An interview about innovation and intrapreneurship with Daniel Alexus, Founder & Head of Ericsson ONE
Wherever I travel in the world – everyone knows two Swedish brands: The Nobel Prize, and Ericsson. I think that says a lot about the dignity of what Ericsson has created throughout the company’s history.
I started to write about entrepreneurship and innovation in 1996 and hope to never stop, so it was an honor to do this interview with Daniel Alexus, founder and Head of Ericsson ONE, Ericsson’s internal accelerator. In my opinion, Daniel has extraordinary superpowers in fostering innovation and getting ideas to take off and become more than just that initial spark.
How did you learn to spot talent?
I’ve always been curios about what drives people. Helping people realize their strengths, focus their energy and grow is meaningful and inspiring.
How do you not only attract talent, but make them stay?
When an organization grows, people grow with it. It gives them the chance to learn something new. In my experience talented people stay when they have the possibility to take on new challenges in diverse teams with a speak-up culture.
Is Ericsson’s innovation speed increasing with Ericsson ONE?
Before we started Ericsson ONE we saw that talented people quit their jobs at Ericsson to start their own companies. Ericsson ONE was founded on the assumption that if we combine our company’s strengths with entrepreneurial methodologies, we could give them the tools needed to realize that ambition and build successful businesses within Ericsson instead. With over 50 projects in our pipeline, we can confidently say that assumption was correct. By supporting intrapreneurs, i.e. entrepreneurs within a company, we speed up innovation and harness great business ideas that otherwise would have left the company. We have the scale, the technology and the expertise needed to succeed – as well as strong customer relationships waiting to be leveraged.
You mentioned external customers, what do those partnerships look like?
In order to have a working and open relationship with customers we have developed mutual trust over time. Recently, we took the next step and launched an early adopter program for customers and partners who want to join us in pressure testing MVPs and new ventures. The program increases the speed of innovation, by being less formal than a full commercial agreement with Ericsson, and the projects’ chance of success, thanks to early feedback from customers. These agreements give the project teams’ a clear customer focus from the start because they have a working relationship with potential customers with less bureaucracy and more flow as a result. We work jointly with customers and partners throughout the innovation process, and we openly share how things are progressing. Also, thanks to the constant feedback we can ensure that we are building something that they will want to pay for in the end. It might sound obvious, but it is easy to forget once you start innovating and iterating over and over. To support our intrapreneurs and these engagements we have three hubs in Silicon Valley, Beijing and Stockholm.
How does digitalization impact you?
It gives us a global arena where we can validate, develop or if necessary, terminate projects faster and more accurately than ever before. Following covid-19 we have seen increased digitalization across markets, which has further increased the speed of innovation.
Do you have a different culture at Ericsson ONE compared to the rest of Ericsson?
There is a company-wide Ericsson culture of course but at Ericsson ONE we focus on two values: Be brave and be curious – always! By working closely with intrapreneurs and focusing on truly living our values, there is a natural openness to constantly learning, evolving and speaking up as well as not being afraid to fail.
Are you innovating at 100% of your capacity?
I believe we are close. We work constantly to increase speed, increase diversity, and recruit more women. Diversity is key to reaching 100%.
Is your Ericsson ONE purpose bigger than Ericsson’s?
No, I wouldn’t say that. Ericsson as a whole is working towards a sustainable future and Ericsson ONE is part of that.
Are all your intrapreneurs engineers?
No! Everyone at Ericsson is welcome to Ericsson ONE. Maybe you have a great idea you want to run with or you want to work on a project in another capacity than as innovator or you might want to coach a project towards success. All those roles are needed.
Thanks for Daniel for sharing how you work at Ericsson ONE. There is lots of great learnings for many organizations, even The Nobel Prize committee.