In episode Five of the IBC’s Changemaker series of Podcasts, Actors and Changemakers, Johan Wahlberg, Head of Digital Partnerships, SVT speaks to Nadira Tudor about how he brokered some powerful tech collaborations with Apple, Samsung, Google and Amazon amongst many many more well-known companies- fuelled mostly by caffeine.
Wahlberg began by explaining where his caffeine philosophy stems from, and how it feeds into making connections and inspiring change.
“I’ve been at SVT since 1995. In 2010, when I became head of distribution strategy, I got permission to work with both broadcast and online. My partner and I got the mission to harmonise the thinking of both broadcast and online distribution. We realised that with the complexity we were facing, we needed to create a new base of conversations with all players in the TV market that was based on trust, where we could have a more high-flying conversation about the future with all parts of the ecosystem. We named the first year of our mission the ‘Year of great relationships’. So we started out on a journey…”
He continued to widen the frame of reference, looking at the broadcast and media industry as a whole, and the changes that it is currently undergoing: “The thinking is simple - as we are moving more and more online, the TV ecosystem is changing. Everyone needs to reinvent their place and to do that, we need to talk, and we need to learn and we need to find new ways of working together.
“My key tool in this is actually meeting over a cup of coffee, getting out of that agenda filled meeting that takes place in your traditional meeting room with a whiteboard. [That meeting room] usually has dull coffee, and it’s not really a place where you feel like you’re thinking of new horizons, but it’s a great place when you know exactly what to do and get the details of getting things done - to me it was step two.
“First we need to connect ideas to make things happen. So that’s the reason for the coffee thing being ‘my thing’.”
Diversity of perspective drives meaningful change
Wahlberg has a clear sense of perspective, as well as an acknowledgement that diversity is crucial in unleashing new perspectives. “I’m not really the one making the change. I’m just seeing patterns and then trying to figure out who can actually make the change and putting the right people together. If you’re talking old or new, the best moment you can have is when you’re putting someone with real, old TV technology knowledge and someone coming with a new perspective. You put these in the same room because both have something to learn from each other…
“Some people learn from each other, and when they start to think about a common goal and something that they want to achieve that will actually lead to change. So my role is getting people connected, getting that room working because that’s when the change happens.”
He continued to make the point that sharing builds trust, which drives better business relationships, and how that cyclical effect must be harnessed by the wider business community. “We need to share [knowledge] because sharing will also be giving back to yourself. To me, it’s just something that we have to feel comfortable doing. There is always a limit of how far down we can go and what we share - it’s not about total openness and giving everything away because that’s not how companies work. But we can share more than we do today.
“I think we are a little bit too narrow and closed as companies in general, being afraid of [sharing] but it is building on trust and trust is built through relationships. If you don’t have trust, you won’t have a fruitful business, collaboration or partnership.”
The power of data
In closing comments, the topic of the future was inevitably going to come up, and for Wahlberg the direction of travel is clear.
“The journey is [towards] online, that’s where the playing field will be. We’re seeing more people using our products online and so on.
But the big thing for me right now is really about data. Because we’re going into more of a machine to machine world and that will be a different way of creating new relationships. People often say data is the new gold - that we’re going to harvest this data and make money - but I see data as also a bridge.
This is not just wordplay, it’s a significant, shifting perspective, instead of perceiving data as this resource to exploit for immediate gain. I consider it as a tool that we can actually use to create new connections, faster understanding and encourage cooperation. In essence data forms the groundwork of an ecosystem that one can have opportunities for many. We need to build this data bridge that works for all of us in this new economic ecosystem, we need to have open conversations about structures and understand each other’s data needs.
“This is paving the way for a future of collaboration, innovation and shared benefit - that’s where my brain is at the moment - ‘where do we build data bridges of the future’?”
See all Changemakers Podcast Episodes, including upcoming Episode 6:
Episode 6 Being anything but ‘All Quiet’: The importance grit and gratitude - Friday 15 September