The Scandinavian obsession in our culture has been running rife for a while now, influencing various aspects of our lives, from our TV viewing habits with the likes of Borgen and The Killing, to the way we're designing our homes with the country's innovative flat pack furniture.
But while it's old news that one in ten European children are conceived in an IKEA bed, it might be news to some that Sweden came out top in Tim Berners-Lee's first World Wide Web index, launched last September. The Scandinavian region is actually starting to lead the way when it comes to technology and has, over the past couple of years emerged as a haven for technology start-ups - and successful ones at that.
When you consider that, in the last decade alone, we've seen companies such as Spotify, Skype and Roxio (the software developers behind Angry Birds) explode out of the Nordic region, it becomes one to watch, with no signs so far that the trend is going to stop. From a funding perspective, venture capitalist firms such as Accel have profited largely from investing in some of these Scandinavian tech start-ups and are continuing to support these growing companies. Having lived in Stockholm and spent several years working for a Swedish-founded company, I can understand why organisations with a Scandinavian soul end up becoming successful technology ventures.
There are several aspects which could explain Scandinavia's success, but I believe that the country's collaborative foundations play a great part in the creation of innovative companies. Sweden has, for the third time in a row, just been rated as the world's second most innovative county in the Global Innovation Index and I'd like to argue that this innovation comes from the country's notion that the most value can be driven when everyone's input is acknowledged and teams are encouraged to work together. When I lived in Sweden, one of the country's oldest proverbs was 'En god affär är när båda parter vinner', which translates into English as 'a good deal is when both parties win.' As a result, Scandinavian companies are great at realising that a business is only as good as its people.
So why is this collaborative element so strong in the Scandinavian culture? Maybe it's due to their helpful nature. Or perhaps it is because of the long months of darkness the region faces each winter, when its employees find themselves inside, with little choice but to work together and embrace collaborative decision making to make their ventures a success. Either way, as a UK MD and RVP for Northern Europe of a company founded by and led by Swedish natives, it's easy to see how the country has a culture of 'all for one and one for all' - working without hierarchy and as an even unit.
Collaboration clearly works. Whether it is social collaboration, collaborating over information or physically pulling together to make sure a job gets done. More and more business are following the Scandinavian lead and encouraging their employees to work together. Last year saw a dramatic increase in the number of companies deploying social collaboration tools such as Yammer or Prezi, and we know a number of our customers have been providing data analysis platforms to all employees so insights can be found and highlighted across the company, so moves are being made outside of Scandinavia to encourage companies to work together.
Until Scandinavian countries stop topping innovation lists, they're going to be the country to watch and businesses won't go wrong using their principles and emulating them. I personally will be keeping an eye on other successes from the region - technology or otherwise - and making sure to learn from what they're doing right to continue to deploy their techniques in the way I manage my business and people.