3 business trips that gave me new perspective on cultural differences

This post was originally posted on the Ericsson career blog on February 12, 2018. Photo by iStock. 

International business trips are one of the main advantages of working for a large global corporation. You get exposed to different cultures and meet exciting people. This blogpost is about cultural learnings gained during 3 very special business trips.

Skyline of Taipei city

Evaluating a partner in Taiwan: Long-term goals vs. quarterly targets 

We had established a partnership with a new Taiwanese manufacturer and wanted to reach a deeper relationship and better understanding of their business model. Going into the meeting, I was concerned about their margins and long-term viability as a company

Over dinner with the founder, the business concept was laid out for me. Their plan was to figure out where the next business park would be built and buy a big, adjoining lot. Then, find a business with high growth potential. Build a small manufacturing plant in the middle of that lot and expand the factory as the business grows. By the time their factory occupied the whole lot, it would be  time to exit and cash in on the combined value of the  business and real estate. He argued that if you apply the concept twice in your life,  you will be rich.

From this, I learned how long-term horizons can produce very different strategies than quarterly targets. A business has a choice to drive the biggest value from either assets sales at the end or a steady flow of margins along the road.

Athens Acropolis Parthenon

Promoting Broadband in Greece: understanding cultural differences

One year we were running week-long global roadshows to promote fixed broadband at a time when Greece had lower Broadband penetration rates than the rest of Europe. There were 33 countries to be covered in 6 months by 3 teams. Armed with insights from previous trips, I got on stage in front of an audience in Greece.

Three minutes into my speech, someone in the audience asked me to stop. He stood up a central reflection and said, “You need to understand how life works in Greece. We wake up late in the morning. Family owned businesses dominate our economy. We take a long lunch in the early afternoon. After lunch, we realize we have a lot of work to do to bring home the daily revenues. So, we end up working late. On top of that we are  social and go out and eat with friends and family in the evenings. Now tell me when you think we shall be surfing on the Internet.”

The whole audience was laughing. I had to redirect my whole speech on the fly. From this, I learnt to always prioritize the importance of understanding cultural differences before meeting customers.

Mexico City

Influencing a purchasing decision in Mexico

I speak Spanish, which has made me a go to person for dealing with Latin American customers in different management teams. In this case, it was for influencing a large purchasing decision where the customer faced a choice between two different architectures. I arrived after a long intercontinental flight to a preparation meeting the night before the big meeting.

The meeting started at 9 in the morning and lasted for 4 hours. It was hard for me to read the impact we made, but my colleagues looked satisfied. The long lunch with the customer included an afternoon Tequila. At 5pm I was ready to go to bed, but we were called back in by the customer for an evening session starting at 7pm. This time, the meeting would be conducted with a more senior audience and all presentations would be made in Spanish, well beyond my comfort zone.

When we were done, I got credit for having embraced our customers’ way of doing business and for getting points across almost right in Spanish rather than perfect in English. From this, I learnt to always embrace the local customs as far as you can. And, push yourself rather than your customer to close remaining gaps. It pays off in the end.

Cultural skills you can leverage in business

I would suggest three areas to consider as cultural pillars when pursuing a global career:

  1. Aspire to develop a high cultural bandwidth – with social flexibility when managing different cultures than your native one.
  2. Learn an additional language from what your learnt in school – it is never too late to pick up a new language, at least at a conversational level.
  3. Embrace what you find to be better in other cultures. Start with open eyes and be open to finding better ways than what you are used to

Are You Digital Enough to Be Part of Your Business’ Future?

Leading the pack, ingenuity,standing out from the crowd concept.

Photo by iStock

This text was originally posted in InformationWeek on August 2. Addressing the question how we develop our personal digital skills to stay relevant as our own company go through a digital transformation.

Today’s business challenges require diverse teams with new competencies, including the ability to collaborate effectively across organizational borders.The digital transformation provides challenges for both businesses and employees, where businesses make strategic shifts to protect incumbent positions and leverage inflection points to wade into new areas. And while the transition brings change and uncertainty, it is also an opportunity for employees to build new skills in the areas relevant to the digital future. Focusing on three key areas will ensure you keep your skills relevant for the new digital workplace.

Learning is more important than knowing

The digital world moves fast and into uncharted territory, creating a need for you to adapt quickly and intelligently. Your ability to learn is put in a new perspective. The traditional way of doing business saw stability, allowing employees to know something and expect it not to change without warning.

Today you need to be prepared to learn daily, challenge how things were done yesterday based on today’s experiences, and get ready to apply learnings to approach work tasks in a different way tomorrow. The best learners master questions rather than answers and accept that what we do is evolving and how we do it is evolving. By being curious, you will learn faster than your peers.

Your choice comes down to the difference between knowing and learning. Knowing something well is great when the ask is to perform a repetitive task in a stable environment over and over again. Learning from experiences is a superior skill in the digital world.

Digital innovation means collaboration

The complexity of problems has increased exponentially with the digital transformation, while the time available to solve problems has decreased. Pre-digital transformation, businesses dealt with simpler problems, usually confined to one area. In the past, keeping information to yourself and your team could provide short term advantages internally or towards customers and could be shared later or with a restricted mail distribution list.

Today’s challenges require diverse teams with different competencies, the ability to collaborate effectively across organizational borders, and last but not least, master digital collaboration tools. Sharing information has become a necessity, with secrecy being more damaging than helpful. Great innovation contributions can come in many shapes and forms, from the idea maker and the sound skeptic to the prototype producer and the team scaling proven offerings.

Additionally, digital innovation has a strong anchoring in customer problems with an outside-in driven innovation processes centered around the customer. Defining innovative customer offerings benefits from teamwork as it’s a Herculean task to define why and when customers are interested in something and what they may be interested in in the future.

Understanding the new measures of success

The number one priority in the new world is to understand a customer and their business needs better than they do. Success does not come from what the product does, but the results they drive. The digital world brings a reality where you need to dig deep into understanding both the jobs to be done and the associated metrics; that means starting early with a hypothesis then gradually refining your understanding by testing in real-world situations.

This shift is large for many of us. It is not enough to ask customers what they need today. You need to spend more time on your own thinking to figure out what they need tomorrow. As the digital world is more numbers driven, your ability to identify both the relevant metrics and what the target measure should is crucial. The digital world is not black and white. You need to be able to work more with different shades, of grey, where you take many small decisions and gradually refine your understanding.

Don’t expect all personal development guidance to come from above

Your final challenge is to take a strong personal ownership for the development of your digital skills. Once your managers and your business start to move it will be too late to start your own journey. Look for digitally advanced role models in your company and ask them what they do. Look at younger digital natives and take advice from them about what they value the most. If you are already on the leading digital edge, offer to reverse mentor senior members of your organization. Make sure early on to become a part of the forward leaning movement in your business and be prepared to commit 15-20 minutes per day to develop in new areas before the business demands it.

It all starts with digital courage and digital diversity

Your digital courage will be the key to push your digital boundaries. And to do it in a team where you and your peers have complementing digital skills. The digital future requires a variety of skills from becoming a digital influencer to build your company’s digital profile and mastering in customers relations to pushing the innovation envelope strategically and evolving an offering or a business model perspective. It is not realistic to aspire to become great in all these areas, but your ability to add to the digital diversity on your team is the key to your future career.

5 jobs 5G Fixed Wireless Access will do for operators

Silhouette phone antenna

Photo by iStock

Operators are exploring Fixed Wireless Access as an anchor application when launching 5G. In its simplest form it is about replacing the fiber closest to users with radio access for next generation fixed broadband. An application we can break down to a number of different jobs for operators. Where the location put emphasis on different success metrics.

The 5G Fixed Wireless Access Application landscape 

Fixed Wireless Access has been introduced for a variety of radio technologies in the past, e.g. NMT, DECT, 3G, 4G. All when the technology was well proven. And with moderate success since the primary competition was a high performance DSL or Cable Access and penetration rates were modest at best. 5G Fixed Wireless Access is introduced at a different stage in the radio lifecycle, addressing a set of different applications each with unique characteristics. Based on fiber access dynamics, we can expect the following to occur: Neighborhood-driven build-in targets; the potential for access network sharing, especially in suburban and rural areas; converged aggregation and transport networks serving both fiber and Fixed Wireless Access.

Increase penetration in areas already covered with fiber access

Fiber to the home has been built during the majority of this century and deployed by operators or regionally focused open fiber networks. The largest variable has been the rate at which households have been penetrated. The application in these areas is to increase the market share in a given neighborhood. The job to be done, for mobile operators, is: “Increase market share with an access complement to fiber offered at a lower price and/or faster/cheaper connection cost”: A job to be done in competition with existing DSL and Cable offerings. Success metrics for this job are: Service parity with fiber access, time-to-market, cost per connected household, and lead time for connecting a new household. 5G FWA penetration projections for this application is in the 10-20% range and a medium-to-high volume outlook.

Penetrate gaps in existing fiber footprints

Fiber access deployments often result in building or neighborhoods in a covered area left unserved. Access to duct and right-of-way inside building can be restricted. Access in neighborhoods can be limited by unfavorable geological conditions, or a lack of backbone connection options. The job to be done is: “Connect pockets of households as a complement in existing fiber access footprint”. Success metrics for this job are: Service parity with Fiber access, Ability to penetrate all households and Cost of connecting islands to mainstream fiber access neighborhoods. 5G FWA penetration projections for this application is close to 100% for a very low volume application.

Extend coverage outside existing fiber access footprints

Fiber access coverage is restricted to certain regions and neighborhoods. Where the potential and profitability vary greatly. Connection costs, rather than coverage costs, has been a key factor in defining business case attractiveness. Fixed Wireless 5G Access reduces the cost of connecting households by eliminating digging in gardens and roads. The job to be done is: “Expand the coverage area for a fiber-like access beyond the existing fiber footprint by reducing connection costs”. Success metrics for this job are: Service parity with Fiber access, Household density in a given neighborhood, Size of unpenetrated market, Cost per connected household and time to market. 5G FWA penetration projections for this application is 25-100% for a high to very high volume outlook.

Geographical expansion from converged-to-mobile footprint 

The majority of operators have a smaller footprint for Converged (Fixed and Mobile) versus Mobile-only access. Operators penetrate regions or countries with their converged access network. The mobile network is penetrating countries, continents and beyond. With a mobile network going through a wave of densification and introduction of small cells there is a potential for selective introduction of 5G FWA. The job to be done is: “Leverage the mobile network footprint as a base for expanding converged network coverage into attractive neighborhoods”. Success metrics for this job are: ARPU potential, time to market, and service superiority to legacy alternatives. 5G FWA penetration projections for this application is in the 0-30% range for low-to-medium volumes.

Transformation of rural areas to a Fixed Wireless-only access 

A large part of the tail of the fixed network has been underserved with regards to Broadband services. This in combination with an aging PSTN network open up for a rural access transformation. One where 5G FWA is introduced and legacy cable and copper access networks are phased out. The job to be done is: “Transform and inferior broadband and an ageing PSTN access into a high performance fixed wireless access”. Success metrics for this job are: Service superiority to legacy alternatives, Opex for the new network, Regulatory relief for must carry services and Investment accelerators. 5G FWA penetration projections for this application is 80-100% for low-to-medium volumes.

Predictions for the future 

The 5G Fixed Wireless Access application is perhaps one of the most existing access applications the next 5 years. My predictions for the development we will see are:

·        5G Fixed Wireless Access will be leveraged to selectively address these five applications.

·        Wireless neighborhoods – Wiberhoods – will be a new phenomenon enabled by 5G Fixed Wireless access.

·        The first mover has will create significant shifts in market share, rarely seen between established broadband technologies.

·        The job to be done and the success metrics for each application will vary substantially, and be refined as the technology is introduced.

·        The application introduction order will be defined by the outlook of the combination of volume and penetration potential.

This text was originally published on the Ericsson Networked Society blog on February 13, 2017.

Continued Camera Creativity


During the past five years we have seen a steady growth of innovations on the digital camera front. The pace of innovation has far from slowed and here is a summary of which gadgets you might consider next.

Quick recap 

As consumers we have been quick in embracing devices where the camera and its advanced technology play a key role. The camera in smartphones has developed into the 20MP/4K territory with advanced HDR, slow-motion and-time lapse capabilities. Action cameras have been embraced by the young generation as well as their parents. Life logs are introduced but have not yet propelled into a mass market phenomena. The digital SLR stays relevant behind powerful lenses thanks to very high picture resolution and networked capabilities. The point-and-shoot market continues to tumble (and is not the prime vehicle behind Tumblr pictures).

Infrared camera modules
Infrared pictures have always fascinated people. But the devices have been pricey and more targeted to professional applications. This is about to change, as new thermal camera innovations hit the market. Some are stand-alone cameras for outdoor use.  Others are small modules connected to your smartphone.

With a thermal camera module attached to your phone you can start exploring a new world. Play with new pictures types where you can spot if someone has been sitting on a food court chair recently. Look out from the balcony at the resort and check the water and sand temperature in the morning. If you have thermal leaks in your house, just point the camera towards the window and you will get a crisp view of the situation. Both professional and advanced amateur applications can be seen – all enabled by thermal image technology at new price points.

360 degree cameras
The action camera market is moving beyond the field of the action hero or camera carrier.Action cameras with a 360 degree view of the action are introduced by multiple vendors. At the same time 360 degree cameras are available for security applications. Up until now, 360 degree movies have been created from a frame hosting multiple cameras and advanced software to stich it all together.

The application space for 360 degree action cameras might be a niche or the mainstream preference for action cameras going forward. The surround view is attractive to action adventure explorers as well as advanced commercial shooting.

Camera drones
Camera drones are rapidly gaining traction. A broad variety of drones are available and prices are coming down to consumer levels.

News photographers are using drones to capture new perspectives. Sports TV producers have many clear use cases for new camera angles but the drone reliability need to be improved for a broader adoption. Consumers kite experiences can be taken to new heights by cutting the wire and adding a camera.

Object tracking cameras
The last category addressed here is cameras tracking a given object. These come in two shapes. Either a small unit allowing a moving object to steer a stationary camera and trigger shutter release. The second option is a drone-like camera that can follow its master, like a skier going down a hill.

As for action cameras, this category is very much about capturing action moments in new innovative ways. And as for action cameras, the creativity boundary of the photographer and the producer has been moved to new frontiers.

Predictions for the future
Photographers and videographers have new tools at their fingertips and the following are my predictions for the future

  • Thermal photography will remain a niche, but will make inroads in many new industrial applications.
  • 360 degree cameras will remain a complement to the mainstream action cameras, but will open up new possibilities for VR applications.
  • Drones have a strong user appeal but the reliability and air traffic control issues are likely to hold back adoption below the consumer appeal.
  • Tracking cameras are a new invention that is hardest to predict.

This post was originally published at the Ericsson Networked Society blog.

Alexa & AI address Advanced Asks


Internet input/output is dominated by typing and reading/watching our smartphones. But two new devices for which voice control is central are starting to change the world. Are you ready for the wrist and personal butler revolution where your voice replaces your fingers for control?


Voice control
Two new device types, where voice control is central, are exciting to explore. The smart watches’ small screen makes your fingers seem really fat, so voice control is a vital input mechanism. And the Amazon Echo represents a new type of “digital butler,” where the primary I/O mechanism is voice even though you can access the services through a smartphone app too.

Translating between text and voice started in the late 1990s and the technology has now matured to a point where it is stable and very useful. Modern technology can understand your English, even if you speak with an accent. By eliminating the need to pull up a device, the service opportunity space grows. Using your voice to control services is a more natural form of communicating than typing on a screen. Zero training is required to learn, as the voice interpreter can interpret normal talk.

Application space expansion
The typical American pulls up a phone 46 times per day.  But the need to pull up the device to start using services is a restricting factor for many micro services. Voice control can circumvent these limitations. You can start giving commands in the car without reducing attention to the traffic. You can give commands when you cook or eat at home. You can unlock doors when you are carrying things in your hands. You can start controlling the growing number of devices in your home, where the need for the smartphone as a control panel only can be reduced.

In essence, you enable a variety of new micro services where the use today is restricted by the need for initiation and control from a smartphone. The ability to control media consumption services, make to-do list additions and get answers to more questions leverage these new control mechanisms from the start.

The potential to control connected home devices, like Hue lighting solutions and WeMo home automation solutions is an application space where voice control makes a lot of sense.

Artificial Intelligence
Voice control and artificial intelligence go hand in hand for these new applications. The first exciting aspect is to use an “activation word” to separate out voice control commands from general conversations. By triggering micro services with a code word – like “Alexa” – you can ensure the relevant control commands are sorted out.

Cloud-based intelligence at the back-end is improving the answer relevance and applicability to a new level. There is a distinction between voice controlled web search and AI supported answers that is visible as an important differentiator.

Predictions for the future
Voice control has developed in accuracy and relevance and the following is likely to happen in the future:

  • Voice control will become an important complement to screen typing for service control.
  • Voice control will be most relevant for micro services where many small daily commands can be simplified.
  • The back-end of the AI development is crucial to increase the hit rate in finding a relevant answer to your ask.
  • The control of many IoT applications is likely to develop with voice control, the first and foremost.
  • Our trust in biometric technology will expand from finger prints to voice prints as a basis for secure authentications.

This post was originally published at the Ericsson Networked Society blog.

Implementing change is like driving on the long road to Hana


With disruptive market changes, it is easy to think change will come as a major turn on the business highway. But while it might be true that market shifts are disruptive, the way businesses execute change is very different. That makes it more like a drive on the long road to Hana on the island of Maui in Hawaii.

The long road to Hana is a short one

Hana is a small town on the eastern cost of Maui, Hawaii, and Hana Highway, the road to Hana, has only limited traffic. Nevertheless it is hard to drive the last 52 miles / 84 kilometers in less than 2.5 hours. The reason is the 620 hard curves on the way (not to mention the one-way bridges). These require the full attention of the driver, as the straightaways in between are very short. Driving the road at night is a tough job even for the most experienced drivers.

Businesses responding to disruptive change

The primary conundrum for businesses or individuals responding to change is to start acting before all facts are clear. Taking actions daily means that large changes are always driven by many simultaneous small steps. If you and I, as individuals, aim for small steps daily, we will gradually approach the larger goal. We also minimize the risk of getting too far away from the optimal path.

Continuous actions and corrections are the fuel required to respond to fast moving markets and disruptive changes.


The first major conundrum is to create a vision for the team about the destination – a vision that creates positive vibrations. Hana is a beautiful place. Spectacular waterfalls. A beach with black sand. And a system of natural pools within lava formations. Start by defining the Hana for your change project.

The second challenge is to give your team a sense of what will be different about the route towards the change. Without saying anything about the road, you can send strong signals when stating three hours will be required to drive 50 miles, even without traffic. These numbers by themselves signal major deviations from normal. Define the two to three numbers that define the nature of your change project.

The third hurdle is to get your team to start executing as quickly as possible. When you start to drive to Hana, you need to concentrate from the start. With the next turn starting before you finish the current one, there is no time to relax. The paradox here is that little effort is required to go straight and fast. But a lot of effort is required to turn often and go slow. A team realizing change initiatives needs to take immediate action to be set up for success. The alternative of continuing straight and waiting for a larger turn down the road is a waste of time. Review your change project and identify how you can drive daily incremental change in small steps. And plan for a very large amount of small steps before you are done.