Eighteen of us boarded a plane to explore the cultural, economic, and structural differences of Stockholm and Helsinki. Well that was was part of it. A good week away getting to know your peers was also high on the agenda.
By the time we returned from our study tour the world had changed. Governments were closing US and European airspace, cities across Europe were beginning to go into lockdown, and the global economy was about to experience the biggest shock since the Great Depression. Preserving life was all that was important. The financial cost would be counted later.
Your first thought, of course, is to ensure your family and friends are safe, and that all preventative efforts are being taken to stop the spread of COVID-19. But part of your mind can’t help but think: how will this impact my industry, my company, and my job?
Anticipating a crisis such as this swayed me to take on the EMBA 18 months previously. The world will throw many challenges at us, both personally and professionally. All we can do is ensure we have a breadth of experiences and skills to take them on.
So, unknown to us at the time, we were in Stockholm and Helsinki building the relationships, gaining the experiences, and developing the skills we would need to pull ourselves and our companies out of this crisis.
Now I’m not sure if you can call swimming in the 2℃ Baltic Sea as crisis preparation but it surely did build character. In particular, it told a lot about people’s characters as they scrambled over each other competing to get out of the water! Thankfully we had access to one of Finland’s 2 million saunas to recover. Burgers and beers may also have helped!
Transformation was the topic of the moment for the companies we visited. Everyone is striving to shift their focus to address a pressing issue in the way their companies react to world changes. For example, Nokia is trying to overcome the trauma from their failure to adapt to the transformation of the smartphone market, and reinvent themselves in the mobile network technology market.
ICEYE, a satellite radar imagining firm, is re-defining the satellite imagery market by providing governments and businesses timely satellite images to enable them to make better-informed business decisions. Their satellite images can even be used to calculate the world’s stockpiles of oil or steel! Supposedly their images can detect the height of an oil silo’s roof, telling how full it is.
Even the central bank of Finland, Bank of Finland, was looking to transform. Their focus was on restructuring the economy to ensure they can tackle the impending pension crisis.
Each company we visited was pushing the boundaries in which they operate. Over the next few months, we will all need to do the same and continue to do so. The world is ever-shifting and we need to keep shifting with it.
—Ruan Dillon McLoughlin, Executive MBA 2020