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Nordic co-operation

It isn’t that I’m profoundly sad, it is just that my people are Nordic.
– Betty Draper, Mad Men.

I’m a Nordic enthusiast

– a Norwegian, living in Sweden and also working in Denmark, I’ve produced and managed Nordic projects, and adviced other Nordic project managers on issues of finances, contracts and establishing networks in the Nordic countries.

The easiest way to explain my obsession with Nordic differences is by asking: What sales manager would go abroad – to the States or to Japan –  without doing thorough research on the habits and culture of her potential business partners? And why don’t we cross the Scandinavian borders with the same curiosity and respect?

Because we’re so similar, of course. And seen from abroad we really are. The Scandinavian countries share history, language, culture and value systems. We are a mere 25 million if you include the Finnish and Icelandic people. And on the surface, it’s easy to identify the Nordic or Scandinavian traits such as coldness, melancholy, simplicity, when contrasted with what we perceive to be the vibrant and joyful cultures of the south.

But as borders of the Scandinavian countries are saturated with familiarity and friendly jokes – we fail to see the important differences. How we make decisions, for example: What constitutes an agreement and what does loyalty to the assignment imply? In the field of media and culture – where projects often include development and innovation, the differences are invariably even more visible.

Why won’t the Swedes make up their minds? Why are the Danes so rude? And will the Norwegians get over themselves and get in line? I love questions like these, because they give a voice to the invisible borders, the spaces we need to negotiate. Personally, I stopped being frustrated with these questions when I realized that the same difficulties affect practically all Nordic projects….

Currently working on a “Nordic guide” for project managers working in the field of media and culture, I’m hoping that others might have this realization a lot earlier, through the collected best practices and Nordic success stories, as well as the most common pot holes and areas of confusion. The old idealism in co-operating across the Nordic bordes is gradually being replaced by a much more pragmatic: What’s in it for me? It’s more important now than ever to provide those brave Nordic frontiers with a cultural tool box and motor grease.

Do you have a Nordic success story? Or a frustration? I’d love to read it all.

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