THINGS Corporate Innovation Co-pilots exist to support corporate innovation leaders in developing their capabilities to navigate the digital transformation. Our Co-pilots help navigate or give a second opinion on ideas, plans and execution regarding anything from: incubators, accelerators, corporate investments, innovation challenges, hackathons, recruitment, collaboration between small and large companies and bespoke services.
We are happy to announce that Björn Lindblom will be joining THINGS as a Corporate Innovation Co-pilot. In addition to THINGS community, relationships, experience and activities, Björn brings real solid international corporate & startup management roles encompassing finance, sales and marketing, product development, strategy M&A, and leadership.
In this interview, Björn talks us through some of his most interesting reflections, insights and learnings from corporate innovation efforts especially when it comes to collaboration with smaller companies.
Björn is a serial entrepreneur withsolid experience combining strategy with execution.He has built and sold a number of companies and has served as Chairman and board member in a number of technology companies in addition to exit experience from several IT/ Telecom and IoT companies.
Björn’s current focus is on internationalization and growing markets expansion in India and Asia and one of his latest projects is growing, selling and now holding the position as CCO of Cyan Connode: part of the Swedish IoT alliance (SMSE) and a world leader in design and development of Narrowband RF Smart Mesh Networks for IoT and Smart City applications. .
Innovation from a large corporate perspective
Björn held different roles during his time at Ericsson, focusing mainly on technical architecture and the development of Ericsson Corporate Network, a global network for Ericsson’s internal communications, where he cut his teeth implementing lots of new technologies over a 9-year period.
He soon realized that it was difficult to break in with new tech even if there was a business case. This was due to cumbersome legacy systems and a lack of real drive to make things happen, which is often inherent in big global corporates. He cites how this almost killed the introduction of digital video-conferencing internally and success came only via canvassing internal support via some ingenious and innovative thinking!
“In retrospect, big corporations with all the resources and smart people are most often slower and not on an as innovative path compared to startups/ small companies. There is something in the system and culture preventing new ways of thinking or testing new ideas. The result being people often spend more time on internal processes than actually building the business.”
Building a small company and collaborating with large corporates
After Ericsson, Björn started his first telecommunications company Informationsmäklarna (Ahhaaa Group), quickly building revenue and then gaining market share by collaborating with relatively much larger companies to create competitive services with which to compete with the market leader at the time. This led to an interesting world working with the global giants.
This situation was repeated when Björn joined Connode as CEO. By a coincident (and some pretty hard work) Connode got in contact with Telefonica at a critical period of the worlds largest IoT-procurement at the time, UK SMIP program,
“We were 2 people from Cyan Connode vs. over 25 with Telefonica in our first meeting, ending up with negotiating a 2 thousand page, 1.8 billion EUR, contract on an entire floor at a large London based law firm!”
What can a small company offer a large corporate? How best to navigate relationship?
“[As a small company] we needed to broaden their perspective on innovation. They presented a problem/ challenge and needed our solutions to fill the gaps. And those solutions where crucial to win the entire contract.
A key learning is something has to be problem centric and if you can define the problem then you can find the solutions in small innovative companies. The sweet spot is where you can see digital transformation opportunities between big corporates and innovative small companies.”
How does a small and large company connect and how to ensure it lands in the right way?
“Mutual understanding of both perspectives is important.
Large company perspective:In order to build trust internally and make it work in a big corporate world, you need to understand the rules and politics of how things work in a big corporate. It is not same in every corporate, but there are more or less similar measures: what score cards do different directors have for that year? How does it fit in, regarding costs? Any problems to resolve? etc.
Small company perspective:What problems can you solve? etc, understanding that and understanding the challenges on the entrepreneurial side. Cash flow for example is key.
How important is fast and innovative when it comes to digital transformations? What other considerations are there?
“The important thing is to be aware. To be aware and not wake up and not having tested. This is where innovative small companies without the big company systems and structures tend to do what they believe in without boundaries.”
Digital transformation is even more important if you are selling things. Business models can change very fast. If you are already selling services then you are probably already in the cloud and digitalized. If not and if customers need connected devices you are out of business if you do not get it or have it.
How has THINGS co-pilot program piqued your interest? Why is it valuable to put your time and energy to support it?
“I loved THINGS and the concept from the beginning! Being part of SMSE (Swedish IoT Alliance) group of companies and talking a lot to different members of THINGS: both big and small entrepreneurs. The THINGS network is a really good group of people with good values. The spirit of people wanting to do something, not just driven by money. I like that. I’m also old enough to like to pick and choose between things and it’s really interesting to see what we can do between big and small. To see how that can work.”
How will you help corporates practically to navigate the digital transformation?
“Like talking to a psychologist, you have all the answers yourself, but it takes someone to confirm that to you. My Co-pilot role will be shaped according to the corporate’s unique situation. Listening, providing business model insights, identifying problems, testing concepts & ideas and hopefully being a catalyst in the process. Just guessing now, but it will of course be totally bespoke approach and we will build it as we go!”
What type of companies would benefit from having a Corporate Innovation Co-pilot?
“Most mid to big corporates across a broad spectrum of industries who are not on top or at the front line of all innovations when it comes to digitalization will need to constantly try new methods to not be left behind. The main question for all CEOs around world: “What if I wake up tomorrow and someone has come up with a new concept? What if someone has tweaked something or…” Need to be vigilant!”