It’s been two weeks of afterlife since the end of Nordic Business Forum 2017. I use the word afterlife, as I had a life before the event, and a slightly different one after it.
During the event, someone tweeted their concern about the audience of Nordic Business Forums – that it’s an event filled with leaders and owners of companies, CEO’s, of people in charge. As a high-class business event, probably up to a certain point that’s true. But I wholeheartedly think that there’s something for everyone who gets to participate, and more worker bee types like myself from all sorts of companies should participate. After all, wouldn’t it be great that more people got to hear about success from successful people, not only those who’ve already succeeded?
You see, there’s something different about this event compared to all other events you’ve ever participated in. When you hear inspirational speeches for two days straight, wearing way fancier clothing than you’d probably normally wear to work and see Richard Branson showing a video of himself in a swimming pool with Nelson Mandela, who’s asking “Richard, why do you have so much money?”, you’re bound to change as a human being. You find new meanings for the word absurd, but you also get an understanding of why some people have more power, why they excel in life and what is the actual point of business cards. This year you also got a deep understanding of the fact that the world is about to end, but we might be able to save it and each other by working together, not fearing change, by recycling and going to space.
Don’t listen to the hype, just listen
Sure, I didn’t get to experience all the fuss and excitement of the great main hall where the speeches were held, and didn’t see the speakers live as I didn’t go to NBF to network – I went there to actually work. I was on the other side of a curtain and saw a live stream and actually heard the speakers live, so that counts as a semi-live experience though, right? The themes this year (responsibility, purpose, leadership) were surprisingly soft and embraced the world and its difficulties as they are – a lot of candid talk about climate change, healthy organizations, good leadership and being grateful. During coffee and lunch breaks people actually seemed to be discussing about all sorts of matters, not just the crickets we were eating, and the noise levels were pretty high, something you would not necessarily expect in a convention held in Finland.
Before the event I had gone through the speakers’ introductions many times, I actually knew them by heart, weirdly enough, so I thought I had a pretty good sense of what to expect. What blew me away was the fact that the most interesting speakers were not the ones who were the most hyped beforehand, not the big celebrities with their big fancy resumes of endless charity work and celebrity friends, but the scientists, the professors and the so-called academia, who are normally perhaps deemed to be boring or predictable. In the surroundings of NBF they shined, held amazing statements and made everyone listen with their superb charisma and knowledge. Imagine a person with strong knowledge of business and competitiveness, funnily old-school presentation and a witty sense of humor, and you get professor Stéphane Garelli. Imagine an enthusiastic speaker with sensational ideas of givers and takers who also feels like “one of us” despite having a PhD and being a worldwide phenomenon in the field of organizational psychology, you get Adam Grant.
We’re in it to win it – changing the world that is
My personal favorite was Patrick Lencioni. I did not anticipate much, as his subjects didn’t feel familiar to me personally – he talks and writes about entrepreneurship, organizations and their functionality and leadership models. On top of being an excellent speaker, he was spot on with pretty much everything he said about teams, feelings and politics in working environments. Lencioni talked of emotional transparency, leaders who dare to be open and show their vulnerabilities… Is this really something you get to hear in a convention filled with the cream of the crop of the cold business world? Is the world actually changing?
Nordic Business Forum boggles the mind with its themes and speakers, and most of all it raises questions. This year the questions were mostly extremely beneficial. How can we change the world? How can we work better together? How can we save the planet from ourselves, how can we be more grateful of what we already have? And on top of all this, as it turned out in the last speech, how can we raise our children like Will Smith?