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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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Next Generation Working Life

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 >>>

Innovating the future workplace

A couple of weeks ago I published a new blogpost at Ericsson.com about the future workplace and how Kista is changing.

I’ve been at Ericsson for 20 years this year, spending almost as many of them in Kista Science City, which is one of the five largest information technology clusters in the world and also the place where we have our headquarters.

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In 1876, Lars Magnus Ericsson and his wife Hilda started their mechanical engineering workshop. The workshop was situated in a small kitchen in the courtyard building at Drottninggatan 15 in Stockholm.

From these humble beginnings a lot has happened in the world and at Ericsson. The age of industrialization is behind us and we’ve entered the digital age and witnessed the rise of a connected society. A few years back I was running a couple of studies about the future of working life. What challenges we saw ahead, what employees wanted, how new technologies were impacting the office space and how businesses have to optimize their physical spaces to support innovation and creativity. The office – as we use to know it – was proclaimed dead

Another finding from these studies was that people want flexible, modern workplaces with different types of rooms and areas for different types of work. The working environment should primarily be designed to optimize the quality of interpersonal exchange. Another important area is about serendipity. Businesses have to optimize their organization for the ever-changing market conditions. Organizations must plan for random encounters between people with different backgrounds and competences in order to increase the opportunities for innovative ideas.

ericsson-campus-glass-pavilion-evening-light-106547resize1498844crop001498843autoorientquality90stripbackground23ffffffextensionjpgid8The Glass Pavilion Isafjord in evening light seen from Grönlandsgatan.

At Ericsson, we now redefine our workspace to stay relevant as an employer of choice. We will be constructing a new Ericsson Campus at our headquarters in Kista, Stockholm including new and existing buildings and spaces. Looking at the construction plans, I’m excited!!

I see that the things we talked about in the reports are actually being implemented. Our ambition is to be a state of the art, agile and inspiring workplace. In line with our brand promise the quest for easy, the project aims to simplify and optimize how teams and organizations collaborate thinking of all aspects of what a modern workplace should include, such as the employees, the public areas, how the flow of people will be in the area as well as be inspiring, open, inviting and sustainable.

Read the rest of the post at Ericsson.com

Future Summit i Norrköping

Jag har rest runt och pratat på många konferenser, både stora och små runt om i världen. En av det roligaste och trevligaste jag varit på är Future Summit i Norrköping tidigare i höst. Vi talare fick tid att umgås och träffas redan dagen innan själva konferensen, där vi fick vara med om en resa ut i rymden i visualiseringscenter, vi besökte det fantastiska lilla biblioteket och observatoriet i De Geer Gymnasiet och vi fick en fin stadsvandring. Det hela avslutades med middag tillsammans med stad och näringsliv.fs_nkpg 16IMG_0170 2

När vi sedan stod på scenen under konferensen kände vi redan varandra och kunde leverera bra innehåll och interagera i varandras paneldiskussioner.

När vi gick till tåget, dagen efter konferensen fanns vi på förstasidan i NT!

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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

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

Systemet och miljön

Wind, en prisbelönt kortfilm om hur levande system påverkas av sin miljö och hur det måste ändras när miljön ändras. Arbetslivet (ett levande system) påverkas i högsta grad av sin miljö (samhällsstruktur, marknad, ekonomi, etc.) Detta är en utmaning för de flesta när vi nu lämnar industrialismens miljö till det uppkopplade samhällets miljö.

Mer animeringar av Robert Loebel hittar ni på http://www.robertloebel.com/

 

Say hello to the era of social business

post-1-siembraviva-768x373In our brand new report, The Social Business Era: Creating Impact and Influencing Change, we explore a new model for 2017 and beyond: The Social Business. This is a new type of company on the market that is out to challenge traditional ways of doing businesses.

The majority of companies operating today use profit as their main measurement, i.e. the business is judged by others (the market) with economic figures and the potential for growth. But things are changing.

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It is no coincidence that social businesses have recently emerged and developed in the Networked Society. But why is this happening now?

  1. The ultra-capitalistic industrial society of the late 20th Century is now being questioned as a relevant model for a ‘good world’. At the same time, the state and traditional social institutions that are supposed to care for the welfare of citizens are failing people across the world.
  2. New generations growing up with mobility, broadband, and internet access are now entering the arena of social issues. They are also used to things moving quickly, getting things done right away, and seeing direct impact. They experience frustration with old ways of doing things and the slowness and inefficiencies of institutions to accomplish any real change.
  3. The necessary technology is already in place. Today, we have technology platforms, digital tools, and social networks available for free or at a low cost, which makes it possible for people to start something without the need for large investments or technological skills.

How do we define The Social Business?

  1. No dividends allowed. “A non-dividend company that is created to address and solve a social problem”.
  2. Focus on intent and output: “An organization formed by one or more people whose commercial activities are primarily driven by the desire to create positive social change”.
  3. A broad, pragmatic approach: “A business whose primary intent is to create social impact and that uses revenue streams to become financially sustainable in order to further that impact”.

Create positive impact…who wouldn’t want to do that?

In my next post for the Networked Society blog, I will take a look at the main differences between traditional and social businesses.

Read more about this report at Ericsson Networked Society site

Related: The Social Business Era: Creating Impact and Influencing Change

 

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.

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