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.

Adults adopt actioncameras

© Peter Linder 2015 – All rights reserved
© Peter Linder 2015 – All rights reserved

Global camera sales have gone through a phenomenal transformation the last 10 years. The digital camera market has gone up and come down. People still buy cameras when they need lenses and high-end sensors for top-notch quality. And during the past five years of digital camera decline, we have seen a steady increase in action camera sales. They were initially used by the YouTube generation, who see them as a vital tool in increasing video viewership of their action adventures.

Going forward, their parents are likely to play a bigger role in adopting the technology. While the younger generation exploits new capabilities with 4K resolution and 240fbs slow motion,their parents will try to get the basics right. The first step is selecting a camera, either among available options or inheriting one from your kids. Then you have to figure out what camera-mounting options are most attractive for your videography desires. The advancements in action-camera apps on smartphones even let you control the action camera from your primary screen and see it when filming and taking pictures. This is a great leap forward. Your kids grew up shooting videos with an action camera without a screen for most of their adventures, and first seeing the result when it hit the PC.

Postediting an integral part
Most people skip postediting of pictures and video taken using smartphones, digital cameras and camcorders. However postediting is an integrated part of the action camera experience. Most of what you film will not turn out as planned and needs to be scrapped. You will find great pieces in the middle of longer recordings. When using two cameras on and off, you can create amazing videos when shifting perspectives. And last but not least the sound on action camera videos should be music rather than the natural sounds and spoken words that you usually capture in smartphone and camcorder videos.

So plan to learn the tools that work with action cameras or cloud-based variants of established video-editing programs. It is easier than you think. As an entry point, you might want to start on the editing end by using the video, slow-motion and time-lapse capabilities on your smartphone, as well as phone-based video-editing tools.

The action-camera market is still small, with 5 million units shipped in 2014. The first half of2015 has seen strong growth in Europe and Asia. A big part of the market for action cameras is in accessories. You can see your new action camera as a platform where adding accessories plays the same role as adding new lenses to an SLR camera – they are a way to help you get the most out of it.

My predictions for the future of action camera-enabled videography

  • Adults adopt action cameras in a material way, starting by inheriting gear from their kids
  • Smartphone-controlled action cameras reduce the entry barrier and allow users to control results much better at the point of filming
  • New technologies such as virtual reality and spherical filming are still in their infancy
  • The action camera market is expected to grow at 22 percent CAGR 2014-2019 so this will not be a phenomena with the same mass market appeal as smartphones.

Originally posted on the Ericsson Networked Society blog.

Daunting Digital Divide Dilemma

Digital divide daunting dilemma

Discussions on the digital divide and associated challenges have been around as long as internet. The actual definition comes in a variety of forms, the most common being lack of access to the internet. So the question becomes whether the problem is unsolvable or whether the landscape will change with mobile and cloud.

Broadband access was recently redefined in the US to be 25Mbps downstream and 3Mbps upstream. With this definition 17 percent of American households are on the wrong side of the digital divide. The number increases to 53 percent if we look at rural households alone. This definition is shaped around the insight that video will play a larger role going forward but assumes traffic patterns will remain asymmetric in nature.

With the introduction of Gigabit fiber access, segments of the market get a symmetric and even more powerful access, which creates a broader divide when looked at from an access speed perspective. The evolution to Gigabit fiber is the service proposition fixed network operators need to offer to meet mobile broadband competition.

Mobile and cloud have the potential to close the digital divide. Smartphones have potential to be the device that bridges the digital divide from a device perspective. If you don’t have broadband or a PC today, you are unlikely to get it anytime soon. According to a recent study by Pew Research, 10 percent of Americans rely on their smartphone as their only Internet access. The second challenge is what to use the smartphone for if you are not already connected. A common response for the non-connected when asked is that there is a lack of relevant applications and content.

The cloud has been instrumental for introducing apps that target a broader audience. Apps on a smartphone are easier to use than a browser on a PC as an entry point for the unconnected. With the low barriers of entry for cloud-based applications and access to crowd funding capital, we can expect to see applications targeting the niches yet to be connected. The combination of mobile and cloud is an even more powerful proposition to close the digital divide in the part of the world with poor fixed networks.

My predictions for the evolution of the digital divide are:

  • The introduction of Gigabit Fiber will create a three-tiered society divide – Gigabit Fiber, powerful copper/coax and inferior fixed access.
  • In addition to the digital consumer divide, we will see the emergence of a business digital divide – where businesses without adequate access will find it harder to thrive in an increasingly digital society.
  • Mobile and cloud will start to close the digital device gap – with a focus on applications rather than raw access speed.

Originally published on the Ericsson Networked Society blog on April 10, 2015