Elevate Sweden and Scandinavia with Lean Startups

by Magnus Penker on March 30, 2012

scandinavia_mapMORE ACTION Sweden and Scandinavia is innovating with a goal-oriented leadership and open environments. That is good, but to maximize the innovation power Sweden and the Scandinavian countries need to add a little bit of MacGyver.

For some time, we have measured and evaluated a large number of companies’ and organizations’ innovation ability with a completely new concept for innovation measurement.

It has proven to be major cultural differences between regions and countries; in Sweden and the Scandinavian countries, for example, we have a goal-oriented leadership and open environments which include a lot of discussions. At the same time we are lacking a bit of MacGyver: for those of you remembering the TV series the hero who makes bombs out of bamboo sticks and some sugar, or builds a vehicle with a Swiss army knife.

Basically, business development and successful innovation work are about accomplishing activities that give something in return and ignore the others. For Lean Startups, this is made by a learning process, and for MacGyver, who in this context symbolizes entrepreneurship, by utilizing the resources at hand.

Both can be seen as role models for how companies with a minimum effort manage to drive their innovation and development to a level which really gives results.

Hurdlers and Great by Choice

ideoAccording to IDEO, a world-leading innovation and design company in Palo Alto, hurdlers are one out of ten competences/personalities needed in order to drive innovation work effectively.

A hurdler is a person who can do anything out of nothing, and quickly as well. Or, to quote from Jim Collins’ new book Great by Choice, “firing bullets and then fire cannonballs once you know what’s on target”, and preferably in combination with an extreme endurance or what Jim Collins refers to as the 20 miles march.

A successful concept has been systematically and persistently working toward targets, in combination with shooting small-bore until you hit and then bring out the big guns. However, this also requires a certain kind of culture and personality.

In the measurements we have made recently, it is evident that endurance, extreme belief in oneself and having the guts to do much out of little are characteristics that distinguish winners. Characteristics which in combination with the things we are good at in Sweden, namely dialogue and goal-oriented leadership, become a fusion that really gives innovation power. Especially on the level required for rapid growth and success in a global market.

However, according to the measurements we have made, Swedish and Scandinavian companies are not culturally good at doing much with little, thinking very highly of themselves and never giving up. A call to all Swedish and Scandinavian firms: let’s find the MacGyver’s among you and give them the space they need. Set the ”Jante law” aside.

Lean Startups

One of the very big trends right now is so-called Lean Startups, where you enter the market quickly and build with standard components. The focus is on continually learning in small rapid iterations.

Typical features are minimal costs, developing cheaply and taking help from customers and other external partners in order to develop what the market wants. This, combined with a goal-oriented leadership, collaboration in open environments, dialogue and some really effective hurdlers is a recipe worth applying and following.

An exciting example of the recipe above is Dropbox, where the founders by applying the Lean Startup methodology went from 100,000 users to 4 million users in just 15 months. Good entrepreneurs, understanding of people’s needs, a substantial drive and a present learning process have made Dropbox to a success story.

Today new companies are being started with business models and distribution channels which we have never seen before. Globalization has created a new golden age for those who help themselves, see the possibilities and are able to mobilize the right work methodology. This combined with finding the company’s inner core and exploit it fully leads to success.

What do customers really want? How do we know that we are making progress in our product development? Questions that sound familiar? Thinking “Lean” is not only for startups; any company wishing to perfect its innovation capacity could learn from the simple principles of the methodology.

The story of Ziperall – a Swedish Lean Startup

We have had the pleasure of working closely with the founders of Ziperall.com; some young entrepreneurs who went from idea to complete concept within two months, and in less than four months went from break even to selling tens of thousands of garments just in Sweden.

What is the secret? The idea? No, the product is far from unique. The secret is more likely a “MacGyver” and a structured innovation environment with good infrastructure, as well as a genuine interest and understanding of how people function and make decisions.

The company was started as a spin-off to the “DI Gazelle” winner and “A Great Place To Work” company Estate Europe. The garment has literally taken the world by storm. In this moment, a Ziperall is sold through (referring from) Facebook every minute…

About Magnus Penker :

Director-level consultant defines corporate strategy, sets direction, executes growth and turnaround business plans. Read more at http://www.linkedin.com/in/magnuspenker

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