The creation of a “head of innovation” role at Ericsson led to the launch of a number of hubs and platforms to drive entrepreneurship and encourage employees to share ideas.
Sarah Goss was appointed head of innovation role three years ago, a position created by Ericsson Australia head Emilio Romeo.
She is tasked with supporting Romeo, helping him see around the corners and help as his right-hand strategic and trusted advisor.
Goss is essentially responsible for both the design and execution of Ericsson’s innovation programme across the Australia and New Zealand business which is aligned with the company’s strategic goals.
“[We] then built a holistic programme to strengthen our overall local culture for the innovation and the capability that goes with it,” Goss told Which-50.
Before working as head of innovation, Goss was leading Ericsson’s practice called “industry and society” addressing the government and enterprise business.
“The focus of our role was driving digital transformation projects in selected industries. They were utilities, transport and public safety. We had a team of solution architects who are consultants, subject matter experts, and the like, bringing Ericsson’s technology to support them in their own digital transformation.”
During her time at Ericsson there have been a number of milestones such as the establishment of the Ericsson Innovation Centre at Docklands in Melbourne and the Australian launch of global innovation platform, Ericsson One.
Ericsson One encourages entrepreneurship within the company by giving every employee the chance to be an entrepreneur.
The platform, launched in May, is based on the 5i innovation process – initiation, ideation, incubation, ignition and incorporation.
Goss said, “We absolutely want to unlock the bright minds and passions of our employees to come up with breakthrough innovation ideas.
“To say to them, ‘you don’t have to leave Ericsson to pursue them we will invest in them’, we have a process defined in the way that we work with innovation that could be comparable to other innovation processes out there.”
However she said it is not just about giving them a process to work with that’s universal, it’s also about giving them access to the required support.
“If you’ve got an idea, but you need some expertise in business modelling or commercial and legal matters, you will be matched with the right support team around you and get funding as well. So up to US$10 million in investment.”
When the company launched this program there was an an emphasis on breakthrough ideas and being bold. Goss said for some people that was quite daunting.
“We helped them realise that you don’t have to have the unicorn idea from day one, you just have to identified a problem that you think we can solve, a challenge that you think we can address, or an opportunity that we can take advantage of, and we go from there.”
Ericsson Innovation Centre
The Ericsson Innovation Centre officially opened in October last year as a collaborative environment for their employees, customers and partners.
Goss said, “It’s a space where we invite the sharing of ideas of knowledge, getting our heads together around problems, challenges and coming up with ideas.
“The facility also has adjacent to it a working lab and that’s a technical environment that once you’ve done the ideation stage it allows teams wanting to progress further to prototypes, staging and testing in an actual environment. So that’s been tangible for our business.”
One of their customers Telstra has used the innovation centre for the latest developments in 5G according to Goss.
She said the company has seen the implementation of the first nationwide long-range narrowband IoT network which previously had a limit of only 40 kilometres.
“It was the local team and global team, jointly Ericsson and Telstra, that a were able to, through software upgrade, extend that technology’s limit to up to 100 kilometres.”
Innovation and diversity
Goss said diversity and inclusion (D&I) is the bedrock for innovation, and is a cause she champions throughout the company.
From the get-go, Goss said the company wanted to intentionally bring together a diverse mix of people who don’t necessarily work together in their day to day jobs.
The workshops look to bring together “people who come from the different communities that exist in our business, mature age professionals, younger professionals, women, people from the LGBTQI community,” Goss said.
“We also have a small community of asylum seekers and refugees that have now found permanent roles in our business, so as well as of course, the functional representation, the actual, skilled, experienced backgrounds.
“I really loved actually watching the journey of that program, seeing people work together for the first time and to feel the energy in the room whenever they got together for their workshops.”