For the next leg of our trip, we travelled as far north as I think most of us have ever been: the small town of Lycksele, which is located in the Västerbotten region. We arrived to take part in an Innovation Loop conference. We all knew that we would be taking part in the conference and knew we would be discussing different topics with people from the region. It was that and so much more. Not only did we have the chance to take part in discussions, but we were given the unique opportunity to break into groups and create a plan or product to solve one of the major issues in the region. These issues ranged from the care of premature babies to the issue of the fact that in the future there will not be enough people to occupy all the jobs in the region due to the high flow of retirement and the younger citizens moving elsewhere. This was a huge challenge. We had 48 hours to come up with our solutions and in these 48 hours, we were able to discover cultural differences between Swedes and Americans firsthand.

As discussed in the first blog of the series, Swedish people are very active in their society and politics. In our discussions, it was illustrated how much the people are invested in the goings-on of their country. From a personal standpoint, it was amazing to me how much they all knew of the policies in place and the struggles the country is facing because I think some Americans tend to be ignorant of those aspects in our own country. Although it is not true that all Americans are that way, but the Swedes we met were truly passionate about the well-being of their country, and more specifically, their region. Another cultural difference that came to light is that Swedes are a consensus-driven people. In my group, it took quite a while to develop our solution and in speaking with other classmates, they found the same to be true. It was to due with the fact that in order to choose a path, the Swedes in the group were concerned that everyone was on board and that everyone had a chance to share their opinion. Again, in reflecting back to the American way, I think it would have taken less time to reach a solution because we are not as concerned with getting the whole group’s consensus; we just want the majority. Although they are consensus driven people, it does not mean they are a passive people who will agree with the first idea that is given. In speaking with the class, we all found that Swedes were not afraid to be blunt and not afraid to ask the tough questions. At first, I was taken aback, however, their directness allowed us to look at our problem from all sides. Even though this conference was challenging and lot of work was required, it gave us an opportunity to understand Swedish people on different level than I think we would have gotten from only visiting businesses.

Here is a link to an article we were featured in!