Key takeaways from Nordic Business Forum 2019

After spending two full days at the Nordic Business Forum in Helsinki, I thought I would take the time to sit back, write down, and share some key takeaways from this year’s event.

My first observation was, after taking a closer look at the event brochure, that responsible business conduct did not play a significant role in the event agenda. In fact, George Clooney, who was the second last speaker, was the first speaker to mention the words Corporate Social Responsibility at the event. This was surprising to me, as the theme of this year’s event was growth. To me, a better option for growth would be responsible growth. Despite of this somewhat confusing observation, however, there were several key takeaways that have to do with responsible business conduct. Let me share these with you.

#1 Psychological safety is the foundation for a healthy corporate culture.

Anssi Rantanen gave an excellent presentation about experimentation and innovation. One of his key takeaways was the importance of psychological safety. Anssi taught us that over 50% of employees do not speak up when they have something important to say. He was talking about innovations, but the exact same pattern applies for ethical concerns. Anssi’s conclusion was very much the same as the results of the Nordic Business Ethics Survey 2019, according to which 47% of the employees in Nordic countries do not speak up about ethical concerns.

But how to promote psychological safety? It’s a result of relentless effort to actively develop an open and honest corporate culture. Ultimately, it is about the experiences that employees have: Am I allowed to share this idea and what will happen to me once I do so?

#2 Without diversity and inclusion you will be out of business in five years.

Brené Brown and Carla Harris (who were my personal favorites as speakers) both talked about diversity and inclusion. To understand your customers and markets, you will need to have employees consisting of the individuals who demonstrate the needs and wants within these markets. This means having teams consisting of different backgrounds, ages, sexual orientation and ethnic roots. However, diversity is not the key to successful business. It’s the inclusion that results from the ability to get the most out of these employees when working as a diverse team. My personal interpretation is that we still have a lot of work to do in Nordics to really make inclusion a success factor to our work cultures and businesses.

#3 Do what’s right. Not what maximizes your personal wealth.

During his interview, Steve Wozniak shared an idea that has personally been very close to my heart. He didn’t show much of an appreciation to the startups that grow their businesses and sell them for major profit. According to Steve, we should do what’s right, not what maximizes our personal wealth. It’s a human and easy trap to fall into in work life for any one of us. The longer we admire people who make a great fortune, the longer there will be people seeking to achieve this – many times at the cost of responsible business conduct.

#4 Be part of the conversation.

When George Clooney was asked what his legacy will be in the humanitarian work, his answer was “being part of the conversation”. That reminds us all that we can contribute to the responsible business conduct by addressing it in our everyday choices. So, my question to you is: what is your contribution to the discussion aiming for more responsible business conduct?