We Can Learn Important Lessons About Entrepreneurship From... Finland?


By Kevin Ramso, BBA ʼ17

Let’s be honest, you don’t know much about Finland.

When asked about Finland, most Americans would probably respond with “cold and snowy Nordic country” or more likely “some European nation.”

Finland is a truly foreign country to most Americans — their culture, their government, their major businesses, even their location on the world map — and that is why I chose to spend my semester abroad here on the border of the Arctic Circle.

And boy am I glad I did, because Finland is impressingly full of surprises.

The cold weather was certainly not one of the surprises.

One of the biggest surprises Finland has delivered to me thus far is how determined their businesses, government, and universities are to mold Helsinki into a technological capital in Europe.

From headquartering major technology companies like Nokia and Rovio (the developers behind Angry Birds) to hosting one of the largest tech startup conferences in Europe, SLUSH, Helsinki is working to create an international reputation for technological business opportunities.

Finnish collaboration between the businesses of Helsinki, the government, and universities is a model of collaboration that stimulates the growth of commerce and new business opportunities. Our own American businesses, government, and universities can learn something from their example.

During my sophomore year at Ross, we talked a lot about the concept of stakeholder value.  However, after witnessing the way Finnish business and society interact to achieve their goals, like the tech boom in Helsinki, I see how the American perception of stakeholders has contributed to the friction American corporations are often seen having with the American government.

In the U.S., businesspeople tend to treat politics as a risk. At any moment, a new regulation could be passed or tax approved that requires a change in strategy to maintain profitability and efficiency.

This mentality is birthed from the view we have of what it means to be a stakeholder. We partition shareholders and the community into two different entities, leading to a mentality that businesses must constantly strike a balance between the interests of shareholders and society.

This prevents us for searching for innovative ways to intertwine the two the way Finland has. The Finnish political policy complements the goals of business, and vice versa, which allows for a technological boom and the abundant resources Helsinki enjoys today.

The American corporate and political environments could learn a lesson or two from this collaboration between Finnish business and politics. This generation of American businesspeople has an opportunity to take steps toward opening the doors of effective collaboration. I hope we take it.

Kevin Ramso is a student in the Michigan Ross BBA Program, studying abroad as part of the Global Semester Exchange program. He’ll be studying at the Aalto University School of Business in Helsinki until May 2016.