--> Gill Blog: Finland: More than Pucks and Reindeer

Gill Blog

Friday, October 31, 2003

Finland: More than Pucks and Reindeer

Like many who live in North America, our geographic separation from far away lands often leads us to generalize about different peoples and places. Take Finland for example; for the longest time I simply associated the place with hockey and reindeer; others who have experienced the culture first hand have created detailed lists describing the essence of being a Finn. Regardless of its traditional perception, Finland is now adding another tag to its repertoire: economic powerhouse. In its annual rankings released yesterday, the World Economic Forum rated Finland number one in both growth and business competitiveness. One of the key drivers of Finland's success has been its position as an early adopter of wireless technologies as well as wireless' high penetration rates in Scandinavia (Denmark and Sweden are also included in the top five).

Those of us in the faraway hinterlands of North America, who haven't been keeping tabs on Finland lately are left to ask how it assumed center stage on the world wireless platform. Apart from deregulation and some very bright minds (some of whom ply their trades in America), I believe the two central success factors are attributable to infrastructure: firstly, wireless ubiquity is rooted in necessity, as Finland had very old buildings that were difficult to wire, thus adopting wireless was a quick and easy way to overcome this limitation; and secondly, its geographic size made it very easy to deploy a wireless network (through transmission towers, for instance) that provided complete national coverage. As soon as a network was rolled out, the shackles associated with conducting business in central locations were effectively removed.

The World Economic Forum’s rankings also coincide with a period where wireless technologies are in the process of making a major perceptual shift in categories from ‘wow, cool’ mode to ‘mission critical’ partly due to the medium’s performance during the August blackout. Although there were some flaws, the blackout showed the potential of wireless as a key component of a business continuity strategy (in the days that followed many organizations put this directive on the front burner). As encouraging as it may be that North Americans are keeping pace with the adoption and integration of wireless within their organizational cultures, one can’t help but wonder how much the losses associated with the blackout may have been mitigated had more organizations ramped up, and integrated varying degrees of business process fusion.

More than anything, these rankings demonstrate how quickly operational landscapes can change, as complacency breeds inaction which can ultimately compromise competitive advantage. This theory not only applies to countries, but to individual organizations as well. Even the biggest and most secure can falter if they don’t react to change in a timely fashion.

P.S. The latest update on the solar flare - perhaps not as benign as we thought.


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