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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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Design

UX design in AI

Currently, computational capacity is doubling roughly every 18 months. The pace of this development, amplified by rapid improvements in software, has resulted in artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced algorithms that are quickly evolving to understand and interpret some of our most complex natural processes.
At the same time, the ability to access this capacity is multiplying due to sharp increases in bandwidth, improvements in latency and other quality of service parameters with technologies such as 5G. Interfaces are also becoming more seamless due to advances in cloud computing as well as visual, tactile, and verbal interface technologies.

These exponential improvements have brought what, just over a decade ago, were considered industrial-strength processing and communication capabilities into the homes and hands of individuals everywhere. As industries adopt these technologies to modernize and automate their business processes to increase value chain efficiency and effectiveness, a new service-based concept for the technology has emerged. The self-driving or autonomous car is an example of this new concept. Eventually cars will no longer have drivers, a fundamental change in the concept of a car. The passenger of such a vehicle will interact with it on a much higher and abstract level as a service. When we apply this concept to the telecom sector, i.e. creating a “self-driving network”, AI technology will be the brains behind this change. This presents two main challenges for those developing the concept and service:

  1. The conceptual shift from today’s understanding of what a network is, becoming something more abstract than what it is today, operating on new parameters.
  2. The fact that a user of such a service will interact with the system on a much higher, more abstract level.

Therefore, the understanding of the business goals and the user of the system is key to success. With the role of users shifting from drivers to passengers and from operators to managers, designers will need to create highly collaborative solutions allowing tangible and reliable interaction between AI technology and the user.

In light of this, the Experience Design team at Ericsson has been researching and developing how to design trustworthy, AI-powered services for telecom operators. Through designing the Cognitive Operation Support System service concept, we have identified four components of human trust that can be applied to AI powered systems. These four pillars – competence, benevolence, integrity and charisma – are the key areas designers and business owners need to address to be successful when it comes to the adoption of AI.

Read the rest of this paper or download a PDF file at Ericsson.com

Ericsson Design System!

The Ericsson Design System was 2018 honored with a Red Dot award for its innovative approach to user experience, enabling agile software design and implementation. This video we created together with House of Radon.

Watch more videos at Ericsson.com

Design awards: What sets the new Ericsson interface design apart?

The new Ericsson Design System consists of everything a designer or developer needs to create iconic user experiences. From the design foundation with the visual hierarchy, themes, colors, typography, and iconography to components with ready to use code. The only thing you have to add to the drink is creativity! And the system is constantly evolving and is co-created together with its users.

Design has always been important for Ericsson. Creating smart solutions and aesthetics expressions that provide value in a perfect blend. When I think about classic Swedish industrial design, one of the first images that pops up in my head is the Ericofon designed by Ralph Lysell Ericsson in 1955.

01_Ericofon

Since 1955 the Red Dot Award has selected the best designs in different categories such as product design. This summer they selected Ericsson Design System as the winner in the category Interface Design for its innovative approach to user experience, enabling agile software design and implementation.

02_EDS

What does the design system look like?

The design system supports both the designer and the developer. As a designer you have all design elements including layout templates and examples accessible in either Sketch or Adobe Illustrator formats. And for the developer the design system supports the most common platforms.

The typography used in the design system is the brand-new font Hilda, that is optimized for digital interfaces and to be perfectly rendered and readable on screens. The Hilda font comes in a light, regular, medium, and bold weights.

04_Typo

New iconography has been created following a minimalistic approach where each icon is crafted to offer high legibility in small resolutions.

06_Colors

The color palette is optimized to be readable in different contexts and special focus has been to make the colors as accessible as possible for people with low-vision or color blindness. The colors in the deign system is used to guide the users towards key messages rather that as decorative and esthetic elements. Every color in the system has a meaning and has been carefully selected and tested.

07_Components

The design system has a large and growing set of common components ready to be used, including usage guidelines, implementation guidelines as well as running example you can interact with. It also comes with code snippets in HTML Markup, LESS and JavaScript (Vanilla).
03_Assets

The design system supports all type of screens from the largest screens in a network operation center used by professionals to the smallest screens used by consumers it has an adaptive layout and it comes in two themes. One bright theme that is optimized for text readability and one dark theme that suits darker environment such as an operation center.

08_Adaptive

Let’s have look at how services and apps look like using Ericsson’s new Design System!

09_ExampleEnterprise communication administration dashboard.

 

10_Example
My phone plan app and smartwatch app for network analytics.

 

Want to know more about Ericsson Design system? Read more at Ericsson.com

Download EDS Infograph

Culture is a foundation of the new innovation game

Innovation, design, and creativity are stimulated by diversity. That’s one of the reasons I’m glad to be part of one of the most diverse teams in the whole company: Ericsson Experience Design (the team that created the award-winning Ericsson Design System)!experience-design-team01-111511crop50029151640resize1500844autoorientbackground23ffffffquality90stripextensionjpgid8

Culture is a foundation of the new innovation game

I recently wrote about innovation and what it takes to master the new innovation game, where I discussed that the most important areas to master are the following:

  1. insight (understanding people and the problem)
  2. outsight (keeping track of the world around us)
  3. innovation vision
  4. culture as fuel for innovation
  5. structure for creativity

I can say that success in all five areas is driven by a commitment to diversity.  But let’s focus on culture.  Here is a piece from my blog post:

“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.”

Driving innovative design on a diverse team

In the team, we represent 17 nationalities, we have a proper ratio between genders, we come from different backgrounds and cultures, and we have a good spread in different age groups, ranging from baby boomers to millennials.

We have different educational backgrounds, from engineers and anthropologists to interaction designers and architects; we have different approaches, perspectives, and ways of solving design problems and challenges; we think differently – together.

How does this help us in our daily work? Ericsson is a company with offices and staff in about 160 countries, and we serve customers in more than 180 countries. The products and services we deliver are intended for a market that is truly global – when we are designing, we design with a global outlook, keeping our worldwide, diverse target audience firmly in mind.

Designing for a global market

But how do you understand the various markets, the local contexts, and the differences within a global business? One way is to go to the customers and do research. To meet the people who are going to use our products and services and understand their contexts and challenges at work. This is a cornerstone in our design process.

But we can’t be hanging out with our customers all the time. On an ordinary workday in our studio, we make hundreds of different design decisions, generating ideas for new concepts and delivering designs to sprints.

In this process, diversity is the number one key! The designs we are working on today are aimed for a truly global market, and our strength as a team is that we are so diverse and have so many different perspectives within the team.

Sounds interesting, right? Don’t miss that we’re currently recruiting! If you are interested, ping us.

Read more about Ericsson at the Ericsson blog >>>

Adopting design thinking to embrace a changing business landscape

During the last few years many of the big traditional management consultancy companies have acquired creative and digital agencies. Why? I believe they want to ensure they have the right competence and the right toolbox to future proof their business in today’s increasingly digitally transformed business landscape.gui_design_2-90068crop013667083774resize1500844autoorientquality90stripbackground23ffffffextensionjpgid8

In my opinion, traditional management thinking will simply not be enough going forward in the new digital business landscape. The big consultancy companies have realized they need to add creativity and methodologies into their portfolios.
McKinsey, for example, has added a digital arm to its operations by acquiring VerydayLunar and Carbon 12. Accenture did the same by acquiring Fjord and Kaplan. Elsewhere, Deloitte has acquired Mobiento and Acne. These are just some examples from bigger players but there are many more examples.

How design thinking is related to business

At Ericsson, we believe that organizations need to leverage on connectivity to thrive. About five years ago, we also started to take bigger steps to develop more digital ways of working that are better suited for the business landscape of the future.

In our Future of Work report we explain how life is undergoing dramatic changes and organizations will have to rethink how they structure work. As described above, this is happening all around us – at your workplace and mine.

By creating a culture that focuses on individuals, organizations can build a reputation of being a progressive and talent friendly company.

When individuals get the opportunity to work on meaningful tasks, they embrace the organization, and they will also attract talent from their own network. Organizations that quickly learn how to manage talent will not only innovate faster than their competitors, they will also outperform them on the bottom line.

McKinsey recently published The Value of Design report in which they also conclude that “the best design performers increase their revenues and shareholder returns at nearly twice the rate of their industry counterparts.”
So, design – good design – and revenue are closely related. This means there is less space for bad design in todays connected and transparent market were users have such widespread access to all information. Back in the day, bad design had a bigger chance to survive in the analogue and physical world that no longer exists.
Good design meets the needs of the customer and user. Good design makes the complex easy to understand.

So, if we can agree that good design is a necessity in the emerging business landscape, how do you go about creating and fostering good design?
To create a good customer and user experience you need to get three areas correct. First your product or service needs to fill someone’s need for something. That’s what we call usefulness, i.e. we need to design the right product.

The next step is to design the product right, i.e. usability. Users and customers need to understand how to use and interact with your design.

The third area is brand or the aesthetics. The design has to reflect your brand and have an esthetic expression that matches the purpose of the design.

To get these three areas right there are processes that businesses can use and there are specific competences and craftmanship which they can employ – that is what the consultancy firm is paying these creative agencies for).

In future blog posts I will explore these processes, competences and what you can do to boost creativity in your business.

This blog post was originally posted on the Ericsson Blog >>>

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

5-ways-to-master-the-new-innovation-game-450x300

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

5 key steps to creating an innovation mindset

mindset

If innovation is about developing something new that impacts the market and creates value for users – what is required to make that happen?

Innovation is a question of mindset, and creating that mindset precedes everything else. In my opinion, it’s the innovation mindset that overrides the aspects of human nature that are often holding back innovation in large organizations.

So, how do we create an innovation mindset?

1. Be open to change

To be open to change means to admit and embrace the notion that the world is in constant transformation and all areas of society are challenged by this change. It also means to be aware of where this transforming world is heading and to curiously keep track of change and new phenomena. Finally, it also means that you have to constantly keep analyzing what the transformation means and what the possible consequences of the transformation will be for your business.

Change is a tricky thing – we all have to deal with it and organizations are no different. Accepting the fact that technological transformation is about to impact your business is usually very hard for established organizations.

Let’s apply a light version of the Kübler-Ross Change Curve to this:kubler-ross-change-curve-768x401

Denial is a common reaction to new technology and new market forces that can potentially overthrow an organization’s incumbent business.

‘We’ve been doing what we do for many years: it has proven successful and if we just continue to deliver on our quality we will be back on track again. The newcomer does not even have a working business model and are financed by venture capital.’

Defense is the next stage in the Change Curve: a kind of anger or aggressive energy to defend one’s current business model. A prime example of this can be seen in the music industry when MP3 and streaming came along as new technologies, and established organizations tried to change laws and prosecute against their customers.

The next stage is depression, where an organization will begin lamenting the state of affairs. Only after this depression stage are they ready to accept the new market paradigm and start working towards managing and adapting to it.

In today’s fast-moving markets there is little time to dwell in the different stages of the Change Curve, as competitors and new market entrants are pushing forward while you’re in the first three stages. To be innovative, established businesses must learn to shortcut the Change Curve and go directly from shock (pre-denial) to acceptance, without dropping into any of the stages in between.

2. Embrace creativity

The other aspect of an innovative mindset is to truly embrace creativity. An innovator’s attitude is that creativity is the solution to problems, rather than a traditional scientific method. This argument is predominant among many of those who have successfully practiced innovation in the realm of daily business activities. The innovation-as-art perspective in business stems – to a large extent – from the concept of design thinking.

But importantly, to equate innovation with art doesn’t rule out the necessity of structure, processes and methodology for innovation. All these are required also when practicing the art of innovation. However, the innovation-as-art perspective stresses that the starting point for innovation is creativity, rather than implementation of management processes and organizational structures for innovation. Which, in turn, requires a certain kind of culture and organization that enables creativity. In this area, we see many digital companies positioning themselves. For example, Valve Software, who stress their flat organization and the freedom – and every employees responsibility – to be creative in everyday work in their company handbook.

3. Think big

Today, most academic researchers and experts on innovation agree that innovation is about more than just incremental improvements to existing products or product extensions.

This leads to the point that innovation requires an ability and the courage to think bigger and beyond the current norms and truths in the market. Innovation is about stretching one’s thoughts out of everyday ordinary thinking and analysis.

We’d argue that big thinking and innovation is a combination of analytical skills, entrepreneurial spirit and the ability to fantasize. Few individuals are blessed with all these capabilities, but a group of people – and certainly organizations – are well equipped to accommodate these capabilities under the same roof. This is also one of the reasons why a diverse organizational culture has emerged as a key prerequisite for innovation: diverse groups that combine skills and capabilities can accomplish big thinking more easily than homogenous groups that are likely to reproduce versions of similar thinking over and over again.

4. Show courage

Innovation doesn’t happen unless organizations and the innovators within them have the courage to constantly rethink how things can be done. It takes courage not to conform to widespread beliefs and popular “truths” in big organizations. It takes courage to challenge proven strategies and successful products and services before they go into decline. It takes courage to question management and colleagues for doing things the way they have always done. It takes courage to constantly problematize and be that one person who always goes against the grain and tries to think about things from a different angle. It takes courage to be vulnerable rather than playing it safe according to established business practice. It takes courage to venture into the new and uncertain, risking failure.

But all of the above is necessary to push innovation forward and to create an innovative climate in organizations. Because when has anything new ever happened unless someone dared to take that step into the uncertainty of the unknown? When I think about the courage needed to take that first step I always think about the guy that started a dance party at Sasquatch music festival. That is exactly how things can work in an organization as well.

5. Think and act fast

Innovation within an organization must be a fast-moving process to keep up with the change going on outside of the organization.

Twentieth century innovation was often a slow process, with long lead times from idea to concept, and concept to market. A lot of time usually went into extensive R&D. In the automotive industry, for example, the timeframe to invent, design and launch a new car model has been around eight years. But today, eight years is an eon in an automotive market that is transforming year by year. Potentially disruptive business models for auto manufacturing like Local Motorshave proved that a new car can be dreamed up and launched in the market in 12 to 18 months, and with advanced 3D printing technologies and VR-aided design and manufacturing, that timeframe can probably be cut even shorter in the years to come.

To sum all of this up succinctly, there are five main ingredients to an innovation mindset. We need to be open to change, have a bias towards to creativity, an ability to think big, unrelenting courage to challenge the norm, and be characterized by speed of thought and action.

An organization with the desire to be innovative must think fast and apply a fast-paced innovation process with an efficient go-to-market roadmap. In this context, it’s also critical to adhere to the notion of “failing fast”, as new ideas and concepts have to be tested out quickly and be shut down just as quickly if they don’t fly. In this way, the organization can move resources to the next concept instead of getting stuck in a dead-end innovation project, because after all, the world’s next “big idea” is just around the corner.

This is the second post in a four-part series on innovation:

Why is innovation the buzzword right now?

3 ways that new technologies are accelerating innovation

5 ways to master the new innovation game

Design from the dot com era

I developed this IP telephony concept during the autumn 2000 for Ericsson Business Corporation. The work included doing the interaction design, graphical design, prototype development and usability testing. This was three years before the first version of Skype was launched 2003. The sound quality in the application was incredible good at the time. This at a time when most people used dialup modem to access internet and hardly anyone used a wireless access. Laptops was rare, and about 90+ % of the population in the developed world still had fixed line phones at home. In Sweden at that time about 40% of the population used internet at work at least on a weekly basis.

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