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All we need is lagom – a Swedish philosophy for collaborative innovation

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In many ways, we can argue that the Swedes are doing pretty well, both on a domestic level and on the international stage. So what is the secret of the Vikings?

According to the Financial Times, it all boils down to collaborative innovation. The Swedes follow a philosophy called “lagom”, which fosters collaboration and innovation. This peculiar word “Lagom “ has no direct translation into English but basically means “just enough, not too much, or that everybody should have enough but not too much”. This philosophy has helped Swedish companies such as IKEA and H&M to expand worldwide; everyone can afford to purchase their products, they are functional and look nice, but not too nice – or in other words, they are lagom.

But how would this philosophy work in the office?

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Neo Technology is a Swedish start-up based in California. According to Lars Nordwall, chief operating officer of the firm, striking a balance between work and life is imperative for the continuous success of his company. Managers are coached to not stress out staff and employees are encouraged to take the day off when appropriate. By this, employees will feel trusted and therefore, more willing to go above and beyond at times when the company needs them the most.

Teamwork is another vital factor of the Swedish philosophy according to Lars Bjork, chief executive of Qlik. Many of his company’s decisions are made collaboratively, by allowing the staff to access Qlik’s plans and data so they are informed of the decision-making process and consequently feel more engaged. His staff are also encouraged to contribute to most of the company’s decisions. This fosters an environment of trust and understanding, which leads to a less stressful setting.

Both Mr. Bjork and Mr. Nordwall state that listening to others is an ingrained part of the Swedish culture and thus it is crucial that employees can raise issues without fear of retribution. As part of this philosophy, Mr Bjork runs regular listening forums with his staff, which is a trusted environment where the staff can raise issues. Mr Bjork is aware of the fact that ideas and suggestions must be acted upon in order for the employees to feel that their opinions are respected and evaluated. As Mr. Bjork states: “It makes people comfortable to speak up.”

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