Nordic Business Forum 2014: What Did We Learn?


We know, we know - Nordic Business Forum was already more than a week ago. A lot of yellowish leaves and cold rain drops have already fallen after the event, and in the world where terabytes of information can be transferred within less than half a second, more than a week is an eternity.

But we needed to give some time for all the precious learnings to get stewed by our subconscious (and to be honest, for our blogger to return from holidays). This is the time when you probably start to forget that you even spent those two days going through that motivational firework and are slightly scared that the not-free-of-charge ticket is going to waste. So, let us offer you a little (or to be honest, rather too long) brain refresher on the selected sessions we found especially inspiring.

We've divided the text into clear sections according to the speakers, so that you can read it in several parts or share it with your geeky bookwormish friends to be summarized for your convenience.

Jim Collins: The Process of Building Great Companies

He was that kinda strict looking guy – remember? I mean, had he been my primary school teacher (of whom he kind of resembled) I’d been holding my breath while waiting for a moment when he snapped and wanted to give me detention and extra homework. Finally, he turned out to be a super inspirational speaker, simple-beauty-appreciating-rock-climber and a caring husband. Quite a lovable dude, so to say. With his irony and sharp voice he gave lots of advice advice worth gold 'n' other shiny medals. Here are the ones we found most interesting:

1. About Great Companies

Great companies consist of three elements: superior results, a distinctive impact and lasting endurance. Ask not only whether your results are better compared to your competitors but also: Is there an unfillable hole in the market if you leave? Is the foundation of your company enduring - that is - not dependent upon one or two main characters?

2. About Great Leadership

Leadership is not about personality: You don’t need charisma if your cause is charismatic.

True leadership exists when you get people to want to do what must be done.

The X factor for great leadership is humility – combined with a will for a cause that is something greater than you.

To be a great leader you must be willing to be the dummest person in the room.

To achieve great success, combine unwaivering faith with brutal facts. Believe in the good end but don’t forget the facts along the way.

3. About Great Success

First, to live a happy, fulfilling, successful – one word: great – life, focus on your hedgehog concept: What can you be the best in the world at? What drives your economic engine? What are you deeply passionate about?

Second, be disciplined. Don’t let conditions drive your process. Choose your 20-mile-march to have a sort of self-control in the world that is actually a mess: A not-too-short yet not-too-long way you decide to walk every day despite the conditions. Great things are made of small things done consistently – that is, with discipline.

4. About the Great Life

The most important life skill enabling you to have a great and meaningful life is to do things with people you love to do things with. Life is people. Consider carefully who you let shape your life.

Don’t think so much about how to be successful. Instead, think about how to be useful. How will you change the life of others? How will some lives be better because you were here?


Arnold Schwarzenegger: My Rules for Success

Then, there was this guy with such massive neck muscles that he couldn’t probably even turn his head properly. With a strange accent and a vein pumping on his forehead making him look and sound like Hulk - or well, Terminator - he shared His Rules for Success and I didn’t dare to move for the whole hour, not even talking about considering not to listen. Btw, is it somehow bizarre to hope that a sixty-something year old guy rips his shirt off?

1. Find Your Vision

Know where you are going. Work is suffering if you don’t know why you’re doing it and where you’re aiming at. See the result and visualize it carefully. Discover your vision and the rest will follow. “I always look forward and am excited because I’ve a vision. At the gym, for example, what keeps me motivated, is that I know that each set brings me one step closer to my vision.”

2. Think Big

You can already tell from his looks that he has thought BIG. If you do something do it big time. It takes the same amount of energy to dream big or small anyway. “I didn’t want to just make a movie, I wanted to be a movie star. I didn’t want only to do politics, I wanted to be a governor.”

3. Ignore the Naysayers

Don’t listen to people who say that you can’t do it. Even your weaknesses can become your greatest asset if used correctly. Just think about Arnold’s accent or rather unique body shape. “When I said I want to be a bodybuilding champion, they said: No, but you can become a ski champion. So I decided that every time someone says “impossible” I hear the word “possible”.”

4. Work Like Hell

Leave no stone unturned. None of the rules work if you don’t. And there’s always time to work hard. “You have plenty of time to do things, 24 hours a day! 6 hours to sleep - that leaves 18 hours of awake time. People say 6 hours of sleep is not enough. Well, sleep faster!"

5. Give Something Back

Don’t’ just take, give something back. In fact, you have an obligation to serve your community. The country you call your home, you’ve the responsibility for. “Tear down that mirror and you can see millions of people who need your help. Don’t just work on “me”, work on “we”.”

Dambisa Moyo: What’s It Going To Take To Be Successful

The audience was already impressed when she jumped to the stage and made a dash in her 50 cm tall high heels. But even more impressed was it with her too-realistic-for-the 12%-privileged-wealth-gaining-people-of-the-world speech. Talk about letting the cat out of the bag! For like five minutes I truly felt like I'll be the one stopping the climate change and removing poverty for good. Of course, like most of you probably, I had forgotten the noble vision already before the lunch break… Here are the most significant points anyway:

1. We have to see those things today that after some time we'll say: “Why on earth didn’t we see that coming?"

2. The world’s becoming increasingly unstable. There’s a recession coming and it’ll be like nothing before:

  • Technology is developing and hence more and more people are getting unemployed. Also, the quality and quantity of labor is decreasing as population is aging.
  • The fight for natural resources is increasing. People in developing countries want to have the Western lifestyle which the Earth will not survive. At the moment there are 20 wars for resources, and more to come.
  • There’s a devastating inequality of income and opportunity. Democracy in its current form is not a solution. Just take a look at the two biggest economies of the world, China and the US: these countries have exactly the same income inequality.

Well, she left the power to solve these problems into our hands. So, let's keep these facts in mind when making our choices, so that we won't have to say "why on earth didn't we see that coming" - right?


Tony Fernandes: Choosing Excellence

He was so sweet that he had to be Asian. Really, men from other continents can never achieve the sweetness level where women want to jump to the stage just to give a hug (which happened twice during his session). Maybe it was the photo in which Richard Branson was dressed up as a woman and served him on his first flight ever from London to Kuala Lumpur, maybe it was just his red Air Asia cap - or maybe it was the great speech he gave, briefly suggesting that:

1. Your biggest asset are the people in your company.

2. Shake up old hierarchies. Help everyone in your organization to realize their potential. Go down and know your staff. A successful organization is a transparent organization.

3. It’s OK to dream. Some dreams come true, others don’t. However, in every experience you learn something. If you fail, you fail. You can always try again.

Sir Ken Robinson: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything

Sir Ken beats 100-00 Sami Hedberg, Ismo Leikola and other comedy amateurs with the best stand up gig ever held in Finland. If you tell inappropriate jokes about Swedes, there’s no other option than paving your way straight into the Finnish audience’s heart. Who would have thought what kind of an ironic rebel this gentleman would turn out to be when he was climbing the stairs to the stage with his walking stick. This is what we learned:

1. We’re living in the times of revolution. Not metaphorically - literally. Most things we take for granted are or will not be true.

2. We’ve to think differently about ourselves. In the times of change, it's more difficult to realize what your true talents are. Human talent tends to be below the surface and we need to put stakes on making it visible.

3. Therefore we have to do things differently. That means changes in businesses, education and politics. Our thinking in all fields must change in so much that these fields will be based on new, different principles.

4. Technology has improved and will improve with even more giant steps. This affects our creativity and even our perception of reality. We can think about things we couldn’t before and technology has already affected strongly our sense of time, for example.

5. Life is full of randomness. Every human being is a unique moment in the history of time, creating one’s own life with the choices one makes. There’s no path you can anticipate for the future. The path emerges as you walk it. So do things you enjoy and are naturally good at, and your path will be full of success.

6. Companies is like a living organisms rather than machines and they have the responsibility to make conditions for human flourishing.

7. Everyone is a source of fresh thinking, that is, creative. Innovation is an application of new ideas. Hence, to innovate, create a culture where everyone can contribute to fresh ideas.

Psst. I have this strange drawing on my notes where an odd figure is walking on his hands with the name “Bart” above. Does anyone have a clue what this could be about?

Sir Alex Ferguson: Creating a Winning Organization

Sir Alex was a sympathetic and rather red-faced mumbler. I mean, no offence, his Scottish accent was so strong that he might had as well spoken Mandarin Chinese or Latin for that matter. I didn't understand a word but like a half of the NBF crowd I was nodding while sketching David Beckham scoring a banana kick in a ManU shirt into my notes, trying to look smart. I was truly relieved when Helsingin Sanomat wrote an article about his session so that I don't have to make up the advice by myself.

Please check Ferguson’s advice here. This blog post is breaking records with its length already anyway. All I can say: his presence was truly inspiring for anyone who has ever watched the Premium League.

Anyway, we want to thank Nordic Business Forum and all the speakers from the bottom of our hearts for a truly remarkable event! We're also glad that one of our favorite leadership gurus - Simon Sinek - will be a keynote speaker next year. Can't wait!

One more thing...

On the MTV live stage Jari Sarasvuo, who recently changed his title to “Toukka” (a caterpillar) said: “I’m not a consultant. I’m an insultant. My job is sometimes to insult.” ("En ole konsultti. Olen insultti. Tehtäväni on joskus loukata.") Thumbs up for the rock star attitude – rather bold words from a tiny little bug. Check out his new excellent Stronghold video about Bug's Life, culture and leadership here.