Stockholm, Day 1

Day One of our Business in Scandinavia adventures did not disappoint. We met with three companies that were diverse in what they bring to the market but interestingly similar in their fundamental values and approach. These consistent themes were eye opening to observe and good confirmation about the strong influence Swedish culture has on its people and the way they run businesses. The themes observed transcend industry silos.

Olov of Dagens Samhälle provided valuable insights into the Swedish culture and population from both a high level and a personal perspective. The information he shared was a great kick off to this experience as it provided a useful lens to observe the companies and people we interact with during our time here.

My attempt to recreate the culture spectrum chart above was one of my major takeaways regarding Sweden’s place in the world. It was surprising to learn how small of a role religion plays in society and the low level of familial attachment, how society takes care of you and how people believe in that. The contrast we see in America regarding faith in our Government and systems is stark, seeing a country like Sweden where there is no skepticism or widespread mistrust is refreshing. I was also impressed by Sweden’s level of tolerance and acceptance of minorities. This theme was exemplified at our visit to H&M where we watched a commercial focused on their clothing be for any type of person, this was communicated visually by the people cast in the commercial and explicitly with their chosen words.

On top of this the high level of political engagement, 80-90% of the population (including the disabled and imprisoned) participating in elections, speaks to their inclusiveness in practice.

Another contrast to America that seems ideal is the fact that their media systems are not political. Publications remain unbiased allowing readers to form their own opinions. This seems like such common sense, news should not be diluted. It is unfortunate that you are hard pressed to believe what you read in the States without multiple confirmations and the ability to decipher political motivations. I wish we could have an Ethical Guideline system where you can petition content like you can in Sweden. This process also exemplifies their high level of inclusivity. If a Swedish reader feels their position was not represented in an article there is a formal process in place for them to submit this concern to the publication and have it considered.

More detail on their ethical guidelines can be found here:

http://ethicnet.uta.fi/sweden/code_of_ethics_for_the_press_radio_and_television

This lack of political influence made me ponder how multiple media sources manage to coexist, how do they differentiate from each other if not by their opinions? The answer was by the quality of their journalism. The bar continues to raise. I find this to be a noble metric.

The general concensus about Sweden in the future is centered around dealing with digitalization and the evolution of consumer behaviors. No one we met with failed to mention how they are planning to evolve. Most in fact are not following what they see simply to conform but creating innovative solutions as they go that help shape a more efficient society for the sake of overall betterment.