings. The problems that are supposed to be solved by a structured innovation approach are ultimately human, not corporate. To identify the real problems and pain-points requires an understanding of humans in their natural habitat. Some innovators and entrepreneurs have a natural eye for the world and people around them and make the problematization and analysis by default. But in most cases, innovation requires an explicit and structured research effort of going out in the real world to gain insights that become relevant platforms for innovation.

Innovation also requires fundamental understanding of the problem you want to solve – and innovate based upon this understanding. This perspective stems from the notion that innovation is about solving real-life problems for people and digging deep into what these problems actually mean. Prehype, a New York-based venture development firm, believes that a good long problematization phase is the heart of all innovation. Nicholas Thorne at Prehype says:

“We focus our time in problem space rather than in execution space. If you get the problem right the solution presents itself.”

Outsight: Keeping track of the world around us

Innovation not only requires a solid understanding of end users, it also requires keeping track of how the world at large is changing and which implications this will have on our culture in general, and your area of business specifically. To a great extent, innovation is a question of timing and being in sync with the world around.

People and companies that are in tune with their times and have a sense of what the next big thing is will likely time their innovations relevantly, while people and companies that don’t have that outsight will waste and spoil good ideas and inventions because they don’t understand the larger sociocultural and socioeconomic context.

Innovation vision

Frederic Laloux describes how we are entering an era where organizations are increasingly driven by missions, and employees are motivated by the unique user value that they can help provide. Successful innovation comes from coming up with ideas that fill real needs and serve a purpose. In other words, this emphasizes the importance of having a clear vision for why and what we want to innovate. There are many examples of leaders who embody a vision which sparks innovation by giving employees a strong sense of purpose.

Open, flat and decentralized organizations with a creative and playful organizational culture also require a more visionary leadership. These types of organizations are made up of talented, skilled, and independent people with their own drive, who usually respond best to visionary leadership. They work most efficiently when working towards a bigger idea – a vison or a mission – that brings meaning to their work and daily tasks.

As discussed in Ericsson’s 2013 Networked Society Lab Report: Moving Fast and Breaking Things – a tale of digital business transformation, the product organization is an answer to this. The product organization is made up of a number of product-focused teams that are allowed to operate very autonomously within the organization, as long as they work towards the overall vision or mission of the organization. The role of the leader is to promote, uphold and manage the vision rather than micromanage various projects.

Culture as fuel for innovation

Culture is a core focus for organizations that aim to be at the forefront in terms of creativity. The old maxim “culture beats strategy” could actually be rephrased as “culture is strategy”. Culture plays a key role in addressing the challenge of gluing teams together and making them committed to the company mission. Creating a strong community is prioritized as a strategic way of attracting the best employees and to motivate them to spend time in the office. But culture is equally as important as a strategic way of creating an environment where innovation will thrive. The idea is that innovation can occur at all times and at all levels of the organization, given the right cultural climate.

Innovation is as much a human story as it is a story about technology. Organizational culture, people and diversity are at the heart of any discussion on innovation – and the cultural aspect of innovation was highlighted by almost everyone interviewed in our study. The argument is that companies that are able to create a certain kind of organizational culture will see innovation emerge from within the organization with much less effort than in other organizations. An innovation friendly culture will be able to manage, value and prioritize ideas that show up in the organization rather than dropping them before they are even tested and tried. Some thinkers on innovation go as far as to claim that innovation equals culture.

Structure for creativity

For the longest time there was a bias towards viewing innovation as something that just happens in a “magical” way in a black box of creativity. But even if innovation can sometimes happen accidentally, the opposite is usually true for truly valuable innovation to happen. In the academic world, innovation is often described as a systematic management process and an organizational structure, rather than a black box of creativity that occasionally generates innovative ideas with real business potential.

Academic research on innovation in organizations suggests that innovation should be managed strategically from the top level of a company. Companies should have an organizational structure that enables innovation and allows people who work with innovation to pursue careers in innovation. Companies should have a defined process for how to drive innovation within the organization, and should be able to measure and follow up on their innovation efforts just like they do in any other department of their business.

There are many different ways of perceiving how a structure for creativity is best achieved from an organizational perspective, but a common theme is that there has to be a structured process for collecting, evaluating and implementing new ideas. Without the process in place, the understanding of end users and the world they live in, the visionary leadership and the culture of innovation will not succeed in creating strong and meaningful innovation. When ideas are not acted upon, the creative force will eventually fade and the culture or vision will not be enough to encourage continuous innovation.

Like this post? Don’t forget to check out the firstsecond and third at Ericsson Blog

Converging Technology – Diverging Families

ESOMAR10 Year ago, we (Fredrik Öhrfelt, Mikael E Björling, Erik Kruse) submitted a paper “Converging Technology – Diverging Families” to ESOMAR. The paper was nominated to the ESOMAR award ”best research paper of the year”. The research we did 2006 was about technology usage in middleclass families in US, Sweden, and Spain. Well, is an understatement a lot of water has passed the bridge since this research was performed. This was pre- iPhone and Mobile Broadband, but interestingly many questions related to children’s usage is still the same today.

2006 not everything was published online, therefore I publish this paper again as it looked when it was printed in Resarch World.

Converging Technology – Diverging families (OhrfeltBjorlingKruse)

Life in 2025: The Mobile

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In our model of lifestyle movements for the Networked Society in 2025, the last group, the Mobile, are difficult to pin down. To some extent they definitely want to see themselves as classless. Their overall motivation is to move between contexts without committing too heavily to one career path, one lifestyle, one life project, or one category of consumption.the-mobile-588x300

Some of them they may work on freelance basis, others might engage in various kinds of collective projects and then they may simply step back from any type of productive life, before they again seek out employment in different areas. The Mobile might quickly switch geographical and cultural contexts and may compromise a relatively good job with a good salary to take a lower paying job at an interesting location. In a sense, the Mobile are relatively empowered in society, but they tend to shy away from taking on too many challenges and responsibility. They are often highly individualistic and prioritize the accumulation of personal experiences before a career or a socially regarded position.

The Mobile focus on experiences, preferably as alternative as possible. They collect these experiences and use digital tools, services, and social media to maintain and manage their narrative of their life experiences. They prefer to live light in order to stay flexible and they exercise a mobile lifestyle. Accordingly, they avoid owning and possessing things and instead choose access-based models. Being highly digital in everything they do and consume allows them to stay light, flexible, and mobile.

The Mobile:

  • move between contexts
  • focus on experiences
  • own as little as possible
  • are highly individualistic
  • shy from responsibilities
  • use digital services of access.

Explore more about The Mobile here.

Life in 2025: The Social

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In 2025’s Networked Society, the Social are empowered and have momentum in society but do not belong to a traditional labor market. They have either chosen to leave or been forced out of the traditional labor market, because of the structural changes in society, and have instead taken matters into their own hands. Accordingly, they are removed from institutionalized systems but they have also deliberately chosen to “escape the market” because they no longer believe in the traditional industrial system (because it hasn’t been able to provide for them). As they are stepping out of the system and escape the market, they are promoting an alternative economic system.the-social-588x300

Some of them move from traditional forms of work to focusing a majority of their time and effort in the categories they are passionate about. They become more and more involved in these categories, until a point where they start to add productive value to their consumption. This can be done in different ways. When a person becomes extremely knowledgeable about a category that she is interested in, she rises above the market, making other consumers and companies extra interested in the person’s opinions and ready to reward the person as an expert, communicating her opinions in various social media outlets or entering into more formalized co-creation with commercial providers. As a result of this, some people make their passion their occupation. This can be done by making their names in various forms of social media, making money through fashion blogging, news writing, video game reviews and other pursuits. Or, they may start up small alternative businesses, focusing on handicraft, craftsmanship, or sustainable ecological products, and eventually turn their passion into their living.

The Social:

  • operate outside the traditional labor market
  • focus on their passions
  • disrupt the traditional ways
  • are empowered by and dependent on their own community
  • take collaborative initiatives
  • form alternative networks.

Explore more about The Social here.

Life in 2025: The Anchored

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The Anchored are the people steadily rooted in the middle class, which was once the result of the 20th century industrialization. In 2025, they are still living in the traditional industrial economic system. While they used to be employed in the manufacturing industry and related sectors, in the 21st century they have migrated increasingly to the service sector.the-anchored-588x300

A majority of the Anchored hold jobs in retail, sales functions, the catering industry, transportation, logistics, healthcare, customer service functions, and IT service functions. Some still work in the manufacturing industries and in civil servant positions, but they are significantly fewer than before due to a decreased need for traditional labor in these sectors and, in the case of government, due to significantly weaker finances.

The Anchored are the people in the Networked Society who most hold on to traditional, 20thcentury values. Due to their diminishing financial means, they are increasingly consuming only basic, automatically manufactured products in most categories, while saving up to acquire one or a few more goods loaded with material status.

The Anchored:

  • work within the traditional industrial economic system
  • value traditions and stability
  • focus on material status
  • divide life into work and leisure
  • save up to acquire a few goods loaded with material status
  • focus on affordable experiences.

Explore more about The Anchored here.

Life in 2025: The Players

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In the Networked Society of 2025, the Players are outside the economic system or have never been invited into it. They also lack the ability, skills, connections, and motivation to get back into the game, land a traditional job, or organize themselves. They do temporary jobs here and there, live off various forms of social security payments, and exchange favors with family and friends. Most of the Players have plenty of time at their disposal, and spend their time primarily on entertainment and games of various kinds. Sometimes they are pulled into different initiatives, but they rarely organize themselves.

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The Players often live under strained conditions and sometimes even struggle to take care of some of their basic needs. Many of them can’t really afford to own a home, but they tend to value their possessions greatly.

The Players spend much of their time playing in different ways. Primarily they consume easily available entertainment of all kinds: TV, movies, games, sports, social media, betting, and adult entertainment. Many of them seek out free alternatives on the market, whether legal (freemium business models) or illegal (such as pirate streaming of TV and video).

The Players:

  • operate outside the traditional labor market
  • have plenty of time
  • engage in digitally enabled entertainment
  • seek out free alternatives
  • value possessions and personal security.

Explore more about The Players here.

Life in 2025: The Resourceful

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My previous blog post was about the model you can use to understand movements in lifestyles in the Networked Society. If you missed that post you can find it here.  In this post, let’s look closer at the Resourceful.the-resourceful-588x300

The Resourceful employ the most attractive positions in society and are made up of business owners, entrepreneurs, investors, innovators, managers, leaders, information and knowledge workers, artists and creative workers, highly skilled specialists, and high-level politicians and government officials. The Resourceful have either economic, cultural, or social capital – and in many cases they have plenty of all three. They also have the ability to trade in cultural and social capital for economic capital and are, therefore, not always dependent on a traditional paycheck to carry them in their life as consumers. The Resourceful are, per capita, the strongest consumption class in the Networked Society, but as they are also the smallest group, they are primarily a force in terms of opinion leadership related to consumption.

The group spends a lot of their economic capital on consumption, but also uses their cultural and social capital to access and acquire the products, services, and consumption experiences they want. Many brands in all sorts of categories will allow them to use their products and services for free in order to reach out to other consumers through the networks of the Resourceful.

In short, the Resourceful:

  • have economic, cultural and/or social capital
  • belong to influential networks
  • seek extraordinary experiences
  • prioritize health and wellbeing
  • make conscious statements about global sustainability.

Explore more about The Resourceful here.

Life in 2025: A new model for emerging roles

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We are now sixteen years into the new millennium and we have had internet and a global standard for mobile telephony for a quarter of a century. The new millennium marks in many ways the transition from the age of industrialization to a new paradigm, which we call The Networked Society.

Now, with some distance, we are able to see the age of industrialization for what it really was. To generalize, it was an era of escalating capitalism, mass-manufacturing, mass-consumption, and a highly modernistic organization of life into clear cut categories, invented by the great institutions of the 20th century: governments and large enterprises.

During the age of industrialization the individual left her rural and collective societies, moved into cities and urban areas, separated work life from private life, made more money than ever before, increased her standard of living, and started to consume the fruits of the free markets. But how are these structures being challenged? What is happening with life and lifestyles right now? In what direction are we moving? How are values and attitudes changing? And what clusters of different lifestyles do we see emerging? These are some of the questions we explore in the Life in 2025 work. This work is based on multiple sources from the research we done the last five years (which you are welcome to explore at The Networked Society site)

On an overall level we’d argue that it’s possible to understand the new structure of society along two dimensions: inside the system vs. outside the system; that is, those that are part of established institutions, networks, and employment and those who are not. The next dimension is if you are empowered or dependent; that is, those who are active in society and strive to control their own situation and those who are dependent on other groups in society and with less control of their own situation. This gives us four macro level groups to consider: The Resourceful, The Social, The Players, and The Anchored. Into this model we also want to plot a fifth group we expect to emerge in the Networked Society, The Mobile, which gives us the following model.life-in-2025-588x300

All these groups have different life conditions, their lifestyles, values and attitudes are different. So this model is a framework for thinking and analyzing, rather than a quantified picture of the world. The size of the quadrants and how many people that will be empowered vs. dependent is very much a political and ideological question and this will be different in different countries. I hope you’ll join me over the course of my next five blogposts, as I describe the different lifestyles one by one.

Read more the the Networked Society blog >>>

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