Recap of Nordic Business Forum 2015 For the first time ever in Oulu, our dear OuluES organized a live stream event of the Finland’s most hyped business seminar – Nordic Business Forum 2015. Business Kitchen gathered about 200 eager listeners in front of the big screen and at the same time the live event in Helsinki hosted 5 500 attendees.

Nordic Business Forum is known for bringing big names to Finland and in previous years people have had the pleasure to hear keynotes from Al Gore, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Richard Branson just to name a few. This time the speaker line up did not disappoint either. We heard talks that touched the theme of “impact” in the contexts of influence, strategy and disruption.

Here I will give you a brief recap and notes of the lessons we learned from the world’s top tier speakers.

John C. Maxwell – Learning leadership

John C. Maxwell, is a best-selling author and a leadership coach who has trained millions of business professionals and spoken to many top leaders in the world. Maxwell was the first to step on the spotlight to give a speech about leadership and influence.

In his talk, he emphasized the fact that leadership is really a continuous process where you need to evolve by connecting with people you lead. It is a role that requires constant learning. In order to underline the misconceptions regarding what leadership is in practice, Maxwell discussed the five levels of leadership which are also part of his book:

  1. Position – you have followers because of your position in the company
  2. Permission – by building relationships with people, they will follow you because they want to
  3. Production – you lead by example and people follow you because of the things you have accomplished for the company
  4. People Development – you gain followers for what you have done for their benefit
  5. Pinnacle – people will follow you out of respect for who you are and what you represent

What needs to be remembered from Maxwell’s talk is that “a title doesn’t make you a leader”. Leadership is born when you work hard for the well-being of your subordinates and give them opportunities to succeed.


Arianna Huffington – Recharge your batteries

Arianna Huffington, the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Huffington Post- online news aggregator filled the minds of listeners with positivity by talking about new media and ways to diminish stress.

Huffington has been recognized as one of the most influential women in media and therefore she was the best person to give insights about the current state of media. First, she talked from her experience about how communications landscape has changed during the social era.

Social media has quite obviously made information flow more interactive. People don’t want to be passive followers of media but rather be actively participating and voicing out their opinions. She also talked about the importance of personalization of content which means that media houses need to cater various audiences which all have different preferences.

Another important theme in her speech was well-being. After Huffington experienced burn out, she became an advocate for digital detox. Huffington rightly pointed out that today we take better care of our smartphones than ourselves. When the battery of your phone is dying, you will be sure to find a way to recharge it. However, when your own energy level is below 0% you don’t even notice. She advised us to enjoy our digital devices responsibly and realize that people are not made for multi-tasking. By being always connected you receive a flood of distractions. Therefore, it is essential to minimize the continuous disruptions before you yourself get disrupted.


Nilofer Merchant – S = ( T x P )^C

Nilofer Merchant is known as a bright innovator and business world’s future thinker. She has gained experience from working for tech companies in the early days of Web like Apple, Logitech, HP and Yahoo. She gave an influential speech by discussing the success formula for leading in the social era.

Merchant started by demonstrating what it means to be social by letting the audience interact with each other. She highlighted the fact that social is people. And nowadays people are the key resources of businesses.

The industrial world has shifted to a social environment where ideas create the most value rather than machines and capital. What a better way to generate ideas than to create them together with others. Thus, relationships are the fuel that help companies to develop and grow.

Individuals have a whole lot of potential that remains unleashed because companies put people into boxes. A better way to realize people’s abilities is to recognize everyone’s unique skills and knowledge and give direction that helps them to bring up the best ideas.

She believes that success can be reached by leading with the focus on talent, purpose and culture.

  • Talent = abilities (doesn’t mean resume)
  • Purpose = meaning (doesn’t mean money)
  • Culture = relationships (doesn’t mean routines)

Merchant also emphasized that the social world is evolving rapidly so we need to embrace it: “Don’t think whether change will happen or can it be avoided, but rather think how you will adapt to it.”


Guy Kawasaki – Disruption starts with a purpose

Out of all the speakers at NBForum 2015, Guy Kawasaki is probably the most popular business expert. He is a known startup advisor and dedicates his time on projects that positively disrupt the world. Kawasaki has been the chief evangelist of Apple and currently is part of Canva, an online graphics design service.

He stepped on the stage smiling and gave a 10 point lesson of the art of disruption:

  1. Make meaning – Find your purpose.
  2. Make a mantra – Find a clear mission, why you are doing what you're doing.
  3. Jump to the next curve - Most companies start at a curve and die in the same curve: think what is going to be next and innovate.
  4. Roll the dice - Products need to have depth, be intelligent, complete, empowering, and elegant.
  5. Don't worry be crappy - You don't need to be perfect to start shipping, remember minimum viable product.
  6. Let 100 flowers blossom - The wrong people might use your product, they might even use it in a wrong way. Let them and take the money.
  7. Polarize people - Some will love you and some will hate you, it’s okay.
  8. Churn baby churn - Evolve the disruption, reinvent yourself.
  9. Niche Thyself - Unique and valuable is what you need to be in the market.
  10. Perfect your pitch - Customize your intro every time - 10 slides is all you need - 20 minutes is all you need - 30 point font - dark background is better

+ Don't let the bozos grind you down - Be aware of the bozos, who push you down. It’s always worth trying even though you would not succeed in the end.


Simon Sinek – Leaders eat last but they never go hungry

Simon Sinek is an ethnographer who has popularized the concept of asking “why”. He is a best-selling author of two books: “Start with Why” and “Leaders Eat Last” which was actually Sinek’s topic in this seminar. Earlier, he has given the second most watched talk of all time on It’s no wonder that Sinek clearly mesmerized also the NBForum audience with his phenomenal ability to tell stories and inspire.

In his talk Sinek introduced the essence of leadership and what it takes to create a healthy relationship with your followers. In order for organization to work well, leaders need to create an environment of trust and safety. He explained that without trust people are constantly afraid which will reflect badly into the entire business.

Sinek drilled down to the biology of leadership, literally. Sadly, I can never explain it the way he did so let me cut to the chase: Sinek roots for the so called unselfish chemicals: serotonin and oxytocin. These hormones are connected to feelings such as affection, respect, delight and gratification. Therefore, serotonin and oxytocin are actually the chemicals you want to try to trigger in other people. When you can spark all those chemical reactions in others, they will most likely follow you.

How are you able to do that? It is quite simple. When you take care of your team and sacrifice your time and energy for the benefit of others, you are a leader. Put others needs before your own. Healthy relationships are always built on trust and as a leader you need to lay the foundation. Be consistent and practice small acts of kindness every single day. As a final advice, he suggested to “be the leader you wish you had”.


Mette Lykke – Pick your passion in life

Mette Lykke transferred some of her enthusiasm to the listeners when she spoke about her entrepreneurship journey. Lykke took a leap of faith when she traded a safe job at consulting firm McKinsey to start her own venture. Now she runs a fitness tracking app Endomondo that has already reached over 20 million users.

Lykke discussed the secret ingredient of disruption. Passion. She bluntly stated that without passion you just become a consultant. For her a consulting job at McKinsey was just a stepping stone for her actual career. Now she cheers for happiness and encourages also others to work with the people you like. Luckily, as an entrepreneur you have the unique advantage of choosing the team you want to pursue a career with.

According to the young leader, passion and time management are the two things that are needed to run a venture. The reality of entrepreneurship is not as smooth as many perceive it to be. Lykke stated that starting a company is the easy part, your real dedication to your mission is tested when things get tough.

That is an important message for the aspiring entrepreneurs but it is not meant as a discouragement. Lykke feels strongly that kids should be injected with the entrepreneurial mindset and teach them important skills. She says that young people can be great entrepreneurs. They are naive and that makes them fearless business people.

Better start now, when that’s still true.


Keith Cunningham – Find the real problems and treat them as opportunities

Keith Cunningham is an experienced entrepreneur and investor from Texas and has been recognized as top notch business authority. At Nordic Business Forum Cunningham shared his pearls of wisdom about how to do business.

In order to find success Cunningham encouraged business professionals to ask the right questions. Only then it is possible to find the real problems and think what you can do to solve them. Regarding this he gave an important note: “don’t focus on the symptoms, cure the disease”.

Here are some of the questions Cunningham prompted you to ask yourself:

  • Where am I now?
  • Where I want my business to be in the future?
  • How can I get there?

After these are clear, you may think about your strategy. Strategy is the intelligent masterplan which guides you to where you need to be.

Additionally, Cunningham posed questions that will simplify the thinking behind doing business. When you know the answers to these four basic questions, you are much closer to finding the right path to success:

  1. What is my target group?
  2. What makes them buy from me?
  3. What makes them come back to buy?
  4. What could make them not want to come back?

Garry Kasparov – Chess, business and war require skills

Garry Kasparov is a Russian business speaker with an IQ of 190. He is known as the legendary world champion of chess and currently works as a human rights activist.

Kasparov provided some different content for the seminar as he steered the discussion further from business talk. He voiced out some harsh truths about politics and the current challenges we are striving to overcome. There was talk and analysis about dictatorship, Russia’s fight against the free world, corruption and democratic leaders’ behavior.

In his interesting speech, he gave also great insights about strategy reflected into different contexts. He pointed out that in whether it is chess, business or war, the same basic things apply.

Kasparov urged us to take notes of the things that have happened in the past but remember to look at the big picture to give you direction. He also made a remark that we live in a world where there is hard to make long term plans. Therefore, what differentiates winners and losers is skills and ability to adapt to surprising changes. Kasparov pushes us to take smart risks and be sure about where your strengths lie.


Ben Bernanke & Björn Wahlroos – Money, money, money

Closing the seminar, Dr. Ben S. Bernanke and Björn Wahlroos took the floor to discuss the world economy. Yes, a huge topic to tackle but these two finance masterminds were definitely the ones to take on the challenge.

Ben Bernanke is the former chairman of Fed, the central bank of the USA and has served in the boards of other federal organizations. The interviewer Björn “Nalle” Wahlroos is the chairman of Nordea, UPM and Sampo Group.

During the conversation Bernanke and Wahlroos analyzed the past events in the financial landscape and giving insights what we should have learned from the crisis. The interview touched important themes but bounced back and forth in a very general level. Understandably, we could not hear any real suggestions for curing the problems. To give you an overview, I picked up four points that came forward from the discussion:

  1. The fiscal policies have reacted too slowly to financial crisis situations, which have created lack of investments
  2. When the economic depression starts to hit it’s important to keep the money flowing and banks alive
  3. European Silicon Valley is needed to boost up the money inflow and grow the private sector
  4. When the income differences continue growing, it is important to secure education and teach skills that help people to live in this new world

By: Karita Kasurinen