Young men and women the world over share a similar drive: To create and innovate. Innovation is a way of putting one’s fingerprint on the map, of making one’s contribution. There is a new world order rooted in creativity being built, but how do we build to create more for all of us?
The story of innovation is often too focused on the tale of cogs and algorithms, seed rounds and valuations, but the greater story lies in the most basic human instincts—pride, shared values, and shared mission.
This story of Numanity as we dubbed it at Brilliant Minds 2017, a two-day thought leadership forum in Stockholm, is one in which Swedish startups are redefining the rules when it comes to exponential innovation because they are marrying great innovation with great values. Sweden’s startup sensation demonstrates that technology can be a great collaborator for humanity.
The new president of France, Emanuel Macron, declared compellingly that France must think and move like a startup, with the state acting as an enabler—not a constraint—for entrepreneurs. That is precisely what Sweden does for its citizens. The Swedes leverage stability, and reject a dog-eat-dog competitive hustle, to scale creativity and democratize talent.
How do the Swedes do it? In certain ways that is a distinct advantage a small, highly educated country has today over big countries. Because a small country is required to think in global terms to be competitive, Sweden reaches the future first by germinating a global workplace model rooted in local values and global reach.
High-quality education for all, universal health care, generous parental leave, and a laser focus on gender equality, empowers both men and women to express their creativity to the fullest with robust support structure to do so. Swedes start companies not out of fear or survival, but out of confidence and stability. They innovate because they can.
The archipelago of thriving tech companies builds unicorns that are inherently values-based, and those values—transparency, collaboration, inclusion, gender equality, belief in science—are universal global ideals that will build the future for the next generation.
The computer game Minecraft is a good example of implementing values in a commercially compelling—and responsible—way. Unlike any games preceding it, Minecraft is built with an open-ended nature that allows each individual to fulfill his or her sense of community and breadth. The focus is not on winning or beating others but on building and collaborating, creating communities with a sense of belonging.
Another example is found in the Swedish company Spotify. Daniel Ek, the founder of the music-streaming phenomenon, often asserts publicly that he felt compelled to launch the company more than ten years ago because he was sick of people stealing music and wanted to bring fairness back to the music industry.
Spotify has brought its Swedish values to America by extending the generous parental leave Swedish families receive company-wide, and driving Sweden’s legacy of gender equality in the music industry writ large. Today the company boasts more than 60 million paying subscribers per month, and has staged a winning battle as David against Apple’s Goliath due largely, in my opinion, to a strong mission and values-driven culture.
The Swedish sense of social mission and responsibility also drives its entrepreneurs to launch companies that really matter. Unlike many of our Silicon Valley successes that focus on pictures, social communication, and entertainment, Swedish startups like Werlabs, Kry, and Natural Cycles are transforming health, especially for women. It is no surprise that Europe’s largest convening space for social entrepreneurship, Norrsken House, resides in Sweden founded by Niklas Adalberth, co-founder of Swedish payments unicorn Klarna.
In the not-so-distant future nations will compete like companies do for top talent and will need to evolve, transform, ”fail fast” and scale new ideas in the same terminal velocity as Silicon Valley.
But strong engineering talent and a disruptive sensibility are not enough—you also need some heart.
Many economists say the most powerful drive comes when the outcome is not just about oneself but a meaning that is much higher. This is the spirit I have found in Sweden, and a spirit that working with Swedes have given me.
It is absolutely an edge the Swedish corporate citizen has over its competitors, and the sooner companies elsewhere realize the practical commercial results that accompany bringing Numanity into the workplace, the sooner will occur a global tech renaissance that will be creative, prosperous and truly good for all of humanity.
– Natalia Brzezinski
CEO, Brilliant Minds