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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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Organization and Leadership

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

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

Why is innovation the buzzword right now?

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What exactly is innovation? And how does it work in the business transformation context within ICT?

At Ericsson, we have talked about the fundamental digital transformation that is taking place across our entire society for many years, with particular focus on the new opportunities and challenges it brings.

This shift has matured recently: new businesses move from startup buzz to industry disruptor at lightning speed. Just take a look at the great impact on traditional businesses that companies such as Airbnb and Uber have had in their industries. This will only accelerate as more and more intelligence moves up in the cloud.

Just a short while ago, digital transformation was only on the agenda of the larger tech players. Now, it’s on everyone’s agenda. Businesses and organizations of all sizes in every industry understand that digital transformation is also affecting them and the way they do business both now and into the future. They are all aware that in this new world there might be a garage startup, either around the corner or on the other side of the globe, with ideas that will disrupt their current market by offering radically different propositions.

So, when there is awareness, what should traditional businesses and organizations do? Let’s begin by answering the questions I asked in the beginning of this post.

There are four different drivers in our innovation model, which you can see in the figure below:innovation-model-768x332

  • ‘Outside Drive’ (at the top) are areas outside of a company’s control. This could be changed laws or regulations, shifting consumer behaviors, or new disruptive technologies such as AI, VR or 5G.
  • ‘Inside Control’ (at the bottom) are areas a company can control, such as definition of their core business, consolidation, scale gain opportunities or maturing technology.
  • The left side of the model is evolution from where the business is today, to the right which is disruption.

To secure a good position in the future market of your business, you must be aware of what is happening in your broader industry related to the fields in the model. If we plot where innovation is happening, we can see that traditional businesses focus naturally on the left side of the model in value chain effectiveness and efficiency, while we often find the digital giants and startups on the right side of the model.

The lower left corner of the model is about using new technologies to innovate for better performance of current offerings. If we take the example of a car manufacturer, this could be using ICT to automate the flow and construction of cars in the factory. Basically: do what you do more efficiently than the competition. ict-cityview-768x440The upper left corner is about using ICT to innovate value chain efficiency and improve offerings to the current market. In the car industry, this is typically a connected car. Today’s connected cars are sold as any other car, but they make use of the connectivity to improve the offerings toward the car buyer. This could be to offer safety features like calling 112 automatically if an accident happens, or having built-in connected features like ‘find where I parked my car’.

The right side of the model is a typical industry that is populated with a lot of startups or digital giants that are coming up with completely new propositions compared to traditional businesses.

The lower right corner is about innovating the backend: to use something internal in the company and expose that across other industries to find synergies. An example of that – if we are going to stick with the car industry – is the Ericsson Connected Vehicle Cloud which would be located in this corner. It’s a global cloud-based solution making it possible to create new services across industries, so that vehicle manufacturers can deploy services such as telematics, infotainment, navigation, or fleet management.

If we look at the upper right corner, that’s typically the most crowded area in any industry. It’s where you find many startups or digital giants launching their ideas or coming out with profoundly new offerings that create entirely new markets. This is the corner where we find self-driving cars, car-sharing services, or collaborative coordination to mention a few.

This is what the landscape looks like. But what should you do as a traditional company to meet the challenges coming from this digital transformation?

The short answer, is to innovate.

At Ericsson, we know quite a lot about innovation. It has been our game for over 140 years: from the industrial era, via electrification, datafication, mobile telephony and mass consumption, to a new era in a truly connected world. We have launched some of the most fundamental innovations in human history in the area of communication. And while innovation is in our DNA, it’s interesting to now see that innovation is becoming just as essential for practically all businesses.

In my next blog post, I will review some of the findings of a study we call ‘Organizing for Innovation’, and we will take a deeper look into some of the areas businesses have to address to maximize their creative output – be sure to keep an eye out for it.

Want to know more about what Ericsson is doing in the technology innovation space? Discover how real-time connectivity is fundamentally changing the way we innovate, collaborate, produce, govern and live sustainably.

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 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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