Trust-based Collaboration and Cultural Differences

Being silent isn’t being strong. A wall sign I saw in a pub in Liverpool earlier this year.

This is a summary post of the topics I have been writing about during 2011. This has been an amazing year of social networks for me. I have learned a lot from hundreds of people around the globe. I highly value the network of the brilliant, talented, and trustworthy people I have the pleasure to collaborate with.

Thank you all for 2011, you know who you are!  

As more social business environment and the new ways of working are changing the organizations and reforming the entire business landscape  I’ll find it important and very interesting to study how we create and innovate, make decisions, and further how better mutual understanding can be created. We all know that the existing organizational structures needs a refresh, and that we, knowledge workers, should be passionate about helping our organizations to be more open, learning organizations.

One among many answers to this challenge is to focus on recognizing the value of ‘discovering’ people in your global network and further interacting and connecting with them on new levels. Naturally, different cultures and communication styles can then collide, softly or sometimes violently. Let me share a story about the Finnish way.

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Innovation and Social Leadership

Mårten Mickos – and some source code – on the stage @ TEDxHelsinki

My brain is bubbling after the TEDxHelsinki event – a creatively built lineup of innovative speakers. The themes were exactly those I’ve been working on lately: Entrepreneurship, innovation, age & generations, and leadership. So here are random thoughts I’d like to share.

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The Finnish Awesomeness and Entrepreneurship

Picture credit: AaltoES

Something exceptional is happening here in Finland. However I think that the foundation for that has existed a long time, only to wait its time to come. And it seems that the time is here and now. Let me explain.

I am a startup entrepreneur and I am considering myself very lucky that I have had the opportunity to follow somewhat amazing chain of events happening in the startup scene of Finland. The young crew from the Aalto University, so-called Aalto Entrepreneurship Society, has worked hard for two and half years, and finally this week they publicly proved that their vision and the actions taken truly are a very powerful force.

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Decision-making: Flipism, Gut Feeling, and Systems Intelligence

Dan Ariely knows all about our irrationality.

There’s a sea of different theories on decision-making. Most recently I’ve read Dan Ariely‘s Predictably Irrational, a very good read.

A Disney version of decision-making is flipism. It is a pseudophilosophy under which all decisions are made by flipping a coin.

In this 4-minute video, Henry Mintzberg explains his theory of management and also speaks about decision-making, presenting these three paths: Thinking first, Seeing first, and Doing first.
I recognize them all.

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Entrepreneur: An Adventurer with Inbuilt Crap Detector

Guy Kawasaki’s Note to Me @ Paris 2010

Inspired by an interview of Francis Ford Coppola and by an old article about Ernest Hemingway, I compared their advice to my experiences as an entrepreneur.

I’ve blogged earlier about my favorite topic, tacit knowledge and its role in personal and organizational learning. Francis Ford Coppola’s words took me back to these thoughts. In the web magazine The 99 Percent’s interview  ‘On Risk, Money, Craft & Collaboration’ he describes his working methods and techniques, for example how making notes, e.g. writing down the first impressions of a novel, helps him to find what’s essential in it.

I have a habit of making notes all the time, not only in work related meetings and workshops, but also of novels, TV programs, movies, and discussions. When I look back at my notes I often find a new angle to the subject at hands, and realize that often my notes are implying something tacit, a piece of knowledge, an idea based on the quick unconscious association.

In the beginning of interview Mr. Coppola presents his code of ethics that directs his filmmaking. I’ll find it very interesting:

  1. Write and direct original screenplays
  2. Make them with the most modern technology available, and
  3. Self-finance them.

With little bit of imagination I dare to compare this to mine and my friends’ situation as entrepreneurs. These points tickle my thinking: Firstly, for an entrepreneur it is important to have a clear vision based on your big idea, which in turn should be based on the real customer need you’ve seen, maybe based the weak-ish signals you’ve seen before others have. Anyways, your basic idea must be robust. It is your original screenplay, your starting point.

Secondly, Coppola’s request for the most modern technology: that’s an easy one. In my case it is about utilizing Cloud Computing and during the coming months I need better understanding what part Social Technology have in my business. I have no clear picture of it yet. There’s luckily a very interesting discussion on-going (in Twitter) about social business. Just search #socbiz or #e20 in Twitter, and you’ll see what I mean. Learning new things daily!

Francis Ford Coppola’s third point about financing is one of the key (worrying) issues for an entrepreneur. As both in filmmaking and for entrepreneurship, it is a question about how much independence you have. For Coppola financing must be easy nowadays, but for young entrepreneurs it is often a major pain. It takes a lot of energy and time, which temporarily can cut off some of the enthusiasm.

Learning, Risk Taking and Collaboration as Key Capabilities

All these essential issues points at learning, our capability to unlearn and learn is central. To change and to be able to see what is not visible: the tacit things, the weak signals. One sentence in Coppola’s interview shows how important learning is even with 45 years successful career, he says:

I just finished a film a few days ago, and I came home and said I learned so much today. So if I can come home from working on a little film after doing it for 45 years and say, “I learned so much today,” that shows something about the cinema. Because the cinema is very young. It’s only 100 years old.

His humble quote is very true in any business. As our business environment is in huge change, we need to see it as new every day. For an entrepreneur this means making best guesses and taking risks. Francis Ford Coppola asks a striking question to which every entrepreneur can relate to:

If you don’t take a risk then how are you going to make something really beautiful, that hasn’t been seen before?

Indeed. Further Mr. Coppola shares his idea of collaboration and his role as a director, with wise words:

You must never be the kind of director, I think maybe I was when I was 18, “No, no, no, I know best.” That’s not good. You can make the decision that you feel is best, but listen to everyone, because cinema is collaboration. I always like to say that collaboration is the sex of art because you take from everyone you’re working with.

His words remind me of Mitch Joel’s recent post ‘Market of One’, where he writes:

Just because you do something (or don’t do something) is no indication of how the market actually is and reacts.

A recommended read, you may recognize the pattern in your business environment, among partners, business angels, VCs. For an entrepreneur it is vital to listen to everyone, be curious, to truly collaborate, and not make assumptions based on your personal opinion only.

To me entrepreneurship is about learning, experimenting, collaborating, and taking risks. It is an adventure. And I feel like an adventurer.

We all have our own personal methods and tools to manage the adventure. For me it is a cocktail of many things, the base on my beloved Systems Thinking, but to name one thing that has changed my way of working: social media. After I’ve managed to find ‘my people’, especially in Twitter, social media has opened a new world of knowledge sharing and valuable, most interesting global network of smart people. Whenever I have time to participate I learn.

Another result of intense learning and studying within social media sphere is this blog. I started blogging as I felt that I need to write down the (often unstructured) ideas and thoughts, and get feedback from my network of smart people. The feedback is very valuable for the learning process: when I write I am often developing an ad hoc idea and the feedback makes me think and rethink. I do need that.

Related to this experience of making notes and blogging too, I share a wonderful old article of Hemingway in Cuba (The Atlantic, 1965) which partly inspired me to write this post. Hemingway experienced writing as inventing. Here’s a quote by him which I like very much:

Fiction-writing, Hemingway felt, was to invent out of knowledge. “To invent out of knowledge means to produce inventions that are true. Every man should have a built-in automatic crap detector operating inside him. It also should have a manual drill and a crank handle in case the machine breaks down. If you’re going to write, you have to find out what’s bad for you. Part of that you learn fast, and then you learn what’s good for you.”

That’s basically what every entrepreneur needs too: Knowledge (network) out of which to invent, and a curious, open mind with a built-in crap detector.

I believe I don’t have to explain that.

Entrepreneur again. How did it happen?

I wrote this piece, describing my background, already a couple of months ago…when I first tried to start blogging. However, I was then too busy to do it. But finally, the blog is now out – and here are the few lines I wrote about my entrepreneur background.

I like the word entrepreneur. Many associations come to my mind. What is an entrepreneur? Wikipedia defines it as: “…the type of personality who is willing to take upon himself a new venture or enterprise and accepts full responsibility for the outcome” and “a person who has possession of a new enterprise, venture or idea and assumes significant accountability for the inherent risks and the outcome”.

I wasn’t born in a family of entrepreneurs, but I suppose that some of my basic characteristics fit in with the requirements. I love to research and build, I am strongly for genuine team work, and I love to see a clear connection between the sweaty moments and the results, very rewarding. The continuous idea creation & iteration is fun. On top of that, the struggle on how to succeed in the execution is a challenge I’m willing to take – definitely the hardest part.

Entrepreneur x 4

This is the fourth time I am an entrepreneur. My first time in the 80’s was related to after-marketing of the IBM hardware (!), kind of recycling business for those huge equipments, mainframes & storage units – very international environment and me being very young at the time I learned a lot from my colleagues around the globe.

The second time for an entrepreneurial move was when I lived in Sweden. Year was 1997, me, my ex-husband and our two children moved to Stockholm. At that time I worked for an international software company IBS, but very soon I decided to study instead. So I combined both, started my M.Sc. studies at Stockholm University & Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan – and ran my own company aside.

The third time was in 2003. I had moved back to Finland from Sweden and started to work for a Finnish software company Efecte. I was fully acting like an entrepreneur even if I was just a minor shareholder. The team spirit was exceptional and I fell in love with IT Service Management (ITSM). How normal is that can be discussed! Almost six years of hard work and great moments. The company grew a lot and very fast, and as very often it was time for major changes which led further to the fact that it was time to start something new.

The end of the year 2008 was a major decision point for me. I traveled to Thailand all by myself, in order to do some thinking. Wonderful country & trip. The very day I came back I got a call from the founder of Efecte, Jaan Apajalahti , and very soon all was set. This time I would build something new together with Jaan and the loveliest of all business angels, Jukka Kosonen. In April we had the entire founding team setup ready, and the work really could start.

My new baby

Our new start up, Sopima, was founded in early 2009. A lot of excitement and a wonderful feeling of being along from the very beginning! And I made this decision in a minute – no, 30 seconds – with no hesitation. We are building something very special, with the latest technology, with the greatest of partners.

So this is what I’m doing at the moment. In this blog I will write about the road trip I have just started. Among other stories of my daily life and interests.