Attending a conference at Oxford last week (“Confronting the Challenge of Technology for Development: Experiences from the BRICS”), I heard several of the speakers refer to Finland as an example of one of the mostProductivity Chart successful countries in terms of development and productivity growth over the last couple decades (one speaker even referring to it as one “Superstar model”). Being back in Finland again, I have asked myself why has Finland been so successful (when so many other countries struggle and fail to do what Finland has done)?

[FYI – There are all kinds of quotients and formulas out there to measure the “productivity” of a country, and people are constantly debating about what should be included in them. Usually included are a combination of things like GNP, import/export ratio, capital accumulation, growth per capita, patent applications made, publications, Research and Development ROI, etc…]

So why can you give money to Finland, and they very effectively turn it into productivity and growth, when you could give it to other countries and not have nearly the same result?

Here are some of the ideas I have thought of or heard from others (You should vote for one of them or suggest your own). Why Finland has been so productive and successful:

  1. Because Finland has such a low corruption rate (one of the lowest in the world), the money doesn’t get embezzled by government leaders, and people work together better because they can trust each other more.
  2. Finland is very homogeneous – this also helps with getting people to work together and trust each other.
  3. Finland is very egalitarian (perhaps due to the Lutheran influence?)- and so this helps to mediate some of the gloryFinland seeking and conflict. [e.g. I heard from one man that all government officials at a certain level are required to take a business economics course in which they get assigned a role that is not their own, then use real data and numbers from Finland’s economy to make decisions and policy recommendations. This helps them see that they need to work as a team, and appreciate the insights they learn from those with another expertise.]
  4. Finland is used to pulling together to face very difficult challenges and great odds. [e.g. when China started becoming more of a threat economically, they flew over some of their top people who came back with a much different approach.] This is like the “sisu” mentality – which comes from things like enduring months of freezing cold weather with virtually no sunlight, living in the woods for years without talking to another person, or sharing a boarder with a country that likes to keep you on your guard.
  5. There is a hypothesis that a country’s productivity level and growth is directly proportional to the amount of Karelian pasties they consume? 🙂
  6. Perhaps by requiring men to wear speedos at all public pools – this bring a special camaraderie, creating a better environment for working together? Kind of symbolic of stripping issues down to the meat and bones and avoiding anything extra.
  7. The fact that Finns don’t engage in much small talk (e.g. ignoring each other rather than saying “hi” to each other as they pass each other) maybe saves time for them to be more focused and productive?
  8. Perhaps it is because people around the world serendipitously thought “Nokia” was a Japanese company – and so invested in it heavily? 🙂

Any other ideas that you can think of for why Finland has been so successful?