By Hugo Rehnberg
WHY SWEDES HAVE ALL THE RE AS ON T O BE C OCKY SWEDEN’S MINISTER FOR ENTERPRISE MIKAEL DAMBERG TALKS ABOUT THE PROS OF DIVERSITY, BEING A REMOVAL MAN AND THE RECIPE FOR “THE SECRET SWEDISH SAUCE.”
Name Mikael Damberg
What did you think of Brilliant Minds?
Occupation Sweden’s Minister of Enterprise
– It was impressive to gather so many interesting thinkers from near and far. I also appreciated the broad mix of industries. Originators from so many different backgrounds can really help and complement each other in their chosen field.
Did you know? Aside from his many political commitments, Damberg is also very engaged in raising awareness about and fighting honor killings.
What’s important to make an event like this exciting? – There must be substance and there was substance aplenty. Vital societal issues was brought to attention as well as what type of creativity can be used to solve them, which is a key ingredient in cruical and thoughtful conversations. Another important aspect is that an event like this can’t have too many lectures, then the audience will fall asleep. And last but definitely not least, you have to create time for and the possibility to get to know the other attendees. All of this was truly taken into account during Brilliant Minds. Brilliant Minds call Stockholm ”the creative capital of the world”. Do you agree? – It’s a cocky statement, but us Swedes have all the reason in the world to be cocky. When I’m traveling abroad people often ask me about the recipe for “the secret Swedish sauce.” They can’t fathom how our small country has put all these astonishing companies forward, from Ikea and H&M to Spotify and Klarna. At the same time you have to be humble, realize how tiny we actually are and that we’ve got plenty
to learn from others. But Swedes have mastered the discipline of being humble. With a relatively scarce population of only 10 million we’re barely a market on our own and we have to look beyond our borders. We’re interested in the rest of the world, we travel a lot and we’re good in English. What do you think might be the underlying cause for the Swedish tech success? – One explanation is that we’ve got a great IT infrastructure, great universities that develop the subject and a long, proud tradition of engineering. But personally I think it’s just as much about the social structure that modern Sweden is built upon: a country where equality and diversity has been paramount. Us Swedes are used to looking each other straight in the eye, rather than up and down. In a workplace, everyone is allowed and encouraged to have an opinion and come with suggestions to supervisors. Everyone is stimulated to contribute and that generates a major creative force. You’ve claimed in interviews that you loved being a removal man. Is this really true? – Absolutely, it’s one of the most fun summer jobs I’ve ever had. To me it was about taking responsibility and earning my own money. I liked the physical aspects of the work, and it was very satisfying to see how a task was always done by the end of the day. A flat was emptied and clean. You went home with a sense of accomplishment and could spend your evenings doing something else.
That’s not really the case when you’re a minister in the government… You’ve also said that you’d rather be on the board of Spotify than SEB. Why? – Both are enormously successful companies but, after all Spotify has revolutionazied a whole industry. I think there’s so much exciting knowledge and many insights to be gained from that. Every company in Sweden needs to learn the logic of the digital revolution, especially those that are still in the digital petri dish. Although it has to be said that SEB has realized this and thus reached very far. If you were an entrepreneur, what company would you found? – Oh, there have been so many ideas… I can’t pick just one. But I’m full of admiration for all these women and men who are so determined and insistent that they are able to fulfill their dreams. When you later on will look back on your time as minister, what do you want to have accomplished? – I want to make sure questions about innovation are high on the agenda. I want to give a better reputation to the Swedish enterprises that have been a bit tarnished for a while. And I want Sweden as a whole to become even more digitalized. My catchphrase as a minister for enterprise is ”create, grow, export.”