Late April, 421 attended the event “Techarenan Summit 2019”, a day packed with panel discussions, keynotes, networking and of course, start-ups.
A topic close to our heart that was discussed in the panel discussions was “Leading Through Transformation” with CEOs from various companies including Microsoft Sweden and Billerud Korsnäs. Most of the discussion centered around culture and how it must change in order to effectively lead a company through a transformation in either what kind of products are offered or how the current product assortment/services will be delivered in the future.
Everyone agreed that in order for the transformation to be successful, it is important for the leaders to define the wanted culture in the beginning of the transformational “journey” and to actually live it; prove to the employees that you will take part of it. This is to not only be a role model but to create a sense of clarity, purpose and security.
It was also discussed how the leader of yesterday, who was expected to know everything and make every decision, does not work anymore. The new leaders must be able to make the coworkers enthusiastic and motivated for the work they are doing. Effective leadership these days is not about sitting in your own private office reading reports but rather being out in the organization closer to the employees. Hélène Barnekow, the CEO of Microsoft Sweden, pointed out that she does not have her own office, not even her own desk. If this isn’t “walk the talk”, I don’t know what is.
She also explained why Microsoft is now moving from their almost 30-year-old office in Akalla to new offices in central Stockholm. They began a huge transformation journey when their new global CEO, steered the company from a “devices and services” company to a focus more on cloud and collaboration. These new offerings work better when being closer to the customer, and they have also started cooperating more with start-ups, which is much easier when being in the city.
Another topic discussed that day was “Thinking Big and Global” with the founders of iZettle, Northvolt and Mapillary. Start-ups must often face the choice of how and when they are expanding outside their country of origin which can be a challenge. It was however mentioned that Sweden and the Nordics are great markets to start in considering a well-functioning eco-system of start-ups, a digitally savvy population, plenty of capital and a strong social safety net which can encourage risk-taking. So the Nordics are a good starting point for proving you can be profitable with tomorrow’s digital users. Here Peter Carlsson, the founder of Northvolt, jokingly gave the advice that “start-ups should not do as Northvolt has done, where you have to reach a massive scale in order to succeed”.