There’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing – Swedish Proverb
This is the first thing our Swedish tour guide told us when she picked us up from our hotel to take us to Drottingholm Palace, our first excursion into the city of Stockholm. We were all bundled up, petrified by the cold, yet in awe of the beautiful winter wonderland around us. The palace was a great first place to visit because not only is it a beautiful palace built in the 16th century, it is currently the residence of the Swedish royal family. We didn’t get to see the king or any member of his family, but we were told that they regularly go out and about and interact with the general population, without the need of special security protecting them.
That was the first hint as to how different of a society Sweden is to the other countries I’ve visited in my life. Swedes don’t care much for titles nor are they concerned with hierarchies. They value equality, consensus and belonging to a community. This was further emphasized later on in the week, when we made it to Gothenburg and met with our client. We had a panel discussion about the multicultural work environment in SCA and what stood out to me the most was how Swedes (and internationals working in Sweden) explained accomplishments by constantly emphasizing the role of the team by using “we, we, we”. If it had been a panel discussion in an American company, the focus would have been on individual and the most repeated word would have been “me, me, me”. Is the Swedish approach to company culture better or worse than the American? I wouldn’t dare to make a determination, but I will definitely say this: in order to work in Sweden, you have to adapt to the culture and the mindset, otherwise you will not get far.
Made by Sweden – Volvo
When those words appeared on the screen during a presentation at Volvo headquarters, all I could think of was ‘they wrote it wrong: it’s made IN Sweden, not BY Sweden’. Obviously the speaker knew what I was thinking, because it was the first thing he addressed in his presentation. Made by Sweden is a concept created by Volvo to re-envision the brand by focusing on people, safety and, most of all, its Swedish heritage. Made by Sweden means more than just local manufacturing: it’s a celebration of values, people and culture that allows Volvo to provide a product and a service unique in its kind because of its history.
In our visit to Volvo, we had a tour of the plant, which is completely automated and amazing to see in action. After that, at the Volvo Experience Visitor Center, we got a history lesson of Volvo’s trajectory since its founding in 1927 and a sneak peek as to what technologies Volvo is currently working on: self-driving and self-Parking cars – it’s almost a done deal!
Are you even working on this trip? – my mom
Yes, I am, and how! When I spoke with my mom about the beautiful places I got to see and the informative visits to Volvo and SCA, it may have seemed as if that was all we were doing… but it absolutely wasn’t! This short term study trip was as much about cultural travels and company visits as it was about late nights and entire days spent in business centers working to make sure we were delivering something of value to our client. Our commitment to the project became even deeper after we talked with our SCA contacts who stressed their desire to save lives through hand hygiene. We already knew this from the start, but it was nice to have the reminder: this company truly cares about people. Selling products comes second to their desire to help improve the quality of life of everyone that comes in contact with the company and its products.
The entire class carried this message as we worked in our three separate teams to present our vision of how SCA Tork could achieve this goal. When I finally got to see the presentations of the other two teams, it was a treat to see the differences between the ideas each team had come up with, as well as the similarities among the projects. The one thing the three teams had in common was a strong belief in their ideas, as well as for the hand hygiene compliance system Tork wants to bring to market. I’m glad I wasn’t the one judging these presentations: all of them had something special that added value to the final company. At the end of the day, however, I believe we all won: during our farewell dinner, our SCA hosts told us that as they move forward with this product, they will pick and choose pieces of all three presentations to carry into their marketing campaign for the USA.