IKEA’s secret Swedish code


Anyone who’s ever been in one of the 350 + IKEAs in the world, has experienced a tiny slice of Sweden. 

In the stores, one thing that reflects Swedish and Scandinavian culture is the name of the thousands of products. 

What many people don’t know is that there are strict rules for the naming of the merchandise. Fascinatingly, these rules were devised by IKEA’s founder Ingvar Kamprad because he struggled with dyslexia and had trouble remembering the order of numbers in item codes of the inventory. 

So what’s the secret? Here are the guidelines: 

  • Bathroom articles = Names of Swedish lakes and bodies of water
  • Bed textiles = Flowers and plants
  • Beds, wardrobes, hall furniture = Norwegian place names
  • Bookcases = Professions, Scandinavian boy’s names
  • Bowls, vases, candle and candle holders = Swedish place names, adjectives, spices, herbs, fruits and berries
  • Boxes, wall decoration, pictures and frames, clocks = Swedish slang expressions, Swedish place names
  • Children’s products = Mammals, birds, adjectives
  • Desks, chairs and swivel chairs = Scandinavian boy’s names
  • Fabrics, curtains = Scandinavian girl’s names
  • Garden furniture = Scandinavian islands
  • Kitchen accessories = Fish, mushrooms and adjectives
  • Lighting = Units of measurement, seasons, months, days, shipping and nautical terms, Swedish place names
  • Rugs = Danish place names
  • Sofas, armchairs, chairs and dining tables = Swedish place names

There are some exceptions to these rules where the product’s name is a Swedish verb reflecting the function of the item, eg a spice mill called ‘krossa’ (to crush) or a lamp called ‘böja’ (to bend). 

Obviously, IKEA’s branders try to vet any words that are offensive locally. And with a few notable exceptions, they seem to succeed. More about this in a later blog. 

And the Best Country in the World for Business is…..SWEDEN!

madeinsweden

Despite fear-mongering in the media about the awfulness of Sweden, things are actually going rather well for the country. Or at least that’s what a recent piece of research from Forbes would suggest.

For 11 years Forbes has graded 139 countries on 11 factors: property rights, innovation, taxes, technology, corruption, freedom (personal, trade and monetary), red tape, investor protection and stock market performance.

The aim of this to identify which countries are the best for business investment and business development. In other words, which is the ‘Best Country in the World for Business’

And in the latest results, Sweden has soared to the number 1 position, beating out other EU countries, USA and low cost countries. So, Sweden is the best country in the world for business. This creates jobs, generates income and attracts new talent to the country.

And if we take a look at some of the successful companies to come out of Sweden, it would seem easy to confirm this. The country is home to some of the most well-known brands in the world, including Electrolux, SKF, Ericsson, IKEA and H&M.

Skype was co-founded by Swede Niklas Zennstrom in 2003. Music site SoundCloud and file sharing site Pirate Bay are Swedish too. Tictail and iZettle are both Swedish. Sweden is also the home to companies that created three of the biggest games of this decade: Candy Crush Saga, Battlefield and Minecraft. The 1 billion dollar financial transaction company Klarna is also founded and based in Sweden. Not bad for a country of only 10 million inhabitants.

So this would suggest that Sweden is entrepreneurial and successful. And the constant development of new ideas attracts new investment which will keep the Swedish economy motoring on strongly into the future.

Here’s the link for the full Forbes listing: https://www.forbes.com/best-countries-for-business/list/

 

 

 

 

Spotifree time

spotify sketch

It’s common knowledge that Sweden has one of the world’s best systems for paid leave in connection with the birth of a child – thirteen months parental leave which can be shared between both the parents. The payment received is equivalent to about 80% of salary up to a certain level.

Now, Swedish company Spotify has announced an upgrade to this system for employees working in their company. Parents at Spotify are allowed to take free time, or parental leave, for 6 months at full pay. This is for either parent so is not gender, or role, specific. When the employee returns to work, there is also a ‘welocme back’ month where they can work part-time and from home to ease themselves back into the workplace and from their infant. The great thing about this is that it’s not just Sweden. It’s GLOBALLY! For all employees everywhere in the world.

It’s great to see private organisations taking responsibility for their employees. The government and the tax payer can only do so much, if they even do anything at all. The Head of HR at Spotify says

“This policy best defines who we are as a company, born out of a Swedish culture that places an emphasis on a healthy work-family balance, gender equality and the ability for every parent to spend quality time with the people that matter most in their lives.”

Swedes – the world’s best bosses?

worlds best boss

If you are Swedish, I would like some help from you.

I am carrying out some informal research into what Swedes perceive to be the best management qualities and behaviours. There’s a lot of research out there, but a lot of it is old. I’d like to get some contemporary and fresh input. And I need your help.

If you’d like to help me, please answer the following two questions in the comments field below:

1) What do you think are the most important qualities of a good manager?

2) What do you think are the most important behaviours of a good manager (in relation to you and your work)?

List as many qualities/behavours as you want.

Thank you very much for your help!!

Glocalization in the Swedish market

glocalizationREV4

Sunny holidays. Weight loss. Healthy eating.
All of the above are currently hot topics in Sweden. Maybe this is not so surprising after the Christmas break, but there is another reason why this is interesting.

Are you familiar with the term ‘glocalization’? The term was made popular in the 90’s by sociologist Roland Robertson and describes the adaptation of a product or service specifically to each locality or culture in which it is sold. The goal of course is to make the product or service more attractive in order to sell more. The method of glocalization is a smart way to meet local needs and at the same time expand business globally. In some ways, it is the opposite of Americanization – which just applies one business model and product wherever in the workd it is. More and more companies are attempting to expand their business in the way of glocalization.

One example of glocalization is the dominant advertizing in a specific region or country. The advertized products or services that most appeal to the locals reflects what the locals perceive as interesting and important. The type and content of the adverts often reflect the attitudes and values of the society. One example I remember is when I was standing on an underground platform in Stockholm a while ago, and I was confronted by huge adverts containing lots of naked backsides, of all shapes, sizes and genders. In the UK, this would probably not occur, but in Sweden, there is a more relaxed attitude to and acceptance of nudity.

Glocalized advertizing is often seasonal. A short glimpse in newspapers, tv, Internet or billboards around Sweden tells us what the locals prioritize at this time of the year – holidays! Almost everywhere you look, there is an advert promoting a sunny break away from the dark and the cold of the Scandinavian winter. The second most common advert at the moment seems to be weight loss -an apparent necessity for getting into that swimsuit on that quickly-approaching sunny holiday.

Another illustration of glocalization is actual adaptation of products. For example, the way in which hamburger chain McDonald’s changes its menu and promotions to appeal to local tastes. In France, for example, they replaced their Ronald McDonald mascot with Asterix the Gaul, a local cartoon character. When in Spain a few years ago, I noticed that McDonald’s had McTapas on their menu. Currently, in Sweden, the food chain is marketing ‘fullkorn’ (wholegrain) burger bread. This clearly appeals to the Swedish consumers’ health interests and the prevailing trend of slow carbohydrates but I’m guessing that they don’t market this kind of bread in, for example, India.

What might we see next if McDonald’s takes glocalization to a Swedish extreme? The festive McSilvia Burger Royale? The homely McTastyMeatballs? The appetizing Mc Filet-of-Herring? or the absolutely delicious McPalt?

IKEA – part of the problem or the solution?

CSR

IKEA, the ultimate representative of Swedishness abroad, is currently in hot water. In their customer magazine, IKEA LIVE, they often present articles on people, the reason being to inspire and motivate their members to shop. The idea is that readers don’t just buy a piece of furniture, they buy a ‘Lifestyle’. In 26 countries, the latest IKEA magazine portrays a lesbian couple, Clara and Kirsty, in their home. In terms of representing the Swedish values of equality and tolerance, so far so good.

However, this report on Clara and Kirsty has been removed from the IKEA magazine that is circulated in Russia. IKEA defend their action by stating that they do not want to break the Russian anti-gay propaganda law, a law that has been criticised by the UN for breaking international Human Rights laws. IKEA also says ‘our job is to sell furniture in Russia’.

Many voices, including mine, have been raised in criticism of this action.

Who is it who can take a stand against discriminatory laws?
Who is it who can protect human rights?
Who is it who can lead by example?

In this economically-driven globalized world, it is the large, international corporations who can! IKEA can! If they wanted to. They are concerned that breaking the law may get them sued. I wonder how likely that actually is and even if being sued led to them being forced to remove the article portraying gay lifestyle, that in itself would be taking a stand.

But here is the real twist. Just because IKEA is Swedish do we expect them to represent Swedish values in general? Respect. Honesty. Egalitarianism. Solidarity. The bottom line is that IKEA is a business run purely for profit. Their job is to earn money for their shareholders by ‘selling furniture in Russia’. And, however cynical that may be, are we really surprised at their behaviour?

IKEA like many companies have a policy for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). In the light of these latest actions, their policy is a mockery:

‘The IKEA vision is to create a better everyday life for the many people. This includes doing what we can to help create a world where we take better care of the environment, the earth’s resources, and each other. We know this continuous improvement is a never-ending job, and that we are sometimes part of the problem. But we work hard to be part of the solution’.

Clearly in this case, IKEA is part of the problem. I would like to understand what they are doing to be a part of the solution.

Please LIKE and SHARE this post.

Swedish charity

panini

I’ve always been under the perception, valid or not, that charity (corporate and private) is not big in Sweden. In recent years, a mass of different TV galas might have been changing this – eg, ‘Children of the World’, ‘Cancer Gala’. My impression still, however, is that charity is not something yor average Swede involves themselves so much in. One explanation for this might be the welfare state structure that exists in Sweden – we pay our taxes and the state should take care of the needy. Another explanation might be that we don’t want to accept that there is such a large need for charitable actions in a modern, developed country like Sweden. A third reason is that corporate charitable donations are not tax deductable in Sweden like they are in many other countries such as the USA.

Whatever, the reason, something happened today that really impressed me.

Normally, I love the sandwich and salad shop ‘Panini’ , I buy a lot of lattes and lunches there. Today I love them even more.

Earlier this morning, as I was buying my morning latte, I noticed a sign behind the counter. The sign read:

‘Food should be eaten, not thrown away. At the end of the day, Panini gives Everything that has not been sold to ‘Stadmissionen”s shelter for the homeless’.

This really impressed me. British sandwich chain Prêt-a-Mangér has been doing this for years, and I am so happy to see it in Sweden. Everyone’s a winner – Panini, the consumer, the receivers of the donations.

So, more of this please!!!!! Sometimes, charity does begin at home.

Globally Innovative Sweden

zipper

For being a relatively small country, Sweden is very creative.

The Global Innovation Index 2012 ranked Sweden as the most innovative country within the European Union and many inventions have sprung out of this Nordic country. A quick browse on the website http://www.sweden.se lists a few of these inventions.How many of them sid you know were Swedish? 

THE ZIPPER The modern-day zipper that we know today was improved by Swedish-American Gideon Sundbäck. His invention was called the seperable fastener and featured interlocking teeth pulled together and apart by a slider for, as the picture demonstrates, ease of access.

AIS Getting completely lost nowadays is difficult thanks to global positioning systems (GPS) which are now an essential part of our daily lives; embedded in various technologies from smartphones to in-car navigation systems. Swedish inventor Håkan Lans is credited with taking GPS technology one step further to create automatic identification systems (AIS) now widely used in the shipping industry for tracking ships and vessel traffic.

THE ADJUSTABLE WRENCH A staple in many toolboxes, the adjustable wrench or spanner, also popularly called “Monkey wrench” or “English key,” often comes in very handy during do-it-yourself (DIY) projects. While the first iteration of this spanner was originally invented in 1842 by British engineer Richard Clyburn, today’s adjustable wrench, the “Swedish Key,” is attributed to Johan Petter Johansson, a Swedish inventor who improved upon Clyburn’s original concept and patented it in 1891.

THE HIV TRACKER A recent addition to the list of Swedish inventions is the HIV tracker: a sensitive device used for mapping out and detecting the spread of HIV and other viruses. Conceptualized by Doctor of Biotechnology Martin Hedström and his team at Lund University, the device can detect extremely low concentrations of poisons, viruses or other substances in liquids — which also makes it potentially invaluable for fighting bioterrorism.

SPOTIFY is a commercial music streaming service providing content from a range of major and independent record labels. Launched in Sweden in October 2008, the service had approximately ten million users as of 15 September 2010 (2010-09-15)about 2.5 million of whom were paying members.Total users reached 20 million by December 2012, 5 million of them paying monthly either $4.99 or $9.99.As of February 2013, the service is available in Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Faroe Islands, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States

THE PACEMAKER In 1958, Rune Elmqvist developed a battery-run artificial pacemaker, which was used for the very first pacemaker operation done by surgeon Åke Senning at Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm. The pacemaker is placed under the heart patient’s skin and the electrical pulses it generates ensure that muscles expand and contract normally, regulating the heart.

POWERTREKK PowerTrekk is a portable charger that uses eco-friendly fuel cell technology to convert hydrogen into electricity. By adding one tablespoon of water along with the fuel pack to the charger, you can connect any compatible electronic device — mobile phones, GPS, laptops, digital cameras — to the PowerTrekk to instantly charge it.

TETRA PAK Thanks to the revolutionary paper-based packaging system called Tetra Pak we can now carry our milk home from the grocery store in cartons instead of glass bottles. Conceptualized in 1946 by Erik Wallenberg and produced by Ruben Rausing, Tetra Pak’s technology is used for storing and distributing liquids, semi-liquids and dairy products.

THE THREE POINT SEATBELT Now a standard requirement in every passenger vehicle saving around one life every six minutes, the three-point seatbelt was developed by Swedish inventor and safety engineer Nils Bohlin in 1959 for Volvo. It’s designed with a Y shape to spread out energy across a moving body during an accident.

ULTRASOUND / ECG Ultrasound is so integral to healthcare today that remembering a time when it didn’t exist is difficult. Along with German researcher Carl Hellmuth Hertz, Swedish physician Inge Edler devised the modern day echocardiograms — a Doppler ultrasound of the heart — that are integral to monitoring cardiovascular health. This invention netted both Hertz and Edler a highly coveted Albert Lasker Clinical Medical Research Award in 1977.

SKYPE Skype was founded in 2003 by Niklas Zennström from Sweden.The Skype software was developed by the Estonians Ahti Heinla, Priit Kasesalu, and Jaan Tallinn, who together with Friis and Zennström were also behind the peer-to-peer file sharing software Kazaa.In August 2003, the first public beta version was released.

Happy Leaders’ Conference

I participated in a very interesting conference today.

Arranged by the newspaper ‘Chef’, the conference gathered 200 managers from around Sweden at the Grand Hotel in Stockholm. The aim of the day was to listen to interesting and inspiring leaders and the day did in fact offer a variety of people and opinions.

SKF’s CEO Tom Johnstone talked about the importance of accessibility. Marie Louise Ekman, head of the Royal Dramatic Theatre stressed the skill of creativity. And Jens Henriksson, Managing Director of Stockholm Stock Exchange emphasised loyalty.

But perhaps the most provocative and ‘news-worthy’ guest was the leader of the major political oppposition party Håkan Juholt. Currently in hot water due to scandal around fraudulent housing benefits, everyone listened to Håkan with bated breath. What would he say about the scandals? Would he announce his resignation?

The theme of the conference was ‘Happy and a Manager – yes, it’s possible’ and Håkan Juholt reinforced several times that, despite his current situation, he is happy. So no juicy gossip and no resígnation. Just the usual political rhetoric.

As I sat and listened to the guests talking about what makes them happy as bosses, I was struck by the Swedishness of the entire theme. Would you find the same theme at a conference in Nigeria or in Russia? Probably not. In many other countries, the focus of leadership rests on efficiency or productivity or results. Of course, it does in Sweden too, but here we also have the luxury to reflect over our happiness also. We don’t have to worry so much about where the next meal is coming from or if our job is secure or our health insurance is enough. We’ve solved many of the issues of survival and can focus our energies on something else. Ourselves. And how we feel.

But does the opportunity to reflect over our happiness actually make us any happier?

Now that’s worth thinking about.

The Swedish summer shut-down


Summertime, and the living is easy.

Swedish culture and lifestyle is very much structured around having long vacations during the summer (and preferably also in the winter). Foreign companies who work with Swedish companies are often dismayed by the ‘Swedsih shutdown’ from the end of June to the middle of August when everybody seems to be on holiday. To the outsider, this seems very inefficient.

Swedes love their long vactions. In fact, it is legislated that an employer has to allow an employee four weeks holiday in a row, unless something else is otherwise contracted between the parties. It’s hardy surprising with the deep, cold winters, that Swedes want to make the most of the long, light and hopefully warm days. It provides an opportunity to totally relax, to stay at the country house, to go out in the boat, or to travel.

But is it effective or even good for us to be off work for so long? Well, if we are to believe some recent research, the answer is no. This research out of Holland shows that the benefits of being on holiday radically reduce after the first week. What this leads them to conclude is that there is no apparent benefit on our health to being off work for longer than 1-2 weeks at a time.

So let’s see if the Swedish government considers these findings. Will we see a change in holiday legislation? My guess is that any party that wants to be re-elected will stay away from this particular hot potato.