Unleashing our Superpower: Ericsson's Bold Bet on Intrapreneurship
At Ericsson, we’re always asking, “what’s next?” because we understand innovation is essential to the success of our business. Of course, “innovation” has become quite the corporate buzzword over the past couple of years. It takes work, however, if businesses want their employees to start thinking outside of the box. Monetary incentives can encourage innovative behaviors, but innovation needs to be ingrained into corporate culture as well. Employees should be motivated by and excited for challenges, and leaders need to ensure everyone has the opportunity to be heard without judgment and receive the feedback necessary to succeed. With Ericsson ONE, we’ve proven that we walk the walk when it comes to prioritizing innovation and fostering an environment that allows innovators to excel.
Ericsson ONE: Proving the value of intrapreneurship
The world is not lacking entrepreneurs. In fact, more than 100 million startups are created each year—that’s one every three seconds. We also know that Ericsson employees are exceptional. They are passionate, talented, and already committed to our mission and values. With such a strong talent base, it makes sense that they are more than capable of discovering What’s Next. For this reason, we encourage all our employees, regardless of their role or tenure with Ericsson, to share their ideas with Ericsson ONE, our internal accelerator for employees pioneering new business ideas. With this model, we have created an environment that supports Ericsson employees sharing their ideas, pursuing their passions, and ultimately helping us expand our portfolio.
What happens when an employee shares a promising idea? After receiving initial pitches, the Ericsson ONE team will choose the ones with the most potential to move to the next stage. The intrapreneur and their team will begin a rapid, step-by-step process which involves rapidly creating, testing and validating their prototypes, building a minimum viable product, and if everything goes to plan, developing it into a fully-fledged, industrialized offering within Ericsson’s growth portfolio. By investing in intrapreneurs, we get to retain exceptional talent, and by investing in new businesses during their infancy, Ericsson gets to become part of the value creation and final business that results.
Additionally, we’re able to invest in businesses that align with our mission of making a positive impact on the world—in fact, we’re committed to only investing in businesses that meet at least one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. For example, Ericsson Safe Work, which aims to eliminate workplace injuries and deaths, is one project currently in development. Safe Work provides an entire safety ecosystem, leveraging technologies such as AI, Computer Vision, and IoT technologies to strengthen safety protocols. To make it easy for customers to adopt Safe Work, the team created an app that validates workers are wearing proper personal protective equipment and have the right certifications, monitors and continuously tracks vitals, and analyzes data to recognize patterns in behavior and improve root cause analysis when an incident occurs.
The benefits of innovating at Ericsson
Although we are eager to invest in intrapreneurs, not every innovator is suited for intrapreneurship. Startup culture encourages risk taking and scaling at an exponential rate. As part of a larger organization, however, intrapreneurs need to be more mindful of risk, and as a result, decisions will likely be made more slowly, with input from more voices. Ultimately 90-99 percent of new startups will fail, however, so the support given to our intrapreneurs can be a massive benefit if they’re comfortable with a more structured environment. So, how do we entice intrapreneurs to share their ideas with us?
We understand that innovating within Ericsson can offer benefits to the business at large, so we want to make it enticing to share and develop ideas with us. Of course, idea owners can receive a range of monetary incentives, but as Ericsson intrapreneurs, they are also offered a unique toolbox of resources to help make their startup a success. Intrapreneurs can leverage Ericsson’s existing customer base that spans 180 countries, a pool of talent that has deep technical knowledge, and the 60 thousand patents within our portfolio. These resources and relationships are invaluable and would take years for traditional startups to replicate. Perhaps one of the greatest advantages we give our people is the freedom to fail. Failure, understandably, is one of the greatest inhibitors of innovation. By developing a new business within Ericsson ONE, innovators have the freedom to fail and are almost always buffered from the potential losses faced by traditional entrepreneurs.
Finally, becoming an intrapreneur offers the opportunity for rapid career growth. Anyone whose idea is accelerated by Ericsson ONE has the potential to jump from anywhere within Ericsson and become part of the C-Suite of a new venture. And even if an idea fails along the way, the idea owner still would have built new leadership capabilities and experienced accelerated learning that couldn’t be replicated in a standard corporate setting. So, even in a failed case, there is massive opportunity for growth.
Ericsson ONE supported us in everything from funding to branding, essentially everything we needed to scale our project into a company, which can compete in the market and provide value on an industry scale.”
-Vivek Gnanavelu, Ericsson ONE Intrapreneur and AI Architect.
Preparing our people to have their “lightbulb moment”
There’s not a perfect plan to draw ideas out of our people, and over time, we’ve noticed that the ideas that tend to be most successful, are ones that solve a problem faced by an innovator themselves. Take, for instance, Parth Radia, Head of Ericsson Digital Human (EDH). His motivation to connect with his grandmother, despite the 8,000+ miles between them, led him to create photorealistic holograms and simplified 3D calling. EDH is now the first business from Ericsson ONE to stand alone, and they are continuing to innovate. The EDH team is preparing to roll out an AI-enhanced video API that can translate human video calls both visually and auditorily in real time.
Rather than waiting for someone to encounter problems organically, Ericsson ONE tests other methods for getting someone to their “lightbulb moment” where a new idea is ignited. We’ve hosted in-person events, including ideation workshops and open houses at Ericsson campuses around the globe. Online, Ericsson ONE offers monthly challenges our people to brainstorm ideas for a specific question, such as “How can connectivity bring delightful new experiences to passengers at the airport or increase sustainability and efficiency at ports?” or “How can Ericsson make buildings, offices, and workspaces more enjoyable, valuable, and dynamic to those using them?” We aim to make the idea submission process easy and accessible, allowing anyone at Ericsson to submit their ideas online at any time.
If there’s one final message for potential intrapreneurs, it’s this—don’t be afraid to share or worry someone will dismiss an idea for being stupid. Engage early and be open to collaboration! Don’t wait until an idea is perfect because that time will most likely never come.
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