The business conference was all about the basics, but for a reason: the simplest things are often the most complex.

What did we learn at the Nordic Business Forum 2017?

The business conference was all about the basics, but for a reason: the simplest things are often the most complex.

Last week, the Nordic Business Forum gathered over 7,500 European leaders to Helsinki. Many excellent keynotes were heard and several interesting conversations were had over the two days. But what did we take away, besides messy scribbles in our notebooks and a handful of business cards from new contacts?

Back to the basics

Nordic Business Forum has been criticised for talking about the obvious things in a way we’ve all heard before. The three themes of this year’s event – Purpose, Leadership, Responsibility – are of course the cornerstones of all companies, but the important basics are often forgotten in the everyday grind.

In all the conversations I had over the two days, there was a recurring theme: the world is such a complex place and the businesses operate in such convoluted situations, that it’s often difficult to know where we are now, let alone where we want to go next.

Without a clear and shared understanding of the purpose of the organisation and its direction, it’s next to impossible to convey the message to others, let alone invite them to share your agenda.

So two things are needed: the skill to simplify and ability to understand your business in a larger context.

The world interferes

Making things simple is not easy. The basics need to be highlighted constantly in order for them to stick. As Patrick Lencioni emphasised in his keynote at the Nordic Business Forum, employees need to hear the company strategy at least seven times before they internalise it.

Once we get the basics, the next step is to understand what’s the role of the rest of the world in it. As professor Stephane Garelli so accurately put it in his keynote:

”The world keeps interfering with our strategy”.

No matter how fancy or detailed our plans are and how well our strategies are written, the reality will always mess up our plans.

And rightfully so. If your company’s purpose has been created in a vacuum and never even considered the outside world, if leadership means a deck of PowerPoint slides that are shown once a year or if responsibility means just words instead of taking action, none of your messages – whether they’re internal or external – will ever get through.

We at Spoon help our clients dig out those important basics and challenge organisations to talk about their business in a way that makes the complexity a little more understandable. One of the most efficient ways to start this is to sit down, have a cup of coffee and ask the simple – but yet so complex – question:

”What is the why, and why is it our why?”