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[The Hieno! Suomi 100 series] Interview with Professor Alf Rehn, an accomplished academic and internationally ranked thought-leader in innovation and creativity.

The Hieno! is the official partner of the Finland 100 independence programme:What is “Finnish-ness”? endorsed by the Prime Minister’s Office.

Today we have Professor Alf Rehn with us to discuss about this topic. Professor Rehn is an accomplished academic and an internationally ranked thought-leader in innovation and creativity, and active all over the globe as a keynote speaker and a strategic advisor. He is also a ginthusiast and a lover of trashy popular culture.

For more information on Professor Rehn, please visit his website. Enjoy the interview!


TH: Hello Professor Rehn! Can you tell us more about yourself?

Alf: Well hello there. Now, you should know better than asking an academic to say more about themselves – we never shut up when given that kind of a chance!

But if you want the capsule bio: I’m an academic, more precisely an organizational theorist who is also the chair of management and organisation at Åbo Akademi University. That’s the bit most people find boring.

However, in addition to this I’m a strategic advisor, a relatively popular speaker, and a board professional who works globally and spends a lot of time writing and commenting on stuff on social media. I also really like coffee, rap music and gin, but not necessarily in that order. You can follow me online at places like my website or on twitter.

TH: In your book “dangerous ideas”, you defined a “dangerous idea” as one that challenges the very identity of the context within it emerges.”

What is the one idea you would consider as “dangerous” to Finland today–and is that good or bad?

Alf: That’s a good question.

I think one of the things we may need to challenge, and one of the things that would be a “dangerous idea” in Finland, is our attachment to getting things right. For whatever reason – our love of technology, our culture of honor, our protestant ethic – we Finns have a tendency towards perfectionism.

We don’t really like experiments, but instead want to create big, safe systems. We’re also very uncomfortable when forced to try out something new which hasn’t really gotten properly standardized yet – which makes us slow to adopt new things.

So in a sense, “the experimental” and “the emerging” are dangerous ideas in Finnish culture, and this can have negative consequences. For instance, Finnish companies have a tendency to turn to new ways of working when they’ve been properly tested elsewhere, at which point they’re no longer as valuable…

TH: In one of your TED talks, you mentioned that “to lead is to have a vision, yet love change”. Do you think this applies to Finnish politics today?

Alf: Well, it applies in the negative sense, insofar as I really cannot see what the vision would be in most Finnish politics today, and at the same time politicians show a great aversion to change.

I don’t see us having much in the way of leadership in Finnish politics today. There are exceptions, of course, but a scary amount of our political discourse is one of protecting existing structures and maintaining the status quo.

TH: I am puzzled by Finnish politicans who can blatantly promise “no cuts to education”, be photographed with signs saying that, and then eat their words once they are elected into power.

You have been vocal about your stand against funding cuts to universities in Finland. Do you think the protests by key opinion leaders like yourself and the student unions have actual power to impact current and future university funding, or can the politicians simply do whatever they want?

Alf: I have voiced my opinion, yes, and I guess the thing you’re referring to is an impromptu speech I gave at a student event and which oddly became something of a viral video (it even made some news programs).

However, I don’t really think it had any impact at all, unless you count the fact that other people who were against the cuts seemed happy I’d spoken out. We often over-estimate the influence of “opinion leaders”, and I think it’s very rare that a single individual can really affect the decision-making processes of the government.

Still, if enough people make enough noise, even politicians will listen!

TH: What are the 3 things/ traits you would consider as uniquely “Finnish”, and why?

Alf: I’m not all that comfortable declaring anything uniquely Finnish, but if pressed I can list a few things:

  • Makkaraperunat. This is a grill delicacy, consisting of awful French fries combined with low-grade sausage, dripping in fat and condiments. Finland extolls this, as it is basic, simple, and unashamedly awful.
  • Cheerfully bad comedy. Finland desperately wants to prove that it can outdo Germany in clumsy, hackneyed, slapdash comedy. So we glorify repeated catch-phrases, men dressing up as women (badly), and cheap double entendres. Kummeli, Turhapuro, and Putous are prime examples of how Finland glorifies just how tacky and tawdry we can be.
  • Pride and honor. Although we rarely talk about this, Finns are an immensely proud people. We cannot stand being talked down to, or questioned, or challenged. Also, we are the only people in the world who are allowed to say bad things about our comedy and our makkaraperunat. We don’t want much, but we demand respect, and the right to not be patronized.

TH: Finland has always ranked high globally on innovation and press freedom. Do you think there is a positive correlation between “innovation” and “press freedom”?

Alf: I’m a little uncomfortable with this question, as we often confuse correlation and causation.

Is there a correlation? Sure, absolutely. Countries with a lot of freedom, including freedom of the press, tend to be more innovative than more restricted countries.

But that doesn’t automatically mean that one leads to the other. Sure, freedom of the press may be part of the general innovation culture of the country, but at the same time innovative countries are more likely to grant freedom of expression.

The two are, to me, intertwined and reinforcing.

TH: Finland seems to be a society where people don’t really like to stick out of the crowd, or say things that invite controversy and strong opposition. Yet, you seem to be both “dangerous” and “popular” at the same time. How do you do it?

Alf: Well, to begin, one has to realize that whilst Finnish society appreciates discretion, humility and not making a fuss, it is also a culture that appreciates straight talk and which has always celebrated its oddballs.

Throughout the years, Finland has always celebrated the ones who walk their own path, as long as they do it in a self-assured way. Armi Ratia was adored, and Jörn Donner has always been celebrated. Everyone loved Spede Pasanen, and noted weirdo Esa Saarinen is cherished.

So I think it’s a myth that Finland doesn’t appreciate people sticking out. The thing, though, is that Finns demand that you stick out properly, and put yourself on the line.

If you’re seen as fake or half-ass, Finns won’t stand for this. If you go full-on, apeshit crazy, like a Jouko Turkka, a Juice Leskinen, or a Jorma Uotinen, Finns will consider you a legend.

TH: In Finland, Swedish is a mandatory school subject for Finnish-speaking students from grades 7 to 9. Do you think Swedish should continue to be a compulsory language for these students in Finland today, even if they show no interest?

Alf: Ah, language politics, one of my least favourite subjects… I don’t have a strong position with regards to this. Finland has always had two official languages, and I don’t really see the justification to change this. But does this mean that both need to be taught in school, and to what extent? I don’t know.

On the one hand I’m very much in favour of freedom of choice. On the other, I think that Finnish should be taught at least to some extent in Finnish schools – for your question contains an error! [TH: Opps!]

Sure, we may go for a system in which you do not need to study both the official languages in school, but that then means that Finnish wouldn’t be a compulsory language either. I guess what this means is that I’m open to ideas.

Maybe we should have more freedom, but keep some kind of “Finnish/Swedish basics” in the curriculum, i.e. a system like today but with a cut-down compulsory bit. Maybe there should be total freedom. Maybe things are pretty OK as they are.

Overall I don’t think this is the most pressing issue we have, even in the education system… It’s more of a populist issue, easy to parade out for some less than surprising outrage. It’s Trumpism, avant la lettre…

TH: Against the context of globalisation, who do you think can and should define “Finnish-ness”?

Alf: I have nothing very intelligent to say here, as I don’t think there’s any one group who should be allowed to define Finnishness – including the Finns.

I think we need a more diverse conversation, one that accepts that there are many ways of understanding Finland and the Finns, and which is mindful of the fact that any one such will always be limited.

So I don’t think Finnishness should be defined. It should be a topic of conversation, but never enshrined in a definition.

TH: What is the one popular misconception about Finland/ Finns that you would consider as far from the truth?

Alf: Now this is a question I love! I think a key problem in Finland is the manner in which we work so hard to keep a series of myths about ourselves.

It’s tricky to pick one of these misconceptions, but I’ll go with a classic. Finns are said to be a quiet lot, who don’t really like to talk that much, and who can sit silent for hours.

Now this is just bullshit. Sure, Finns can be careful about not speaking out of turn, but the fact is that Finns can be quite garrulous. I’ve sometimes jokingly said that Finns are defined as being the one nationality on Earth that uses the greatest number of words to explain that they are very quiet.

Finns yammer on endlessly in social media, will talk for hours as long as they feel they’re in a safe place, and smalltalk incessantly about how Finns can’t small talk.

TH: I’d heard a popular perception about Finns being “jealous” whenever a peer is successful. How do you feel about your success and being looked up to by so many? Are there downsides to being successful in Finland, and how do you cope with it?

Alf: This is a notion that Finns seem quite fond of, that Finland would have a particularly envious culture.

I think it’s a flawed assumption. Every time a Finn has the tiniest success, papers write it up as a massive achievement, and I’ve often found Finns to be quite supportive of each other’s successes.

Sure, there might be envy directed at neighbours, and villages where you’re not supposed to have dreams above your station, but this is true in many, if not most cultures.

As for me, I really don’t think I’m all that looked up to – I hope I’m not! Sure, I have people who say they appreciate my writings or liking my little rants in the media, and that’s nice. An author writes to be read, after all. But I’m not that famous, nor that successful, that I feel it has impacted my life greatly.

As for downsides, there have been very few. Sure, I’ve gotten the occasional threatening letter, email and internet comment, as well as having been accosted in the street by people with delusions, but nothing major or too aggravating.

Overall I feel I’ve gotten a tremendous amount of support in Finland, and far, far more positive feedback than ever negative. The fact that there are a few people who think it is unfair that I get more attention than they do is part of the game, and true everywhere in the world.

TH: What is the happiest moment of your life in Finland?

Alf: I guess I’m supposed to answer something simple along the lines of “the birth of my children” or “the day I got my professorship”. That’d be a lie, though. They were days filled with joy, but also days filled with apprehension and confusion.

Looking back, one of the happiest moments of my life was celebrating my son finishing what goes for high school in Finland. A big party, lots of his friends in attendance, I stayed out far too late and missed my flight to London the following day. Not my proudest hour, but a happy time celebrating a child of mine.

TH: Who inspires you in Finland, and why?

Alf: There’s quite a few people, actually.

I love the way Nina Ignatius fights for her dream. I love the way Matti Lievonen at Neste runs a “boring” business whilst changing the world. I love the way Anna Pylkkänen fight for pride in old age. I love the energy with which Saku Tuominen wants to revolutionize schools. I love how we have engaged chefs and designers and advertising agencies.

Oh, and my kids of course – big love to Line and Sean.

TH: What are your personal dreams and vision for the future?

Alf: These are things I prefer to keep private. Not least because I have literally no idea about them. I don’t know where I’ll be in five days, let alone in five years.

TH: I am sure some young people in Finland regard you as a role model, since you are so confident, charismatic, vocal and sometimes provocative! How do you feel about this?

Alf: Well, I am Finnish enough for that question to be more than a little uncomfortable… I don’t always feel very confident, and I damn sure do not think of myself as charismatic!

But sure, I guess that there are those who think I have a pretty cool job, and who appreciate having the freedom to speak ones mind and the position to make ones voice heard.

Lord knows if anyone sees me as a role model, but I do hope that I’ve at least shown some young person that you do not need to conform to get ahead, that you can keep dressing in sneakers and still be listened to.

Too many young people in Finland learn to not speak their minds, to be in a specific way, and to aim for conformity rather than creativity. That’s pretty sad.

TH: What is the one advice you have for aspiring young Finns who want to become a “dangerous” academic and skilled practitioner like yourself?

Alf: Well, that one is easy, and I can just copy the great advice of Steve Martin: “Be so good they can’t ignore you.”

Work smart at building your foundation, and once you’ve reached a position from where you can start hitting harder, use the opportunity. I worked hard at academic things when I was quite young, and I got my chair (i.e. tenured professorship) when I was 31.

I realized then and there that I’d been given one of the most valuable things in the world – freedom. I no longer had a direct boss, and I was free to speak out, write about things I thought were important, and do what I felt meaningful.

I also realized that having been given this freedom was a great responsibility.

TH: What is the one 100 year-old birthday wish you would make for Finland, since 2017 is Finland’s 100 years of independence?

Alf: If there’s one wish I have for Finland 100, it is that it won’t be about the last 100 years, but the 100 years to come.

That is, I appreciate that we celebrate our history, and we should look at our achievements with pride, but we can’t just look backwards.

I prefer thinking about the future rather than obsessing about the past.

TH: On a parting note, do you have anything else to add?

Alf: I’ll just end with a quote from Quentin Crisp: “Never keep up with the Joneses. Drag them down to your level.”


We hope you have enjoyed Professor Alf Rehn’s interview! The Hieno! is the official partner of the Finland 100 independence programme: What is “Finnish-ness”? endorsed by the Prime Minister’s Office.

Feel free to follow Professor Alf on twitter @alfrehn or visit his website. Cover photo courtesy of Professor Alf Rehn’s strikingly page.

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What if you lost a round in Public Relations? 3 Tips to emerge stronger.

A quick post before I go to bed. 😀

In life, sometimes we win and sometimes we lose. If you observe people trained in branding, PR or basically high-status individuals have a lot to lose, you will observe how some of them do damage control.

And it is very interesting to observe, because they are scared.

Especially high-status individuals with what I call “a hole”. A hole is defined as the gap between what these high achievers really are, and what others perceive them as. This hole only matters as much as these individuals care about what people say about them. Sometimes, due to unresolved wounds, they over-imagine stuff that people would say about them as well, when the reality is that people don’t really care.

So I thought–why not raise the lost round in Public Relations to a higher level? Instead of merely doing damage control, why not flip the situation to your benefit, own and eat it up, and emerge stronger? This strategy is also alternatively known as the condition of being antifragile, a term first coined by Nassim Taleb.

So here are the 3 tips to be antifragile:

  1. When a mistake/ unpleasant decision is made (by whoever), people on both sides will start to justify. Since justification is natural, forget about justifying. Instead, work on advancing your own goals.

What I mean is this. Whenever there is an unpopular decision made, people will attempt to ease their cognitive dissonance by justifying this decision to the people around them.

Here, the issue of the matter is not logic. The concern is to ease the unpleasant feelings caused by that decision. Both “sides” affected by the issue will definitely attempt to advance their respective narratives.

So the key here is not to play the game.

Don’t advance your narrative because it is likely to be illogical. Instead, focus on winning. Winning here is defined as a verifiable action towards your own goals which shows that (1) you have moved on, and (2) you really don’t give a fuck.

In the words of my favorite gay friend– “Kthxbye”.

Oh but before that, remember to settle all money issues.

2.  Because that idiot will still be justifying against you, do a good defence by working on actively documenting positive and relevant Public Relations for yourself.

Now this is just common sense.

The logic is that people who created or are affected by perceived unfair outcomes will definitely say or do a lot of things against you.

Sometimes people love to cite “selective truths”/ “alternative facts” against you, and because they are facts taken out of context, it might seem like “the whole truth” to other people. So it might be tempting to respond in the exact same manner.

The key here is not to fight negative news with negativity and end up both in lose-lose situations. Instead, it is to fight negativity with positivity, even if you don’t feel like it.

And by positivity– I mean in a positive manner that advances your personal goals. If there is no advancement, don’t bother doing anything.

The challenge so far that I’d observed with this Tip 2 is that people sometimes go crazy and overdo positive PR which messes up with their personal branding, even if it is +1 PR coverage.

That is, positive PR can always be done in a non-strategic manner especially if it runs contrary to your personal goals and brand association. In such cases overdoing PR in a non-natural manner might accentuate certain negative personal traits.

3. Keep a winning chip. You will always have one against people who care about what the group thinks.

‘Nuff said. 🙂

“Winning” here is defined as knowing the “hole” and insecurity that the other side has in their heads.

This is a side they will never want the world to know.

Obviously, as PR practitioners, we know, because first reactions are always the most real. Projections almost always reveal unresolved wounds.

There is always a lot of useful information available in times of chaos. You don’t have to use them all at once, though. Just know. You don’t even have to use them yourself.

Okay, sleeping time. Hope you have enjoyed this post!

 

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5 Minutes with Mr. Patrick Tay, assistant secretary-general of NTUC.

Recently, the report by the Committee of Future Economy has raised considerable interest and concern in Singapore. Against this backdrop, we have the huge privilege of having 5 minutes with Mr. Patrick Tay, the assistant secretary-general of NTUC today. He will share with us some of his thoughts about preparing Team Singapore for the future workforce.

Mr. Tay will also be at the Singapore Management University tomorrow to talk about the opportunities and threats of the future workforce. Do join in if you are interested in this topic!

WW: Hello Mr Patrick Tay! Can you tell us more about yourself and what you are doing?

Patrick Tay: Hello Wan Wei!

I am the assistant secretary-general of National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and am currently overseeing the Future Jobs, Skills and Training (FJST) Department and Legal Services Department.

I Am also an elected Member of Parliament (West Coast GRC) and Chairman for the Manpower Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC).

WW: On Feb 9, the Committee of the Future Economy recommended 7 strategies to take the Singaporean economy forward. Strategy #2 is to utilise and acquire “deep skills”. What is the meaning of “deep skills”?

Patrick Tay: It means we must go beyond trying to attain the highest possible academic qualification to focus on acquiring a personal mastery of skills.

As we embrace digital disruption and technology, we must acquire deep skills to create and add value and utilize these skills effectively on the job.

WW: How do you suggest Singaporeans be prepared for future jobs that do not even exist currently?

Patrick Tay: The future jobs will either be very “Hi-Touch” or very “Hi-Tech” because what can be Digitised, Robotised or Mechanised will be Digitised, Robotised or Mechanised.

Singaporeans can be prepared by being:

  • Agile (flexible to move across, move into and move up);
  • Able (upskill, second skill, multi-skill, deep skill); and
  • Adaptable (to changes).

This is so that Singaporeans stay ready, relevant and resilient….ready with new skills, relevant for new jobs and resilient to new changes.

WW: Singapore’s growth for 2017 does not really seem too optimistic. Singapore is also not a welfare state–so there might not be enough cushioning in the event of layoffs . Do you have some tips for Singaporeans to cope with acquiring deeper skills in the event that they are structurally unemployed?

Patrick Tay: The 2016 growth results of 2% is promising.

I expect continued uncertainties, consolidation and disruptive challenges in 2017.

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There will be industry transformation maps for all 23 clusters/sectors of the economy. What is important will be how we translate that to the ground and properly execute/implement the manpower strategies entrenched in those maps so that workers can benefit.

In this respect, the Labour movement is working closely with tripartite partners and stakeholders to identify what are the future jobs, skills and training needed and to cascade it to all workers sector by sector.

WW: How can Singaporeans continue to be competitive in a region where wages are lower than within the country? Apart from “working harder”, is there anything else we can do?

Patrick Tay: We need to be better than the ‘cheaper’ countries.

We need to create value and have that extra value add to ensure we are always ahead in terms of quality and reliability than those who are ‘cheaper’ than us.

WW: What are some programmes that NTUC has for Singaporeans that will value-add us greatly in 2017, but we are likely not to know about yet? Perhaps because they are not as widely publicised as hoped, or simply too complicated?

Patrick Tay: We are hard at work in expanding the Labour movement network to ensure we look after the interests and welfare of ALL workers and the entire working population in the areas of

  • Care (caring for our workers in need),
  • Fair (ensure fairness, protection and progressive practices), and
  • Grow (helping the working population grow in their jobs and careers).

WW: What is the one biggest misconception that Singaporeans are likely to have about NTUC that is far from the truth?

Patrick Tay: That the Labour movement only looks after rank and file workers.

We now have an expanded Labour movement that look after all workers and the working population in Singapore.

We hope you have enjoyed the interview with Mr Patrick Tay today! Featured picture courtesy of Singapore Press Holdings.

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[Guest post by Dylon Sim] An Insider’s Look into Humanitarian Works: Interview with Carol and Melissa from Mercy Relief.

Hello folks!

The GEPIC2017 team has been toiling day and night to ensure that tomorrow’s event will be a success! As a team, we strive to do our best for charity, while working hard to ensure that our PMET professionals get full value from the conference.

Today’s guest post is by our GEPIC2017 chairperson Dylon Sim. He has interviewed two inspiring professionals from Mercy Relief, Carol and Melissa. Mercy Relief is the main beneficiary for GEPIC2017, and we seek to raise as much funds as we can to help the victims of the recent typhoons in the Phillipines.

Carol has been working with Mercy Relief for over seven years. She is personally in charge of Mercy Relief’s international efforts to better the lives of people globally. Her personal calling is to impact the lives of many people around her. She has been humbled by the stories of many survivors of natural disasters. The strength of survivors always reminds her of the beauty of humanity.

Melissa left her corporate job in Manhattan, New York City to utilise her professional skills to impact the lives of the less fortunate. She joined Mercy Relief as she strongly believes in its works.


Dylon: Hi Carol! Can you tell us about what do you do at Mercy Relief?

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Carol: For the past seven years, I have been involved in Mercy Relief’s international and humanitarian outreach. We help communities rebuild after negative impacts of natural disasters. This includes improving the livelihoods of people during peaceful times.

Dylon: Why did you join Mercy Relief?

Carol: Since young, I have always wanted to impact the people around us. That was why when I was in school I regularly signed up for volunteer trips.

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For me, I felt that Mercy Relief would give me the opportunity to embark on a lifelong journey to bring lasting changes to the many lives of the people.

That was why I chose to join Mercy Relief.

Dylon: Can you share with us one of the most memorable experience for you, in your work with Mercy Relief?

Carol: When I was on the scene at the aftermath of the Japanese tsunami in 2011, we met this lady. She led a few hundred men and was the overall in charge of the military operations of the Japanese army in the affected regions. She also helped distribute humanitarian aids.

We worked with her very closely throughout our three months of deployment in Japan. Yet it was only in the last months that we got a chance to really listen to her story.

What she shared was that she wanted to help the survivors not because of obligations, but because she herself had lost her entire family to the tsunami. What was even worse was that she could not find the bodies of her children as the tsunami had washed away her entire beloved family.

However, she was determined to be resilient and has continuously worked to better the lives of the people in her community.

And that was what I found most beautiful. Through atrocities and disaster you really get to see the strength of people. And most importantly, the beauty of humanity.

We also saw how people from different background were willing to compromise and come together in the time of need, for the greater good.

This is in spite of recent events which might make us think that the people around us are getting more self-centered and narcissistic. On the contrary, I will declare that we are one inseparable family and we will always be there for our brothers and our sisters.

 


Dylon: Hello Melissa, can you tell us more about Mercy Relief and what you do?

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Melissa: Mercy Relief is one of the early pioneers of IPC charities in Singapore.

With over a decade of establishment, we pride ourselves in providing time efficient aids to disaster affected regions within 72hours of a reported disaster.

Currently, we carry out permanent works in 24 different countries. We aim to provide sustainable living through food, water, shelter and education.

I am personally involved with the local outreach in Singapore which objectives are to educate the public about the circumstances of the victims of natural disasters around our neighbouring regions.

Dylon: Why did you join Mercy Relief?

Melissa: Before joining Mercy Relief, I was working in sales and marketing for a corporate firm in Manhattan, New York City.

However, I felt a calling to use my professional skills to impact the lives of the less fortunate in the community. Hence, I decided on a change of career from the corporate sector to the non-profit sector.

I chose Mercy Relief to pursue my calling as I felt impacted by the works and cause of Mercy Relief, which has continuously impacted the lives of countless communities around our region.

Furthermore, writing about branded deodorant on twitter is incomparable to writing about the lives that Mercy Relief impact.

Dylon: What has been the most memorable experience for you so far with Mercy Relief?

Melissa: Educating and impacting Singaporean families about the effects of natural disaster on communities impacted me greatly.

Nothing beats education. Parents and their children do get impacted by learning about the circumstances of the survivors. This constantly helps me stay motivated.


We hope you have enjoyed today’s post! All photographs courtesy of Mercy Relief.

Click here to make a donation to Mercy Relief. Alternatively, if you want to donate by cheque, simply cross a cheque to “Mercy Relief Limited” with GEPIC 2017 written at the back of it.

Together, our contributions will certainly impact the lives of countless communities.

 

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Know your “why”.

This month, I have had the privilege of listening to two really inspiring educators who used the word “calling”to describe what they are doing.

The first educator is Professor Kirsti Lindberg-Repo, the founder of Design Finland 100. You can read her interview on Design Finland 100 here. Professor Kirsti basically said that she found it her calling to market Finland as a Design Nation in Southeast Asia.

The second educator is Dr. Patrick Liew. Read Uncle Liew’s interview here! As you all know, I have been acting as a PR advisor for The Global Economic and Property Investment Convention 2017 (GEPIC2017)–a project helmed by Uncle Liew’s mentees. What is special about this business event is that all donations raised will go 100% to Mercy Relief, which will help thousands and thousands of Filipinos affected by not just one, but two typhoons.

So two days ago, I went for Uncle Liew’s property investment talk out of curiosity, because I know zero about property investment. Uncle Liew said then, that his calling is to help the Singaporean public be more financially literate.

Here’s a picture of the super thick doctorate thesis he wrote:

Recently I have been thinking about the concept of "calling". You know, I always get very curious when people tell me about their calling…"calling" is such a strong word! I can never understand a calling because I don't think I have one (yet). Then today at Dr @patrickliewsg 's seminar I saw this–His super thick Doctorate thesis on "true wealth". 😳 and that's not it, he took his thesis and made them into digital educational materials. Those are designed to be super digestible and easy to understand. They are designed for the Singaporean masses to study, research and ultimately take action on. And some materials are even free–great news for Singaporeans who are interested in educating themselves! Dr Liew shared that his calling is to increase the financial literacy of Singaporeans. He shared that factually, our financial literacy is one of the lowest in Asia. I was honestly quite moved. So this month, I learnt that great success begins with a strong "why", to always give back to society, and to always be humble. So on the way home now I started thinking about my own "whys". It's always such a huge privilege to work with people with larger visions than themselves. #rolemodels #foodforthought #sgig #igsg #singapore #sginvestment #investmentsg #inspirations #sgsocial

A post shared by Wan Wei (ww) (@thewanwei) on

Few in the masses will probably read Uncle Liew’s super thick thesis because it is most likely to be quite cheem. Therefore, the most AMAZING part is that Uncle Liew rewrote and simplified everything to make the knowledge super easy to understand for the masses.

Yes–you can find all his wisdom in the form of ebooks, which you can download them all here FOR FREE. Needless to say I have downloaded and started to read them.

Now, let me ask you a question. Do you understand the hearts of these two people?

At first, I completely don’t get what they are talking about.

When Prof. Kirsti told me used the word “calling” to describe her motivation behind Design Finland 100 during The Hieno! interview, I remembered going, “??????”

You see, I first met Prof. Kirsti at a EARS conference in Helsinki in 2016, after a panel discussion on “Finnish Fashion in Asia.” We spoke briefly and she told me excitedly about this Design Finland 100 project.

When I asked why she is doing Design Finland 100, she said, “What wouldn’t you do for your country!”

I don’t think I will ever forget that moment, because I was puzzled and moved at the same time by her patriotism. At the same time, I imagined that she must have seen the potential of the Southeast Asian market, both for Finnish firms and Asian consumers/ students.

At any rate, I am excited about Design Finland 100 myself.

Because on hindsight, I had wished for such an initiative when I was in university. If only if I had learnt design-thinking then, I am sure I would have done a lot of things differently, and more “on my terms” instead of mindlessly. All I knew in university was to work hard, not work smart, which resulted in a lot of lost opportunities experimenting with other things.

So yes, I became convinced that Design Finland 100 is a good thing for ALL Singaporean university students to have. Finns do plan and think a lot before taking action, which more Singaporeans can learn, instead of just wanting to work hard all the time.

When Uncle Liew first used the word “calling” to describe his passion towards property and the financial education of the masses, I thought, “HAHA that is such a great sales pitch.” However, as the night progressed, I realised that he really meant every single word that he said. And I realised that the Singaporean public really needed this sort of educator so that they will lead a wealthier and better life.

And I became personally convinced that I needed to and can learn a lot of things from Uncle Liew, because my own knowledge of leadership and property investment is close to zero vis-a-vis his!

And if I–as an NUS Economics degree holder–can honestly say such things, what about many other people in the masses?

You see, calling is a strong word. It signifies a strong urge towards a particular way of life or career, which can only come from strong resolve. This means that something must have happened in the past which made them feel that something must change. And instead of just sitting on it, these educators actually decide to do something.

And they do things not for themselves.

You know sometimes young people do big things for themselves and their career, and then try to mask/ smokescreen it as “Oh, it is for other people?”

Or do you know of some narcissistic leaders who use the word “calling” to bullshit you? These charismatic leaders do attract followers because of their confidence (due to narcissism). However, at the end of the day, you will realised after seeing through all the glitter and shiny-ness that it is all about themselves.

Well, I say these things from experience. I used to have problems distinguishing people who do things out of a larger vision VS narcissistic people who claim to do great things for the society.

However, after being personally convinced that both Prof. Kirsti and Uncle Liew do what they do out of a strong “why”, I have learnt how to the former and the latter groups apart.

  • Leaders like Prof Kirsti and Uncle Liew who act on a strong “why” will take good care of their own employees or students. They are patient, nurturing, kind and will take the time to guide their students.

And the most important thing is that…THEY ARE QUALIFIED due to years and years of experience. When there is a screw-up, they will not put the blame on the student and instead tell them how to do things in a better manner. The logic is because they do things for the purpose of the larger community and not for themselves. Therefore, they are patient because they believe in the potential of people around them. Because of all these positive traits, they gain the respect of people around them, and people around them will be loyal.

  • Narcissistic leaders or EVEN narcissistic educators–as I found out– will put the blame on you (because you make them look bad), exploit their own workers, and will go into narcissistic rages all the time. They may or may not be qualified.

To date I still sincerely feel very sorry for real people working under narcissistic people in leadership positions, because they probably live every day in fear. These narcissistic people only think about themselves and stuff they can put on their resumes.

So this February thus far, I’m pretty grateful to have learnt some more insights from these two educators about why “knowing your why” is so important! 🙂

If you want to support these two educators, here are some of the initiatives they are currently leading:

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[Review] Hair Cut and Colouring at Bump RiverValley by Aventa.

Hey guys! Today’s post is done in collaboration with Beauty Undercover.

I came back to Singapore to host my friend’s wedding and went to Bump @RiverValley to do a hair cut + colouring. The staff at Beauty Undercover were kind enough to help me take photographs to document the whole process.

Location: Bump RiverValley by Aventa is located at Mohamed Sultan Road, so it is a little far away from the train station if you are walking. I cabbed there.

Is there WIFI at the hair salon? The answer is yes, so you won’t be bored to death. Ask for the WIFI password at the counter.

What is so unique about the whole experience? SERVICE! I think the Japanese are the best in service– there is this concept of “omotenashi“, which means having pride in having excellent customer service. You are always made to feel very important at the salon.

Enjoy this post–it is a stage-by-stage review!

So here is how I look like before the haircut. 

Stage #1: Consultation

The tencho Sone actually gave me a consultation before doing anything to my hair. I told him I was up for anything, since my profession doesn’t really require me to have a standard hair colour or sorts.

We spoke about the hair length, hair colour, whether to bleach the hair or not, etc. Well, because I’m not very tall, we decided on not having too long hair.

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Stage #2: Hair Cut!

So we proceeded with the hair cut. Sone is a really nice and funny person! We spoke in a smattering mix of Japanese and English.

Stage #3: Application of Bleach

Now, the problem with my hair is that I dyed my hair BLACK before. Twice. Therefore the bleach that had to be used on my hair has to be way stronger.

I’d never bleached my hair before though, so the scalp was literally burning…a bit :X

I didn’t know that it is like that at the start, and now I do. So for first-timers, this might be something you can take note of. Bleaching is supposed to hurt a bit!

Stage #4: The addition of first hair colour

For this particular hair-do, we decided on 6 colours to be added onto the hair. That to me is pretty bold, right!

Sone specially blended some colours as well. I was particularly impressed by how quickly he thinks on the spot, and his ability to customise a look for his customer.

Stage #5: The addition of more hair colours.

As you can see, every step was really well-planned and co-ordinated.

This hairstyle is specially designed by Sone, and the team at Beauty Undercover then named it “Grey and the Galaxy”. ^^ Very creative!

Stage #6: Treatment

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To make the super dry, super damaged, bleached hair softer. ^^

Stage #7: More haircut!

The idea of this is to polish up the look.

Stage #8: Styling

So super nice!!! I love the tones of blue and grey. I wish my hair can stay like that forever!!

Final LOOK!

After this haircut and colour I went to buy colour hair shampoo, conditioner and treatment. And really used them all everyday because the hair is really dry after the bleaching process!

LOVE THE SHADES OF GREY AND BLUE.

I am VERY PLEASED with the final look though! It makes the long hours worth it–I think we spent around 7 hours at the salon haha. Also, if you like coloured hairstyles like that, remember never to colour your hair black like I did, because the bleach used in the process will then need to be strong.

By the way, Bump RiverValley does sell in-house shampoo and hair curlers, displayed near the counter. Those are really high-quality and sweet-smelling products! You might want to consider buying some of those after visiting.

After 2 weeks…

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As you can see, the grey and blue does fade really quickly, and you can see tones of purple and pink if you bun up your hair like I did. I really wished the grey and blue stayed on for a longer time! >.>

The hair is really dry after showering, so I apply treatment on my hair everyday as well. And Wonect did send some hair essence (Thank you so much, @parutaro ALWAYS reads my mind!)

All in all the hair is manageable in spite of the bleaching process, so don’t be afraid of going crazy with the colours–you just need great a great hair treatment system later!

Pros of getting your hair done at Bump RiverValley

  • Super friendly and professional staff, great atmosphere, fast WIFI, innovative and original hairstylists and great service.

Cons of getting your hair done at Bump RiverValley

  • If you are coming by public transport, you have to walk for quite a bit.

I hope you have enjoyed this review! Remember to like Bump RiverValley by Aventa on its FB page and also Beauty Undercover FB!

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[The Hieno! Suomi 100 series] Interview with Josephine Atanga, founder of WODESS.

The Hieno! is the official partner of the Finland 100 independence programmeThis “What is Finnish-ness?” series is endorsed by the Prime Minister’s Office.

Today we feature Josephine Atanga, one of the most prominent and inspiring foreign lady in Finland. Josephine is a people’s person with a heart for the community. She is also one of the most positive ladies I have ever met.

Enjoy the interview!

WW: Hello Josephine! Can you tell us more about yourself?

Josephine: Hello Wan Wei! Thank you for having me on this meaningful series.

I am Josephine Atanga from the beautiful country of USA. I describe myself as a positive, enthusiastic woman, a musician and a visionary woman. I see possibilities in every situation in which I find myself. I strongly believe in the power of the community and that is why I am a community person—I love people and giving back to society is my heart beat.

I am an American but my roots can be traced back to Cameroon, West Africa. While in the USA, I was involved in many community projects. I also started a talk-show which airs on local TV every Sunday for one hour as a means to expose the African talents in the USA while giving them an opportunity for their skills to be exposed and their voices to be heard.

In addition, I received two citations and recognition from United State senator in USA for my community works with inner city youths and my local talk show —opportunities which I am very grateful for.

I have been in Finland for number of years. I am currently studying Bachelor of Science Nursing program at the Arcada University of Applied Science. With my passion for the community and women in particular, I had the drive to start a women’s empowerment organization in Finland called “Women Designed for Success”.

This is an association registered in Finland and USA with a mission of celebrating the various successes of women, empowering them to live a purpose driven drive, engaging in charitable deeds through supporting girl’s education and recognising their achievement in society through an annual Award gala called Golden Women Awards.

 

WW: Can you share with us the most important and meaningful event that happened in Finland?

Josephine: I would like to share with you the Golden Women Awards annual gala. It really is the most important and meaningful event that happened to me in Finland because of the power of appreciation and impacting positively education of girls in third-world countries.

After we registered Women Designed for Success, we really wanted to highlight the power of appreciation. You see, we feel strongly that women, especially international women, need to be appreciated for their contributions in Finland.

So, I called a couple of ladies residing in Finland. I told them that there are so many amazing women doing so many things here in Finland which we should recognize and high light their contribution in the Finnish society. We need to showcase the talents of these ladies because when women are appreciated, they tend to do more. It raises the standard of their work and promotes excellence as well as stimulating other women to do better

In WODESS we believed in the power of collaboration and working together as a team to achieve great event. The Golden Women Awards was birthed out of the power of collaboration with different associations such as SCADAA ry, MONIHELI, CAISA, Jehom Driving school, African women association to mentioned a few not forgetting the many volunteers who sacrificed their time to make sure that women got the best recognition possible .

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Doing the Golden Women Awards event was challenging as I had never done an Award Show but I believed that gaining knowledge through reading and research work that it was going to be possible and a huge success.

So I went back to the books to find out how to do an award show, what the most important elements to a successful award show and so on is. It was very important to have high profile judges.

So over the past two Golden Women Awards, we have had diverse high-profile panel of judges from all over the world who worked so hard to make sure they came up with the right nominees and winners after the public nominations. The judges spent their time as volunteers to select the best nominees and eventually went through their work profile to make sure they fulfilled all the necessary criteria to be declared winners.

Let me share with you a story of one of the 2015 Golden Women Awards winner- Cinta Hermo Martin. She is WODESS Woman of the Year and has been living in Finland for 30 years.

I was moved when she said–“I have won many awards from my home country in Spain, but I have never won an award in Finland until in 2015. Finally my contribution to the Finnish society is finally being recognized.” She was very happy about this Award and said it has opened so many doors for her not only in Finland but also to her home country in Spain. Now she wants to do more to impact the lives of younger girls in Finland and around the world with this her Award.

To see our distinguished winners being so happy, appreciated and excited—that gives me so much joy.

Let me share another story with you—a huge success story. There was this other lady who was nominated: She has done great work, an amazing lady with amazing talents. In the category in which she was nominated for, she had not package herself well as a professional comparatively to the other nominees.

After going through some of the works of other nominees in her own category she felt like she needed to upgrade the way she had packaged her works. She sent us an email saying she think she will not win after going through the works of the other nominees. She said that “This award has changed my life completely–because I am now doing things differently in a more professional way. It has helped me to raise the standard of excellence in the way I present my business to the outside world.

She said she is actively showcasing the positive things she is doing in the right professional way so she can come back and be a winner of the Golden Women Awards in future.

This is a success story to us at WODESS as this nominee finally wants to step up to reach to the next level by actively showcasing her skills and talents in a professional way that will give her the edge to be more competitive in the industry standards.

In addition, this award is not solely about flamboyance. It’s also about supporting Girls’ Education in third world countries.

WW: We definitely love your positive attitude! Can you tell us now one challenge you have faced in Finland?

Josephine: The biggest challenge I face in Finland is the language barrier. I have been studying the language for a while.

I will not say that Finnish is difficult but will rather say it is challenging and it requires hard work.

I do believe that with more effort in grasping the Finnish language the sky will be my limit in Finland! Well, it is just a matter of time I do believe to overcome this challenge. You see, I have the power, and I am generally a positive person. With a positive attitude and hard work nothing is impossible to achieve.

I am so determined to make a difference in the language that I told myself–why don’t I become a translator of the Finnish language one day at the United Nations. Hahaha!

 

WW: You have also started a multicultural magazine for Women in Finland– the WODESS Magazine! What motivated you to do that?

Josephine: We started the first multicultural magazine in Finland in 2015 with the launch issue. The second edition of about 180 pages with high quality glossy pictures will be launched in spring 2017. The WODESS Magazine is a hard copy lifestyle magazine for the everyday woman.

What inspired me to come up with this magazine in English was the realisation that there are many international Women in Finland who are highly talented at various levels. So we wanted to come up with a magazine for the common women who are doing extraordinary things. Our goal was to have the magazine in language spoken by many at the international level which happens to be the English language.

By so doing we are giving their businesses international exposures that will benefit them in the long run. We wanted to use the magazine to create more job opportunities and to impact their business positively. Our magazine is a lifestyle magazine with the aim to educate, entertain, inspire and impact what these great international women are doing in Finland.

So you can pick up our magazine and see for yourself what amazing work foreigners are doing in Finland.

It’s not just about women—we also have articles about men. Therefore, this magazine is a way to promote talents in Finland and show case them to the rest of the world.

The reason why we chose it to be in English is because this magazine is global. We are in UK and US as well. Therefore, the women we feature in the magazines also benefit from international exposure, leading to the flourishing of their businesses. This magazine is never about money—it is about the wing beneath the wings of multicultural women here in Finland.

This magazine is truly the Finnish ebony! ☺ We do things out of our hearts and not out of selfish reasons.

WW: What are the three things or traits that you would consider to be uniquely Finnish?

Josephine:

The first trait I would consider as “uniquely Finnish” is humility. The Finns are really humble people.

The second trait I would consider as “Finnish” is “honesty”. If I drop something in my school, I can come back after two days, go to the front desk, and would find it there. It is no doubt that Finland continue to top the list of being one of the best countries in good governance.

The third trait I would consider as “Finnish” is perhaps the lack of openness. I think Finns keep to themselves a lot.

Let me give you an example—you see, I do a lot of walking and exercise. When I was exercising in parks in the USA, I normally greet people with a hearty “Good morning! How are you?” You see, such greetings bring out life in people!

In Finland however, there has never been a day when I get a response by saying “Hello!” or “Huomenta!” Nobody talks to you. It’s probably the Finnish culture not to be friendly—so it probably just the culture, and we have to accept it.

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This is probably a pity. You see, when you are closed, you are like a lake. It is always good to have an outlet to express yourself—Express yourself! Fly like a bird; just express it! And you will be happier! ☺

 

WW: What are some of the dreams and hopes you have for the future of Finland?

Josephine: I really love for Finns to be more open and welcoming to foreigners.

Foreigners are nice people. I think Finland is doing great now in welcoming foreigners but I think more can still be done. I am sure it is just a matter of time that I see it happening.

You see, I do not have a Finnish friend. I will love to have one. Yet, how do I have one?

Ha ha ha of course I can go out looking for a Finnish friend! “Do you want to be my Finnish friend?”

WW: What are your hopes for Finland?

Josephine: I hope to see more international women in Finland become more successful and start mentoring the younger ones to reach their highest level of potential.

I also hope that the Finnish media can become more involved with what foreigners are doing—for instance, give them more press coverage or even some time on Finnish television channels on the positive activities of internationals. I would love to see them appreciate the contribution of the international women in the Finnish society by giving us some coverage with the Golden Women Awards.

I hope the Finnish media can one day finally see how much of positive and constructive building blocks our initiatives have on Finnish society.

 

WW: Finland will turn 100 years old this year!! What is the one wish you have for Finland’s 100th birthday?

Josephine: I want to wish Finland a Happy Birthday, and I want to thank the country for giving me free education. Nelson Mandela said that you can use education to change the world and that it is through education that the son of a peasant can one day become a president.

The free education in Finland is one thing I am really grateful to Finland for. I hope free education will continue in Finland. Who knows one day may be I will create a TV from the education I have gained and will continue to gain from Finland.

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I will love to say that on the 100 years celebration of Finland’s independence, I am not looking at what I can get from Finland but what I can give back or do to make the next 100 years of Finland a memorable one for the younger generations. I would love to thank Finland for giving me the opportunity to soar like an eagle as I have been able to use my talent to impact positively.

I never thought I will one day be the founder of a hard copy life style prestigious WODESS magazine that sits amongst other magazines in the library at the Women’s resource centre at the University of Estonia. I am able to change the world through the free education and knowledge I have gained in Finland.

Thank you to Finland for educating me and welcoming me. Happy Birthday Finland! One Love.


The Hieno! is the official partner of the Finland 100 independence programme: What is “Finnish-ness”? endorsed by the Prime Minister’s Office. We hope you have enjoyed reading this interview as much as we did!🙂 Feel free to connect with Josephine Atanga on her facebook or check out WODESS.

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[The Hieno! Suomi 100] Interview with Professor Kirsti Lindberg-Repo, the initiator of Design Finland 100.

Today, as part of The Hieno! “What is Finnish-ness” series celebrating Suomi 100 in 2017, we have the huge privilege of featuring Professor Kirsti Lindberg-Repo. She is a visiting professor at the Singapore Management University and also the initiator of Design Finland 100 (DF100).

Professor Kirsti Lindberg-Repo has been actively contributing to branding research for the past 15 years and has extensive experience in co-operation with academia and practitioners. She has also published two books on branding: “Titans of Service” and “Titans of Branding”. Today, she will be sharing with us more about Finland as a design nation and also the project DF100.

Enjoy the interview!
—–

WW: Hello Professor Kirsti, can you tell us more about yourself and what you are doing?

Professor Kirsti: Hello Wan Wei.

Let’s start with a story:

I had a wonderful opportunity to work as a visiting professor in Singapore Management University in 2013. From my students I learned how unrecognisable a nation Finland is. There are no clear associations with the country brand of Finland.

The only things my students seemed to know of were:

1. Nightwish, a Finnish band;
2. The Finnish baby box; and
3. The best educational system in the world.

This was my calling. Having worked with brands and brand lecturing for the last 15 years in Swedish School of Economics and Aalto University in Helsinki, I felt that something should be done.

In summer 2015, my team and I came up with an idea to market Finland as a design nation in Southeast Asia.

Currently I am in charge of the Design Finland 100 in the Digital Age -project. Design Finland 100 is a two-year-long innovation project, organised for the very first time.

In March we will conduct Nordic Business and Design Case Competition, where students are given unique, real-life business problems to solve. We will ask them: “how to make strategic growth for Finnish companies in Asia?”

The connection between design and trade will be approached from various perspectives, such as fashion, health technology, digital services as well as service design. We are waiting to see innovative ideas, outside of the box -thinking and great team work, creativity, problem diagnosis, applying correct theories and good communications.

Two of the winning teams will be awarded an all inclusive (flight+accommodation) trip to Helsinki to Design Drives Business Seminar on August 30th, 2017.

WW: Wow, that is totally cool!

Professor Kirsti: Yes! You see, design from Finland is a great brand story.

We try to take the greatest design heritage of Finland forward, which Finland as a design nation is very famous for.

Designing a better customer experience is the strongest growth driver today. It forms a competitive advantage and ensures the consumers’ demand for a product or a service.

WW: You once mentioned that Finland is a “design nation”. Why is Finland a “design nation”?

Professor Kirsti: Finland is a design-centred country.

Finland has received the highest number of design awards globally as compared to the size of the population. And for excellence in design, there is no other measurement for the time being, other than the awards and rewards accorded to the country.

For example, the Finnish company Planmeca has received so many awards and rewards for industrial, service, digital and product design. When we had our executive seminar “Design Drives Business” in Singapore on October 2016, the representative of Planmeca said, “I’d just show you the most recent design awards we have won. This is because we have received so many global awards and rewards for design that if we were to show them all, it would probably take all day.”

So you see, Planmeca is a true design company working in B2B, and has received great global recognition and acknowledgement for design. They produce for example big and colourful dental chairs. 98% of their production goes towards exports.

WW: Wow, that is a very high percentage.

Professor Kirsti: Yes, very, very high. And Planmeca’s production is 100% based in Finland. They have not outsourced production to any Chinese producers or manufacturers—they produce everything in Finland.

We can say that Finnish design really drives their business and they can be proud of it.

By “design”, we mean: Product design, service design, digital design and design as strategy. And design as strategy is one of the most used in the United States of America right now.

Take for instance, Pepsi’s CEO Indra Nooyi, who is one of top three most influential women CEOs in the world. Nooyi says that design has become so important for them in developing their current competitive advantage. Design is present in each and every decision that they are taking.

Designing a better customer experience is the strongest competitive advantage a company can have today.

WW: It is fascinating that “design is present in each and every decision they are taking”. How would you define the term “design”?

Professor Kirsti: Well, Design is part of everyone’s life. I’m sure that there are many definitions to the term “design”.

Perhaps we could conceptualise a modern view on design as like this: Design is something that tries to reach a better user experience by implementing product design, service design, design as strategy and digital design as a channel to carry them all forward.

My background is actually very strongly grounded in the area of branding, so in our Design Finland 100 project, we are looking at the concept of design from the branding perspective. This means that design needs to bring differentiation for a product or service. It needs to have aspirational features and made desirable for the consumers, whether they are in the B2B or B2C industries.

It is only via this way that businesses can create a path to win their customers’ hearts and ensure that the experience for the end-customer is an improved one with design management.

It is like the wagon in the train. You have a captain who is driving the train, and you have the wagon. And they are all part of the design.

WW: So, what do you think is the differentiating factor of Finnish design?

Professor Kirsti: Well, first of all, its heritage value is huge.

We have had very, very, very good artists who were globally recognised early in Finland’s history, and that integrates design as part of our national identity.

For example, Alvar Aalto stands for the most recognised achievements in regard to Finnish design. One of his most famous consume designs enjoys high awareness, namely the Savoy or Aalto vase.

Sustainability is typically also one part of Finnish design. You don’t get rid of an Aalto Chair, for example, in one generation. An Aalto Chair can last for at least two to three generations without wearing out—it is so durable.

We can even think about Finnish design via the most iconic architectural design in Finland—the Villa Mairea. According to the Wall Street Journal dated 4 June 2015, there are five house designs in the world that are most worth seeing and visiting. On the third position they have chosen Finland’s Villa Mairea, which is designed by Alvar Aalto.

The typical characteristics of Finnish design are simplicity, authenticity and beauty. They have very clear forms and features. These characteristics give Finnish design a recognisable look. In general, Finnish design exudes harmony and form over function.

By form over function I mean that the design of the article does not have to be practical. Only service design needs to be practical. Therefore, we need to know whether we are talking about product design, or service design.

WW: It really seems like Finnish design is the bridge between generations! You’d mentioned that DF100 is targeted at Southeast Asians. Why Southeast Asia, though?

Professor Kirsti: We try to reach the very prestigious status of design, which Finland should have, but doesn’t enjoy for the time being, at least when we are looking at the issue from Southeast Asia.

Southeast Asia is known as the new growth engine of the world economy and considered a significant market for Finnish companies.

Via DF100, we will build new relationships with academic institutions and business partners in the region, the home of 667 million people. In other words, we will crowdsource new ways to market Finland. Students gather together to create new approaches for Finnish companies in business case competition.

The three winning teams of the case competition will be invited to Finland to show their results in August 30th 2017. In this seminar ”Totally Design for Growth”, Finnish growth enthusiasts and Asian students will meet and network.

WW: What are some of the must-knows in Finnish design?

Professor Kirsti:

  • Finnish design has a very rich heritage; its history goes back about 100 years!
  • Finnish design is highly acknowledged globally. And now we want to raise awareness for its excellence and prestige in Southeast Asia through our Design Finland 100 initiative!
  • Finnish design is almost like a religion in Finland. This in other words means that design is part of our national identity.

We take design so seriously. Like a religion, the development of the form is more important than commercial value for the Finnish design.

We need to move Finnish design forward such that we have greater commercial value and recognition. Design drives value and design has a clear role when reaching Asian consumers.

And in order to capitalise on Finnish design, we need to find new ways in order to increase its recognition and how it can be used as a tool to commercialise Finnish products and services.

Design Finland 100 project helps companies with this.

WW: Actually, if Finnish design is so good, why don’t Finns commercialise it already?

Professor Kirsti: You see, the demand for Finnish design is not generating more demand. This is because we want to keep the design for ourselves—we don’t really want to use it for the benefit of the customers.

WW: This is very strange to me. I think in Singapore, few people will be able to continue doing something that does not yield commercial value.

Professor Kirsti: This is it. This is why Finland can consider engaging more with Singapore. This is because our design heritage needs to be commercialised.

And this is why the Suomi neito—the young Finnish lady—needs to “marry” the Singapore lion. Like the following Mentos Video!

WW: We have often heard that Finns are as “shy” as the Suomi Neito. The implication is that because of this “shyness”, Finns are not so good at marketing. What do you think about this?

Professor Kirsti: I think we are actually very good at marketing. However, at the C-level, it is usually the case that our marketing budgets are too small to reach global awareness.

I think Finnish marketing people are geniuses, because they are so creative with what they do on a very small budget.

Let me give you a context: In Sweden, the marketing budget allocated by the CEOs are 5 times bigger than Finland. You can do a lot more with a greater marketing budget.

So I think Finnish marketers should be respected for their excellent marketing skills because they are able to do so much with so little.

Nowadays, there is more and more that kind of thinking that marketing and branding is made by every employee. I think it is…!

WW: Let’s go back to the truly inspirational Design Finland 100 project. What can Singaporeans/ Southeast Asians expect in the upcoming year?

Professor Kirsti: Design Finland 100 is a platform to celebrate 100 years of Finnish design thinking. Its aim is to build bridges for Finnish and Southeast Asian companies.

I am sure there are Southeast Asians, who have never heard about Alvar Aalto, Marimekko, Fazer or the traditional sauna company Harvia. Each of these companies offer something that no one else can offer.

This year, Southeast Asians will hear and get to know all of these.

For the Asian university students, the business case competition will be an once in lifetime experience! During the competition they will definitely challenge themselves! They will get unique, real-life business problems to solve, they will learn how to work in a team while there is time pressure and they will learn to think in new ways with global perspective.

This experience they will remember for ever! The registration for the competition opens soon, so get ready!

WW: That is so exciting, I look forward to it! Finland celebrates its 100 years-old birthday this year. What is the one birthday wish you have for Finland?

Professor Kirsti: Let’s raise a toast for Finland’s amazing future and for even better future of the design!

WW: On a parting note, do you have anything else to add?

Professor Kirsti: Finland should be recognised as a leading design nation. World class design knowledge is an increasingly crucial competitive factor in the global economy. Consumers prefer to buy brands with a strong design element and they are willing to pay a premium here.

Design gives a promise of a better customer experience. And that is what we all want for our customers, right?


The Hieno! is the official partner of the Finland 100 independence programme: What is “Finnish-ness”? endorsed by the Prime Minister’s Office. We hope you have enjoyed reading this interview as much as we did!🙂 Feel free to check out the amazing Design Finland 100 Case Competition, like the Design Finland 100 Facebook Page, or follow Design Finland 100’s instagram @design_finland_100 .

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So I set up a Donald Trump FB “fanpage”…

(Source: Thedailymeal)

Last week was Donald Trump’s inauguration ceremony. So I set up a Donald Trump fanpage to test the hearts of the people who are supporting him.

The following are the variables I wanted to test:

  1. The profile of Donald Trump fans; and 
  2. How well the page will do with zero FB advertisements.

As of today, the fanpage has 2955 total page likes. The experiment is still ongoing so I won’t link to the facebook page in this blogpost.

And surprise surprise! More than 100+ people sent in private messages to this page, something which I did not expect, for I had just wanted to monitor comments originally.

Here are some of the more interesting PMs:

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Fascinating, isn’t it? This is a mere sampling of the psychology of at least 40% of the people who turned up to vote for the President of USA last November.

Logical? No, no, no–human beings who write to Donald Trump’s fanpage are not motivated by logical reasons. Why will you even write to a Donald Trump fanpage that was recently set up and of a mere 2000+ facebook likes?

These fans are motivated by emotions. Very deep-rooted emotions. Some are “even” Christians, who claim that they pray for The Donald on a daily basis. These fans are angry, hurt and disappointed people. The Donald is a huge comfort to them, for he offers a solution to their pain points directly.

Perhaps we can let this be a reminder to all of us that every single person has his/her version of reality and perception, and The Donald simply addresses the right pain points. Who is anyone to judge?

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Should you build a community, or should you find a community?

GAH so busy recently. Quick post before I start work.

Luopang said in his 2016 Summary that building communities are the way to go for influencers, for the next 5 years.

Therefore, the question today is:

“Would it be wise to build your community from scratch”; or

“Would it be wise to find an existing community to feed your content to?”

Which would you prioritise as first strategy, and what do you think?