Mikael Eriksson Björling

About digital transformation, design, creativity and lifestyle in the Networked Society.


Game Changers

Can Motor City become Bike City? The reinvention of Detroit.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to visit Detroit. It is a fascinating city facing many challenges getting on its feet again, which makes it a really interesting place to visit if you want to study entrepreneurship and creativity. My reason for being there was to study the progress of a city trying to redefine its post-industrial self.

What I found in Detroit were super friendly people and a forward-looking spirit. If you don’t know much about the city, Detroit was the epicenter of the 20th century automobile manufacturing industry, with the “Big Three” (Ford, General Motors and Chrysler) are still present in the city where Ford Motor Company more or less invented the assembly line principles that served as a cornerstone of the postwar mass consumption society. (It’s also notable that Detroit Electric produced a fully electrical car here between 1907 and 1939.)

The city’s population peaked in 1950 with 2 million inhabitants, and as car manufacturing became increasingly automatized and other work was offshored to other countries, the population declined year by year and is now around 700,000 citizens, with 75,000 dilapidated buildings and only 60 percent of the street lights in working condition. Last year the city declared bankruptcy and a couple of weeks ago while I was there, the city’s debts were restructured.

Many people have, of course, lost their homes, lost their jobs and suffered a lot over the past decades. But what is so interesting is that the destruction of the old Detroit has also fed a lot of creativity and new innovative businesses. Right now, for instance, there is a strong bike movement in the Motor City.

I met with Bike Detroit, a community-based non-profit organization focused on clearing and cleaning bike trails in Detroit and nearby suburban areas.  Slow Roll is another organization working to establish and develop a bicycle culture through group bicycle rides where several thousand people bike together slowly on new paths every Monday. Then you can also find craftsmanship companies like Shinola and Detroit Bikes that build craft bicycles in old factory facilities. It seem like the Motown is on its way to becoming Biketown.

What about the old motor industry? Read the rest of the port at the Networked Society blog.

Cooperative transport systems – the next step in transport transformation – part 2

In my previous post I wrote about how connectivity is driving transformation in the transport business and how it’s now being built-in everything from cars and trucks to roads and parking spaces. The next phase in this transformation will be about cooperation between all these new connected transport assets.

This cooperation will span across all transport means, from car to bike. We will see cooperative systems with vehicle-to-vehicle communication to prevent accidents by sensing each other. There will be systems for adjusting traffic flows and prices in real-time, depending on the situation and demand. We will see smart cooperation between all means of transportation where commuters can plan, travel and pay seamlessly across public and private transportation services.

Another area that will become common the next ten years is autonomous vehicles. That could be self-driving cars for city commuters or drones delivering groceries to the door. This paves the way for more radical changes in how we look at transportation. Why own a car when it does not have a steering wheel and you can get a nice one according to your preferences whenever you need it? Read the rest of the article at the Networked Society blog.

Cooperative transport systems – the next step in transport transformation

Today about 50 percent of the world’s population lives in cities. Most people need transport every day – to and from work, to pick the kids up at school, to go to an evening course or to meet some friends. People spend on average 2 hours and 20 minutes commuting every day in big cities like Hong Kong, London or Moscow.

But even if you stay at home, most things that you use or consume in your everyday life have done their fair bit on the road, sea or in the air. The transportation of people and the logistic networks for transporting goods are a fundamental part of the world economy, and things are about to change in this field in a big way.

What we see happening right now is that connectivity is starting to change how transportation is done. Right now regular people and startup businesses are the drivers for change, focused on new transport services connecting free transport capacity with transport demands. Services like Lyft and Uber for personal transportation, BlaBla Car and Zip Car for rideshares. This development is leading many to question the necessity of private car ownership. However, if you are a car owner, you could turn that into a business by renting out your overcapacity to people in a need of a car, using services like RelayRides or Getaround.

Another movement driving change is crowdsourced data. Traffic management apps like Waze and Moovit now allow people, businesses and city governments to streamline their use of public infrastructure in real time.

The digital connectivity of these services opens up transport assets and information to more people, at more times and in more forms. Continue reading at the Networked Society blog.

When are you out-of-office?

Right now I am sitting at the co-working space, Impact Hub in downtown Seattle preparing for a workshop I will lead tomorrow. I could of course have stayed in my hotel room but I prefer to get a flavor of the local entrepreneurial scene and be a bit social as well (beyond the borders of my computer).

My first business trip with Ericsson was in 1999 to Pittsburgh and the CHI 99 (Computer Human Interaction) conference. Back then you did not really have any connection with work or family when you were traveling. Mobile phones and the internet both existed, but were far from the experience we have today.

A modem was the most common connection until 2005 and intercontinental calls with your mobile phone were not really practical because of the cost. I don’t think I took my laptop with me as it was pretty useless without a connection. So when the conference program was over you did not have any e-mail to answer or work to keep up with. There was a clear border that ended work, defined by the technically and economically limitations.

Today those borders are gone. Wherever you are, work can be there. Continue reading at the Networked Society blog.

The world turned upside down

There will be many differences between the Industrial Society logic we are now leaving and the logic of the Networked Society that is now emerging. One of the differences is how we look at customers – whether they are consumers or clients and where we find them in the value chain.

In the Industrial Era logic that we are leaving (but which still dominates many businesses), the consumer or the client is the endpoint of the value chain, the final destination for the product or service, and the address for the invoice. These days, however, this logic is being turned upside-down. The consumers and clients are not the endpoint any longer, but are becoming a core asset for the creation of new products and services.

It’s worth remembering that classical value chains were not created with the customer in mind. Instead, they reflect the priorities of the Industrial Era and are defined by the logical steps of production and distribution. Every part of the chain is arranged in waterfall order, from the initial ideas in laboratories and R&D departments to production, distribution and marketing. Although many companies have brought in user-centric design methodologies to put more focus on the user experience, they are still essentially operating within the same value-chain logic. The customer is not part of the value-creation process. Read the rest of my post at the Networked Society Blog.

Every day on planet Earth…

An average day on the planet Earth comprises a lot of activities, and many of those are about to change.

Some 7 billion people wake up every morning to start a new day and 450,000 of the newly awakened are more than 100 years old . These experienced individuals have an incredible knowledge of change and have witnessed modern society take shape. They have seen horse-drawn carriages disappear in favor of cars, and steam trains vanish in favor of high-speed electric trains. They have seen the smoke from White Star ocean liners dissipate and contrails from intercontinental jets appear; telegraphs stations becoming out of date and the internet coming alive in their hands. Read the rest of the text at the Networked Society blog.

Connected communities are driving a new do-ocracy

I wrote earlier about the game changers and how creative people no longer practice their hobbies in the private sphere but rather in networks and communities. The ‘maker culture’ is growing stronger and we see a growing ‘do-culture’ covering more and more areas in society.

Easy access to information about almost anything is fundamentally changing our possibilities to do things ourselves. For do-it-yourself (DIY) people, it is much easier to find information and much easier to link up with people who share the same interests. This, together with affordable technologies, tools and services are lowering the barriers to nearly a zero cost in many areas.

Another driving factor is that people feel the need to connect with the outcome of their work. It is hard to see the importance of creating yet another PowerPoint file when you can’t see the final result of your efforts.

How and where things are produced is also becoming important and many people have started producing and experimenting with their own productions. We have seen this in food preparation for some years now with sourdough baking, homemade sausages and advanced barbecuing as just a few examples of what people are doing.

The ‘maker culture’ is now reaching a critical mass. There are new hackerspaces starting every day with a lot of people engaging in millions of ongoing projects. All these communities are sharing information and have new sources for funding such as Kickstarter. Things that use to be really complex, and that only a couple of years ago could be done by big corporations or academic researchers, are now being done in a growing number of hackerspaces, meetups, basements, garages and lofts. Topics such as 3D printing, robotics and DNA projects are now common.

A couple of weeks ago I visited Hack Manhattan, a hackerspace in New York City, to get a feeling for the area. One of the members had built his own 3D printer and when I was there he printed gear wheels for a robot that would participate in a robot soccer league while other members had bee-keeping projects or were growing organic vegetables on rooftops.  All this everyday doing and all the passion it contains will affect the more traditional businesses and business structures. This mentality is likely to trickle down into big organizations.  The DIY-approach stifles passive moaning and encourages workers to take a constructive stance in their working environment. This will make organizations less hierarchical in the future and help employees take greater responsibility for defining and completing their own tasks.

Easy access to information about almost anything is fundamentally changing our possibilities to do things ourselves. For do-it-yourself (DIY) people, it is much easier to find information and much easier to link up with people who share the same interests. This, together with affordable technologies, tools and services are lowering the barriers to nearly a zero cost in many areas.

Read more at the Networked Society blog >>>

The Network is the organization


wrote earlier about how creative people use tools and resources found on the web to realize their ideas. We call them the Game Changers, and we found out that they organize their work using ten different networked organizational forms (see image).

These ways of organizing work is used within any field of creativity; from fashion startups and charity, to journalism and music creation. If we look at music and the DJ community they have for a long time employed remixing as a way to create music; like in the Jamaican dance hall culture of the late 60s or the disco culture of the 70s. Modern DJ’s are also remixing, borrowing, copying, reusing, interacting, contributing and creating new tunes and beats to create new music. Remixing is a snowballing organizational process of production escalating throughout a network were one individual takes the project as far as she feels like and shares it online. The next individual takes the project and remixes further to alter or improve it.  At the moment the Swedish DJ Avicii is driving a global music collaboration aiming to create a new Avicii single with our help. You and me, using crowdsourcing as organizational form. Crowdsourcing is a derivate of outsourcing, but to the crowd instead of to commercial organizations. In Avicii’s project, almost 13,000 sounds have been generated from a crowd of 4,000 people from more than 100 countries around the globe. Today am going to vote on the best break and be part of the crowd. How about you?

Read the rest of the article at the Networked Society blog

Profiling the producers in the open marketplace

Lately, I have written a number of posts about creative individuals whose product, talent and service innovations are turning the traditional market logic upside down. Previously, homegrown innovators and artists never reached beyond their friends and family. Today, however, they are competing with corporation heavyweights and entertainment superstars by simply being recommended and pushed forward by social media, recommendation engines and widgets.

So, who are these people and what drives them? First, individuals who produce and innovate are jacks-of-many-trades and often have several skills and competencies.

These skills and competencies are often self-taught, by means of different internet resources, as well as through interaction with people that have the same interests. They also tend to have active social lives.

When creating and producing output (ideas, products, content), they are primarily driven by self-fulfillment and the desire to build up their image within their networks. Usually, money only comes as a bonus.

The most successful individuals who produce digital output combine their interests and skills with social and digital capital, and a marketing mind. While some are spontaneous, others are strategic when choosing projects to work on. However, most strive to be able to work with and make a living out of the things they enjoy doing. Read more about the Game Changers at the Networked Society blog

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