Helsinki: The “Americanization” of Scandinavia Part 4

Helsinki

The final stop of our investigative visit with Scandinavian business culture happened to be in Helsinki, Finland. As parts 1 – 3 have explained, the “Americanization” of this region which we have studied refers not simply to popular culture, but rather to business focus, mission, values, and interactions. Helsinki had many things to offer, and our touring troupe had the pleasure of meeting very interesting people and places.

DSCN7115Hanken School of Economics hosted us to an evening of salad, wine, and intriguing discussion about the culture and education provided by the school. The curriculum and requirements were described to be quite similar to the Tallinn University we visited earlier. Hanken appears to provide a very valuable, well-rounded education to its students, emphasizing on independent study which equips students to start their own businesses (one of which we met, and will be discussed later in this post). The culture of the institution seemed quite relaxed and free, but of course, we are not students there and cannot judge adequately. Chapman University has provided rigid structure and course study throughout our program, focusing on group projects and final exams to complete each course. The impression of Hanken is that there is less emphasis on “case study” group work, and greater accent is upon research and thesis presentation. There is a clear distinction which seems to promote venturing out with one's unique concepts and creating a business for themselves, which we have personally experienced much less of back home.

RovioNext, our travel course group was treated to a very exciting visit with Rovio Entertainment, the creator of ‘Angry Birds' mobile games and the recently released film. Rovio explained how much there is to be gained from being a part of the rapidly growing mobile game industry, and it was apparent that Rovio concentrates particularly diligently on entertainment development, brand awareness, and “delighting the world!” The business appears to market similarly to American firms in that there is a multi-faceted approach to the Rovio marketing strategy (branding, advertising, cross-platform character awareness via the newly and wholly in-house produced feature film). The presenters explained the arduous nature of mobile game development, and that more often than not, a game is considered a failure. Rovio offered an atmosphere that “felt American”, which is sensible considering Rovio targets the global market which is, in large part, American by consumer habits. The colorful, and lighthearted nature of the office was easily recognized, and contrary to the impressions made by previous organizations visited on this trip, Rovio most closely resembled an entertainment-focused firm of the U.S. Facebook, google, and many other “tech companies” all present themselves as engaging and “easy-going” to promote creativity (which is not completely unique to America, but is quite American as of the tech-revolution of the 1990's). Rovio was quite fun, exciting, and all-in-all, lends credence to the assumption about the “Americanization” of Scandinavia.

Wunderdog

The most magnetic business concept throughout the duration of the trip was experienced with Wunderdog. The firm “assists” start-up companies/products in support of long term business viability, with an interest in partial ownership (or other revenue generating terms) of the successful venture in the future. This altruistic yet profit-seeking culture was unique when compared to similar ventures seen in the U.S. The television show “Shark Tank” is a clear contrast to this concept as the primary focus is to gain as much as possible from a “good idea” with the secondary focus being “help the little guy.” It appears that Scandinavian culture is heavily weighted toward togetherness and pooling resources to gain value which is greater than the sum of the individual parts. That notion is quite noble in many senses, and appears to sustain long term advantage (collectively) for the countries of the region. A clearly “Americanized” (completely capitalistic) firm does not tend to establish primary focus on the collective, but rather to stand out as industry leader regardless of consumption of resources, market space, or sustainability. Wunderdog was warm, welcoming, and although a recently established business themselves, gave the impression of a mature and well-managed organization.

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Our final visit with local businesses was with ResQ, a novel idea which allows consumers and restaurateurs to reduce/eliminate food waste. We have had a particular issue with food waste back home, and as parents, we are consistently disciplining our children to “clean up their plate.” There is an abundance of food in many areas of the world, while simultaneously, there is a severe shortage of food in other parts of the world. ResQ seeks to resolve part of this problem (at least locally at first) by ensuring that surplus resources are distributed via easy-to-access channels for consumers so that there is encouragement to eliminate over-production and misappropriation of food resources with discounts and promotional offers. The mission of ResQ, and the premise of the service offering are socially, and environmentally responsible. What surprised us is that ResQ-Club does not tout this fact, but rather takes the concept in stride while treating the service offering as a traditional business to ensure growth and success. The number of users added to the website has grown to more than 25,000 (as of the time of our visit), and the rate of added users is increasing each week.  ResQ appears to be on the path to great success, and far more responsibly-focused than typical American culture.

Our time in Helsinki provided even greater insight and evidence we can use to judge the level to which Scandinavian organizations are “Americanized.” Read on in Part 5 of this blog continuation for concluding thoughts…

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