December 10, 2022Comments are off for this post.

#04 Who still wants to be a consumer?

"Profits should not come from creating the world’s problems, but from solving them.”

– Paul Polman, Unilever CEO 2009-19.


What happens when the stories we tell ourselves, as societies and businesses, are holding us back from meaningful change?

Blink, and you miss how we got here: 75% of youth under 25 globally say they are “very afraid” of the future and feel their governments have “betrayed them and future generations.” Two out of three American parents have stopped believing their kids will be better off than the previous generation. For companies rushing to be part of the solution, the first step is to overcome widespread skepticism, both internal and external. Globally, only 40% of people under 40 believe companies can have any positive impact. Sadly, the C-suite agrees: 39% of US business leaders don’t believe the sustainability efforts of their own company have any impact and call them “mostly a PR stunt.

Sociologist Arlie Hochschild talks about the ‘deep story’ societies tell themselves, the story that helps us make sense of our place in the world. The story we’ve been spoon-fed for far too long is the story of the consumer, where competition and consumer choices define us, and where companies are reduced to providers of products and services. A hyper-focus on their consumers is such an integral part of business culture that it’s hard to even consider an alternative reality.

Yet we must. Unilever’s ex-CEO Paul Polman puts it bluntly: companies can only safeguard their future by a radical shift in how they do business. In his book Net Positive: How Courageous Companies Thrive by Giving More Than They Take, Polman challenges the global economy to think far beyond current ESG-goals and shift their business model to be “restorative, regenerative, and reparative.”

Consumerism is no longer a viable operating system for global business. Companies who want to thrive in the near future would do well to recognize and reverse their own role as consumers of finite natural and human resources. To put it gently, this is not a viable long-term strategy. We propose an alternative: let’s enable both people and companies to become net positive contributors, instead of consumers. Let’s leave the old consumer story on the shelf. It’s lived way past its best by -date. Who even wants to be a consumer, or be treated as one? How much more empowering, how much more exciting, to see ourselves as contributors to a world that works better for all!

We don’t claim this shift will be easy. There will be doubters, naysayers and lovers of business-as-usual in your way. There will be fake friends who pretend to agree yet kill all progress with the most short-sighted line in all of business: “But we can’t afford it.

Let us be clear, we’re not talking about restructuring your business around a “Buy Nothing” - button. We’re talking about a key role companies can play, a role that builds on what companies do uniquely well: shifting consumer behaviour. Global business can take the lead in rewriting our societies’ deep story – first selling it internally, then to our customers. Couldn’t we use this superpower to start solving the world’s biggest problems, while at the same time creating whole new ways of doing business?

Business-as-unusual requires unusual courage. Today, most companies look to data to make projections and forecasts about the future. But data is, at best, an indicator of what has worked so far; it paints a picture of the past. What if we started from what we don’t know, instead? Backcasting is a method where you start from desired future outcomes, then work towards the present, designing the steps that will take us there. In the words of legendary architect and futurologist Buckminster Fuller: “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

The success stories of the future understand this. Those companies redefine ROI as something that builds all our future. They understand that it’s not a question of what we can afford, but what we can’t afford: telling ourselves the same old story. They don’t look at themselves as producers of goods and services, but as contributors to the common good. That mindset shift will see them succeed beyond their wildest dreams – while building a world where we all want to live. We can’t wait to play our part in helping us get there.

This post by We Are Open and more for Creativity 2030 initiative here;

October 3, 2022Comments are off for this post.

#03 A company is not a copy machine

“There are two ways to fail with absolute certainty: The first is to abandon rationality, the second to trust it blindly.”

– Blaise Pascal, mathematician and philosopher.


It’s hard for business-as-usual to play a credible part in solving the big challenges of our time, from wellbeing at work to sustainable growth. We propose a solution around embracing the dreaded C-word, and embarking on a process of Creative Transformation to build a culture of creativity. The first step? Openness.

When we founded a company called We Are Open in December 2020, we had an unusually strong feeling we’d landed on something powerful. We didn’t quite know what, but it felt right, like a door opening. You won’t find it in any economics textbook or MBA curriculum, but that’s how you know you’re on the verge of something meaningful. Cultivate an openness to that feeling and stay with it, rather than immediately grasping for any and all data that could prove to yourself and others that you’ve acted rationally. We know making that argument to your boss is not always the easiest, so we’ll make the case for you. The key ingredients are openness, time and trust.

Soon after opening the shop, we came across Johan Norberg’s book Open – The Story of Human Progress, in which he makes a devastating argument for openness, showing how it strongly correlates with success throughout history, from individuals to companies to civilizations. The Economist picked it as Book of the Year. According to Norberg – and us – (though we’re still waiting for The Economist to notice) the single most deciding factor in humanity’s progress has been the courage not to make immediate decisions, daring to keep processes and decisions open as long as possible (but not longer). Try it, no matter how uncomfortable it feels.

Soon after that, the biggest design festival in the Nordics, Helsinki Design Week, picked their 2022 theme (you guessed it): “We Are Open”. According to the organizers, openness to what we don’t know is the most crucial part in any design process. That’s why they consider it their duty to raise the appreciation of openness, both as a strategy and design method.

So do we. The world needs Open, now more than ever. From the road to zero to the epidemic of loneliness, from threats to democracy to how we relate to AI, all wicked problems directly influence your bottom line. In order to thrive, both as a business and as a species, we need to cultivate an openness to listen and learn from one another; to build together, not in silos; to collaborate, not compete. Says Norberg: “Our rational brain has to start to listen to our creative brain. The more we open ourselves to points of view beyond our own and to unintuitive solutions, the better we all do.” Financially, too, we’d add.

Companies can either proactively shift their culture towards a mindset of openness, where they see their role as building something new that works better for all–including companies themselves–or be faced with the destiny of California’s famed vineyards, withering away in a drought they played no part in creating.

We want to be crystal clear: the openness we advocate for has nothing to do with procrastination or only trusting your gut. Open is driven by both intuition and data, thus avoiding Pascal’s both ways to fail with absolute certainty. Open is the best method we know of to create unfair advantage, to a strategy that takes you from incremental change to leaps of progress. That’s why we’ve chosen Open both as our name and our method. Open frees us from what is: it lets us imagine, then build, better processes, companies and communities.

What will Open look like, for you? The first step towards openness is a leap of faith: daring to declare “We don’t know…yet.” There is no model of openness that works for all. Open is a (gasp) feeling. A feeling that I am trusted, and can trust in others. A feeling that we don’t have to have all the answers, that it’s more important to sort of know where we’re going, even though we have no roadmap how to get there, yet. Open frees us from the straightjacket of best practices, from copy pasting what’s worked yesterday, and from thinking that strategy is also our best shot for success tomorrow.

That’s not a bad start. At least then it’s possible you aren’t just changing the ink cartridge in the copier but designing a time machine, instead.

This post by We Are Open and more for Creativity 2030 initiative here;

May 10, 2022Comments are off for this post.

#02 Creative Transformation, a C-suite must-read

Do you feel like you’re doing more and more work but achieving less and less meaningful change? One possible explanation: according to neuroscientist Iain McGilchrist, we live in times of left hemisphere tyranny.

The myth of left and right brain people has been busted a long time ago. However, we seem to be living in a left-hemisphere society. A quick primer on your brain in action (bear with us): Your left hemisphere is an expert of the narrow perspective. It thrives on details, labeling and compartmentalisation. It prefers quick decisions and black-and-white conclusions. Thus, it often misses how things are connected or how they are perceived by others. That’s the job of your right hemisphere: it’s the master of the big picture. It understands context, creates new connections, grasps complex interrelated patterns. In short: the left hemisphere is an expert in what is; the right one in what could be.

Our left and right hemispheres have a radically different way of seeing, interpreting, prioritizing and valuing information. And what we value affects our every decision, both as individuals and organizations. McGilchrist warns we have allowed the left hemisphere’s mechanistic worldview to colonize our way of thinking, our institutions, and our business. A case in point is how global business has approached transformation, so far.

Business transformation has mostly been used to optimize current operations with the goal of boosting short-term productivity: the outcome has been to do exactly what the company already does, only faster and cheaper. Digital transformation, relying on technology, isn’t the magic bullet either: it has shifted how we do things, but not what we do – again, effectively working to preserve business as usual.

Optimization has created a trap where companies feel like that there is a plan and that they are moving forward, yet nothing truly changes. It’s a safety net that has captured our idea of what growth can and should be. It produces only baby steps where we – the world, people, companies – need leaps, not incremental change.

That is why we need to reclaim right hemisphere thinking: trusting intuition, encouraging dreaming as planning, creating a culture of systematic openness to what could be. In other words, we need to transform the current business of business transformation. We’ve dubbed this shift the era of Creative Transformation.

"Those who dream by day
see many things which escape
those who only dream by night."

– Edgar Allan Poe

Creative practices as a transformative force for the future of business has consistently been underestimated by the C-suite. This piece of brain research should wake up your boardroom: relying solely on left hemisphere thinking (say, data-driven optimization) consistently makes people overconfident in their decisions, analyses and proposals. This has led companies to place an irrational weight on that which can be measured today, and judged by existing success metrics.

Creativity is often overlooked as “irrational”, yet from the perspective of neuroscience, our current over-reliance on data and metrics starts to look like the truly irrational course of action. They have an important role to play in the equation, but only if balanced with the right hemisphere perspective.

Creative Transformation as a framework, culture and practice allows us to consider that which cannot be measured or predicted. The transformative power of that shift is immeasurable: instead of being trapped by a future that looks a whole lot like today, it frees us to shift what we think is possible.

Creative Transformation will be a profound shift in the way we do business. It includes, yet goes beyond transforming processes, systems and ways of working – starting from where we work and how much; to how power is used and distributed; to how we define value and growth. It draws from both analytics and intuition, is driven by AI and humanity, combines quartal economy and multigenerational thinking.

So what does Creative Transformation look like, as a practice and in practice? First off, it acknowledges there is no one right solution. It needs to be tailored for every company. But here’s a start: What would your company look like if you invested in potential, not just proven track record? If you doubled down on the people you have instead of the latest technology? If you taught your people how to have amazing conversations instead of how to navigate team building software? If you encouraged playfulness and enjoyment? If you both required and rewarded alternate ways to define problems and solutions? If you started from what you don’t know instead of what you think you know? If you spent more time on actions than strategies? If you shifted what and how you measure growth? If you focused on long-term solutions over short-term gains? And what if your ultimate success metric was through the eyes of your grandchildren’s grandchildren?

Humanity faces challenges we cannot overcome with business as usual. Businesses face the same existential threat. That’s why Creative Transformation should be the top priority in every boardroom. It lets us create the change we need, that you need, and dream up yet-unheard-of solutions to get there. If you only remember one sentence from this text, may it be this: it is high time we moved from business transformation through analytics and tech – to transforming business, and all our futures, through creative practices.

This post by We Are Open and more for Creativity 2030 initiative here;

March 31, 2022Comments are off for this post.

#01 Who’s afraid of the C-word?

The C-word is a bit like love, impossible to define, yet, in the legendary words of a Supreme Court justice, we “know it when we see it.”

The C-word is an odd duck in business. It can’t be crammed into an Excel sheet, contained in a quarterly report, or justified by data. That’s enough to scare off most C-suite executives – to their and their company’s detriment, as the C-word also happens to be the most powerful driver of business transformation. This text is written to move companies from confusion and fear to understanding and loving creativity.

It’s also written while chewing, over a series of zoom lunches with Sanna Laakkio, the executive director of the Finnish Marketing Association. We didn’t just share virtual meals, we shared a frustration: we honestly could not understand how creativity still is grossly undervalued in most companies. Our search for answers lead us on a deep dive into what and how we are creative, from neuroscience to Monty Python.

First, a clarification. By ‘creativity’ we don’t mean artists or say, people with the title ‘creative’ in advertising agencies. We mean humanity’s innate gift for creative problem solving, a skill each and everyone of us possesses. We mean the creative process: one that starts from intuition, connects the seemingly unrelated, and takes us somewhere new and meaningful. We mean the openness required to head there, even if we don’t quite know where ‘there’ is and what it takes to get there.

And all that is needed now more than ever. There’s way too much to fix in the world to ignore our best shot at fixing them. The challenges humanity (and business) face in the all-too-near future can’t be solved in silos through incremental change. They require collective leaps, not competition. That’s where our superpower, creative problem solving, comes in. It’s a uniquely amazing toolbox, method, and strategy all rolled in one. It opens us up to alternative realities and business-as-unusual, shows us how to do things more sustainably, more humanely – and more delightfully. (And no, hitting your ESG goals is not even the start of it, it’s the cost of entry for doing business.)

Yet, most people and most companies have no idea what to do with creativity, how to harness it, how to let it free. So let’s start from hard core neuroscience: the single factor that separates more and less creative brains is the openness to new experiences and ways of doing things. This openness to new is also the key to building a post-pandemic work culture, one that works better for us all, bottom line included. The winners and losers of the next few years and decades will fall into two camps: those who understand how to harness the C-word and build a culture of creativity, and those who don’t.

What if the most rational strategy boils down to embracing creativity?

Leaving the safety of business-as-usual might seem radical, even scary. But why aren’t you scared of your current way of doing business? What if our current quarterly growth objectives, budget allocations and performance metrics steer us towards irrelevance? Why aren’t we more concerned that current corporate culture makes us sick? And what if the most rational strategy for both companies and countries boils down to embracing creativity, and an openness to constantly question how we go about building the future? The biggest obstacle for companies daring to harness the C-word is holding on to outdated metrics. But if current business practices, operating systems, organizational structures, funding environments and success metrics aren’t optimized for a culture of creativity (spoiler alert: they are not) – let’s use the C-word to come up with new, better and more relevant ones.

Finally, could we not think even bigger? Why couldn’t the C-word become the competitive edge of Finland, the country, following the lead of Bhutan’s Gross Happiness Index that fueled the wellbeing of both its citizens and its business? Could Finland become famous for our Gross Creativity Index? If boardrooms, investors, service providers, politicians and citizens all harnessed creativity as the engine of our success, if a culture of creativity was the cornerstone of both the corporate world and civil society, what kind of a future could we build?

This thinking got our whole Zoom Lunch Club excited. So we agreed to spend this year bringing forth different angles towards what this change – let’s call it Creative Transformation – will require. True to our name, we are fans of open dialogue. So whether you are nodding your head vigorously or think we are out of our minds, whether you think we can never afford it or that we can’t afford not to, this is an open invitation to change things together, for good.

This post by We Are Open and more for Creativity 2030 initiative here;


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