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  • Writer's pictureRiikka Tanner

Nordic Business Forum 2016: Key Takeaways

Nordic Business Forum brings together some of the world’s most influential speakers and a tribe of business people looking to stay on top (or ahead) of their game.

Quite fitting, theme for #NBForum2016 this year was Advantage – divided into – Digitalization – Marketing – and Culture. Although the keynote speakers were categorized accordingly, each and everyone of them could have been representing all three areas – and this is exactly, what I learned first. In today’s digitally enabled world the boundaries are blurring.

Digitalization is, indeed a revolution. What we have seen so far, is only the beginning. The evolution of discovering new possibilities in the era where AI and computers will start handling most of data analysis and automation, will result in exponential growth in the progress of digitization. Global connectivity will end up connecting people and machines alike into an internet of everything. At the same time, computational power is increasing fast. The pace of change is so rapid that making predictions about the future is pointless, but we can tap into this huge potential by cherishing the new technology and learning how to experiment with it.

@PeterDiamandis: Everything we think of impossible today, will happen sooner or later.

If technological change happens as Dick Costolo said “first gradually, then suddenly”, how do you prepare your organization for the unknown? Many keynotes highlighted the same thing – experimentation, and the importance of coming up with dozens and dozens of bad ideas until you finally figure out a good one. The key is to build a company where it is understood that making mistakes is great, even necessary if we wish to succeed. It’s important your organization has a clear vision where it is headed, vision so strong that every single person on your payroll understands the “why”, the reason they are working for you and ideally, can map their day to day activities into that vision.

@ThisIsSethsBlog “Not enough good ideas? – Then you need more bad ideas”

Ed Catmull underlined the importance of creating space where there is no power structure, where ideas can fly freely without any regard to a person’s position. He also asked an important question – “How do you address and face problems you can’t see?” He also stressed the point about making mistakes but making sure that those mistakes or bad news would also reach the top layer of the company. The fastest way to kill creativity from your company is to punish people for making mistakes. It’s that simple.

@dickc “What are the things that have taken us too long to learn ..and why has it taken us so long to learn that?”

Vineet Nayar and Ed Catmull talked both about high performing teams. High performing teams are those who do stuff that other people deem impossible. In fact, they use a lot of their time doing exactly that, trying to reach the impossible. If you throw a good idea to a bad team, they will most likely screw it up but if you throw a bad idea to a good team, they will either fix it or throw it away and come up with something better. Amazing teams do amazing things so first focus on building the team and let them find the ideas they wish to work with. Transform the ownership of change to employees and you will see a whole different commitment from your people.

@vineetnayar “Transform your business by investing a lot of time to doing the impossible”

And finally, as the whole playing field is changing, Scott Galloway, Gary Vaynerchuck and Seth Godin all declared the end of traditional advertising. The loudest and clearest message from all keynotes was that the shift from pipeline business into platforms and network effects is the new reality and every single company or person wishing to make a difference will need to play by these new rules. Banner ads should be banished for good and advertising pollution stopped because the reality is that you cannot influence people via mass marketing anymore. Instead we need to start deploying common sense into advertising. Today, it is content that should be put to work. According to Gary Vaynerchuck , every single company should refer to itself first as a media company, then something else. We exist to bring value into people’s lives.

@garyvee “Momentum of social media is what people need to pay attention to, the momentum is growing”

The future belongs to storytellers. Advertising will find its way into feature stories the same way it has already populated blogs. Influencers become more and more important because people and customers wish to be led instead of being managed. People’s innate need to belong to a tribe is what is in reality affecting their actions and decisions, so you need to figure out what it is (the value) you bring to your tribe – and should you have no tribe – you need to go and invent one! The only real marketing value relies in the network. “In the dominance of Google & Facebook, also traditional media companies will need to redefine their role in the ecosystem, and assume the role of a storyteller”, noted Pia Kalsta, CEO of Sanoma Media Finland.

We should see ourselves in the business of building networks likewise whether we are in B2C or B2B business. Also B2B will need to embrace the new (social media) tools and start using influencer strategies in B2B marketing. The future will be all about creating networks and then fighting the churn. Couple of terms which were repeatedly present in the keynote speeches, were subscription and enrolment which both imply the direction into which business relationships are going. Des Traynor put it simply: “Recurring revenue is the new norm”.

At the same time, the one size fits all – mass production, bulk sales and marketing – is gone forever. The real competition is happening at the edges. According to Seth Godin, the two new principles guiding us into a digital future are generosity and art. The new digital economy and trying to make an impact stem from sharing what you know with others, art is how you design your competitive differentiator. What you create, and how you create value, need to be unique instead or merely copying from your competition.

The real edge, as we heard from Des Traynor, is in the product or service itself. You need to ruthlessly defend your idea, your product or your brand all the while keeping in mind that it still needs to be feasible, viable and desirable – and all of these three for you to succeed! It’s baking it all in – the digital product or service, sales, marketing, distribution and culture in a single package.

@edcatmull “Keep on peeling that onion and inside you might finally find banana”

One thing common for all keynote speeches we heard in Nordic Business Forum, was that they all called for one thing.


Courage to change, courage to be different. Courage to be great.

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