After spending a some time in Norway I am blown away. This country is regularly ranked as the best country in the world to live in.
Having oil – lot’s of oil – helps, of course.
But many countries have oil, but few did what Norway did: invest in an oil fund. The Norwegian sovereign wealth fund is the largest in the world (On average, the fund holds 1.4 percent of all of the world’s listed companies!) and today the value of the fund stands at 9 000 000 000 000 (!) NOK (ca 1 Trillion USD, or almost 200,000 USD per Norwegian)
To invest the country’s oil money instead of spending it, or letting a few people get most of the oil money: Civilised innovation.
But the most impressive things with Norway for me is not the oil or the money. It’s the people.
This picture sums it up:
A staff member of the Innotown conference, styled in a creative costume collecting trash in recycling bags during the lunch.
In most conferences in the world they would not recycle the trash from the lunch.
If they do they would not do it with a volunteer dressed up in a creative customer. It would be a cleaning staff doing it.
And it would not be done with a big smile on their faces.
Collecting trash to be recycled by being all dressed up in a stylish customer and with a big smile on your face from knowing you are doing good: Civilised Innovation.
When I leave the conference by bus I find that the public commuter busses in Norway have build in baby seats: Civilised Innovation.
And when I come to the small town of Lillehammer I find that the municipally has given new electric BMW e3’s (!) to the staff who go and visit the senior citizens. On the car it says: For the environment.
Show me any other country where the city’s staff for looking after senior citizens get to drive in brand new electric BMW’s to do good for the environment.
Yes, Norway can do this because they have the money. But they also choose to prioritise public service senior citizen staff : Civilised Innovation.
So where does this mindset of civilised innovation come from?
I learnt that some of it comes from the way Norwegian raise their children.
An interesting example I found is the “Common Sense Parent Rules” that you find all over sports facilities in Norway (I found version of them for football, basketball, skiing, handball etc)
The “Common Sense Parent Rules” includes rules like: “Encourage ALL children during the match – not just your own.” and “Always encourage the children, both in good times and in bad times.”
Sure, there are signs like this in other countries. but in Norway they are almost like a law. They really believe in this. Many small things like this and you have a society where the children grow up both confident and caring for others.
And I am going to say that you can see that in the eyes of the Norwegians. A sense of calm confidence but without the cockiness that so often follow with confidence.
Perhaps children growing up in an environment where all are positively encouraged grow up to be primed for civilised innovation. To be creative you need to be confident (to be brave enough to do something different) and yet humble (to questions yourself to find better ways). And to be creative for the greater good you also need a sense of community.
Let me give you a final example from my trip to Norway. In Lillehammer I spoke at a conference of the large utility company. Normally you would have the CEO speak to the employees but at this conference they had recorded a hilarious video where the CEO went and met with young school children and the CEO had to try to explain the power industry to the kids. The CEO making fun of himself together with kids. So refreshing. So Norwegian.
One of the people I met in Norway told me about a friend he had who worked as a psychologist helping traumatised children from war torn Afghanistan. One of these kids would everyday walk up to a zebra crossing in Norway just to see how people in cars would stop to allow him to cross. He was amazed by the respect he was shown and the trust it created.
And it is true, I have never been to a country where so many cars stop for people to cross so often or so early. On more than one occasion I had cars stop to let me over even before I had arrived at the zebra crossing. The cars often had to wait (!) for me to arrive at the zebra crossing …
It reminded me of a video by CNN I saw recently about a reporter who visited a medical clinic run in Afghanistan where they filmed how a man on a motorcycle first runs over a 3-years old child, and then just casually walks up to the parents of the girl seemingly un-shaken by having just run over a child. (You can see the video here https://edition.cnn.com/…/m…/36-hours-with-the-taliban-intl/ (3:20).)
A country where the children grow up with positive feedback and safety from living in a trusting community grow up to be positive, confident people with a sense of community, but without the cockiness that often follows with confidence. And people like that create civilised innovation.
Be inspired by the Norwegians: encourage all people, not just the people on your team. Give positive feedback both in good times and in bad. Create an environment of positive feedback and a sense of common good.
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