ANDRÉ NOËL CHAKER. An inspiring model and a few cool stories from a self-made nation - PDF

ANDRÉ NOËL CHAKER An inspiring model and a few cool stories from a self-made nation Talentum, Helsinki 2011 Copyright 2011 Talentum Media Oy and André Noël Chaker Publisher: Talentum Media Oy Cover and

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ANDRÉ NOËL CHAKER An inspiring model and a few cool stories from a self-made nation Talentum, Helsinki 2011 Copyright 2011 Talentum Media Oy and André Noël Chaker Publisher: Talentum Media Oy Cover and images: Jan Lindström Layout: Maria Mitrunen Kariston Kirjapaino Hämeenlinna 2011 ISBN To my Finnish family, my three inspiring Finnish miracles. Introduction Be realistic: Plan for a miracle. Osho Rajneesh The miracle of Finland I have always been interested in what makes people, businesses and nations succeed. Our eternal quest for success at all levels of our lives is an intrinsic part of the human condition. It is the motor that keeps most of us moving forward from one day to the next. Success, of course, means different things to different people. It also has frames of reference that vary greatly on the basis of national culture. For the purposes of this book, I have given success a plain and straightforward definition. It is the fulfillment of a set of personal or collective objectives. The cultural context for the success I speak of here is generally based on Western precepts and values, with a particular reference to the culture of Finland. I am a Canadian immigrant turned into a New Finn. With over twenty years of my life spent in Finland, I will have soon spent more time in my adoptive country than in my native Canada. For most of my career I have worked INTRODUCTION 9 in international organizations and businesses. I have had the pleasure and privilege of working closely with people representing dozens of different cultures and language groups from all over the world. When I discovered Finland and its special culture, I was immediately impressed with the country and its spirit. I have come to believe that there is something special about Finnishness to the point where I ultimately felt the need to produce a book like this. Finnishness is here defined as a set of cultural and behavioral characteristics shared by most people living in Finland. In these pages, I present a general roadmap for success called the Possibility Model. It is presented in the form of a mountain climb marked by several determining stops on the ascent to possible success. For each one of these stops, I use Finnish examples, stories and testimonials of success and failure. Through this exercise, I hope the reader will gain a new perspective on generating successes at all levels, as well as an original outlook on Finland and its people. In the minds of some, Finland is a miracle. Not in its size or in its impact on world affairs, but in its survival against the odds and in the way that it currently thrives. The Finnish state is near the top of the world both geographically and in terms of a wide range of social and economic measures. Indeed, during their short national history, the Finns have been doing a lot of things right. In Finland, I have seen miracles happen, large and small, and many of them are presented here on paper for the benefit of those who may find them inspiring. In its evolution as a nation, Finland can be considered a success under many of the most common and significant international standards. Some recent international benchmarks include: 10 THE FINNISH MIRACLE The best country in the world; Newsweek Magazine 2010 Best basic education in the world; PISA 2003, 2006 Happiest country in the world (along with Denmark); Gallup World Poll 2010 Least corrupt country in the world; Transparency International 2007 (always in the top 10 since then) Top ten most-competitive country in the world; World Economic Forum These represent an enviable record for a young nation that has come a long way in gaining its independence and developing its prosperity. Indeed, at the end of the 19 th century, Finns were beleaguered by famine and poverty. In the early 20 th century the country fell into a highly divisive civil war. During World War II, Finland fought an incredible set of wars against both the mighty Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. In the mid-20 th century the country had to build an industrial base practically from scratch to pay its war debts. These highlights from Finland s historical trials are certainly evidence that what doesn t kill you makes you stronger. It also puts the list of stellar national accomplishments listed above and those coming later in this book into better perspective. Like many nations, however, Finland has faced and still faces challenges: it is by no means a perfect Shangri-La. In fact, when reading about their scores on some of the international studies mentioned above, many Finns remain skeptical and sometimes ask: Are the other nations so bad? Indeed, studies such as the ones listed here are notoriously subjective and inexact by nature. Even for those at the top of these charts, there is still much room for improvement. In the end, we are all human, and humanity still has a long way to go before we can stop wishing for things to get better. INTRODUCTION 11 I have had the privilege of interviewing prominent Finnish persons from all walks of life in my quest for a better understanding of the relationship between Finnishness and success. The list of these Finns is reproduced in Appendix 1 of this book. I am infinitely grateful to them for their time and for their special insights. With each of them, I initially asked four basic questions: 1. What is the greatest Finnish success story? 2. What is the greatest Finnish failure? 3. What trait of the Finnish character is the most conducive to success? 4. What trait of the Finnish character is the least conducive to success? The answers they gave me were invaluable in adjusting the structure of this book and enriching its content. I do not reproduce all of their answers directly in this manuscript. I do, however, often refer to their views and stories at the relevant stage in our ascent of the Possibility Model. Most of my interviewees told me that a native Finn would never have written a book like this. Indeed, it is not in the national character to promote yourself in Finland. This, as we will see, is one of the strengths and perhaps also one of the weaknesses of Finnishness. Finns also dislike and even distrust those who analyze an issue and then end up only having positive things to say about it. Fortunately for them, as a trained lawyer in the art of audi alteram partem, I also believe that our quest for the truth lies in our ability to argue both sides of an issue. For this reason, I have made it a point to include, at the end of each of the chapters of this book, the development opportunities that I 12 THE FINNISH MIRACLE see Finland would need to address in order to maintain its stellar social and economic record in the future. Through its own chain of successes and failures, Finland has managed to pull off some spectacular successes. I call these miracles. For the purposes of this book, a miracle is the manifestation of something so uncommon or unlikely that it stretches our belief of what is possible. The survival of Finland in its two wars against the Soviet Union and the creation of a dynamic modern economy, of which Nokia has been the global flagship, are two of the better-known Finnish miracles. There are, however, a host of other minor Finnish miracles that merit commentary and a look into the ways they were achieved. The Possibility Model For close to thirty years I have been an avid reader of literature that gives insight into how to create greater possibilities for myself and for others. In this regard, I became particularly attuned to business and social sciences literature. I have always wanted to create a comprehensive yet simple map of where people, companies and even countries are situated at a given stage of their development, with a view to improving our understanding of where they need to go. After failing to find a model to my liking, I decided to draft one of my own. This is how I stumbled onto the Possibility Model. Most business and socio-economic models tend to focus on one part of the chain of actions we need to take in order to enhance our chances for success. Many focus on strategy and vision generation. Others are more hands-on and deliver insights into processes or organizational behavior and even cultural frameworks. Finally, there is a lot of selfhelp literature that attempts to enhance motivation and the INTRODUCTION 13 importance of visualization of goals, with emotional appeals to being the best you can be. Few books, however, have proposed a comprehensive view of how all these elements, and more, should come together in bringing the seemingly impossible into the realm of the possible. This book is an attempt at such a comprehensive approach. It is based on a generic model that allows you to better understand how to generate possibilities and thus improve your chances for success. Most of us are inspired and fascinated by stories of the impossible made possible. These stories function as a driver of human development. The struggle to improve our lot or to achieve something that few of us have ever achieved is one of the motors of human progress. At the individual level, making the impossible possible is a notion that both humbles and inspires. For some, the impossible remains but a dream. For others it becomes a reality which sets a new benchmark for what others can hope to attain. I believe that human miracles occur in part as a result of a certain state of mind, a certain way of living your life or conducting your business. I have summarized these elements in a framework called the Possibility Model, presented below in Figure I-1. This model includes five steps, a set of prerequisites for generating success. Each of these five steps provides the main topic for one of the five chapters of this book. The steps are as follows: 1. An open mind 2. Trial and error 3. Working harder AND smarter 4. Sisu 5. Being yourself 14 THE FINNISH MIRACLE Figure I-1: The Possibility Model These common catch phrases represent a process for making things happen. I have chosen them precisely because they are easy to remember and because they can, I think, significantly improve our lives if we simply take a fresh look at them in the Finnish context. When we put all five steps together, they form a powerful framework for understanding the workings of success. Their basic building blocks almost always form a solid part of the foundation of any human success story, whether personal or collective. Moreover, in the coverage of each stage of the Possibility Model, I have given these phrases a specific meaning as part of the larger story of success generation. In Figure I-1, these five elements are metaphorically laid down as stages in a mountain climb. This could be any mountain, of course, but for the purposes of this book I have used a famous Finnish mountain: Korvatunturi. For non-finnish INTRODUCTION 15 readers this mountain may not ring a bell, but it has often played a role in making the seemingly impossible possible for millions of children across the world. This mountain is where Santa Claus and his elves do their perpetual work in preparation for Christmas. Interestingly, the mountain s name in Finnish literally means ear mountain, which suggests that Korvatunturi has the power to listen to the entire world and deliver on children s wishes everywhere. Such a place is quite fitting as a metaphor for the Possibility Model because of the mountain s mystical ability to connect to our youthful aspirations and help make our dreams come true. The journey along the Possibility Model begins with keeping an open mind and ends with being oneself. These stages are set in order of difficulty. The assumption of the model is that it is more difficult to be yourself than to keep an open mind. The model also claims that it is far more challenging to face change and fear with something called Finnish sisu than to engage in trial and error. Another assumption of this model is that each stage is a critical step that should occur in order to maximise your chances for success in any given venture. Though they may overlap to some extent, the earlier stages of the model form a solid sequential base on which the next stage can lay its own foundation. Finally, the five steps identified here are by no means exhaustive of all the issues in the eternal quest for human success. They do, however, set forth what I believe to be one of the first comprehensive attempts to evaluate the most critical and sometimes contradictory elements in your journey towards success. Inevitably, as we shall see in the Finnish stories from later chapters, several other issues come into play when we try to generate success. Pure luck, for example, is certainly one of 16 THE FINNISH MIRACLE them. The element of randomness in producing successes and even miracles is more specifically dealt with in Chapter 2, during our analysis of trial and error. However, luck permeates our lives and our ventures from the beginning to the end. I believe that the forces of nature and chance and the forces of nurture and human action form a classic yin-and-yang, an essential synergetic dichotomy. You can t have one without the other, and both are inevitable contributors to the outcomes we achieve in life. If our impact on the direction of chance remains low, our ability to influence the nature and sequence of human action needed for success is much higher. This book focuses on the tangible human ability to influence success despite the shortcomings of random chance, which will always remain part of any winning equation. It can also be said that success can come without systematically working through and succeeding at all of the stages of the model. It is indeed possible to move upward in the Possibility Model and achieve some level of success without having to master each and every one of the previous levels. Few persons and ventures actually perform a perfect ascent towards a successful outcome. Still, even though you may not need to hit a perfect score at all five levels presented here, these stages are, for the majority of ventures, necessary steps in generating success. As performance improves at each level, the groundwork for making the impossible possible in your field becomes broader and stronger, and offers a greater catalyst for the human miracles you work for and hope to reach. INTRODUCTION 17
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